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Judge rules to reinstate terminated Saint Rose profs

College of St. Rose in Albany, NY
Jackie Orchard

A judge has ordered The College of Saint Rose in Albany to reinstate four faculty members who were terminated last year in a round of budget cuts. The college says it will appeal.

In December of 2020, the private college in Albany announced it was cutting several academic degree programs and terminating 33 full-time professors, as part of a move to reduce expenses by nearly $6 million.

A group of four tenured professors sued the private college in response, claiming the college and its President, Marcia White, violated college policies. This week, a New York State Supreme Court Judge ruled in their favor.

A court decision issued Tuesday by Judge Peter Lynch reads in part:

“In this Court’s view, President White improperly interpreted the Manual rules governing priority when tenured professors are being terminated; accordingly, the determination to terminate the Petitioners positions as tenured Professors of the College of Saint Rose was arbitrary and capricious.”

The judge ruled that the terminations be reversed and that the positions of the tenured faculty be restored.

Meredith Moriarty, an attorney representing the four professors, said during an internal appeals process, the college’s Faculty Review Committee decided the terminations violated the terms of the college, but the determination was overruled by White, which led to the lawsuit.

“The contract between the college and the faculty requires that if terminations need to be made, the preference is in given within a department first to tenure, then to seniority at the college, and then to rank,” said Moriarty.

Moriarty adds that in this case, the judge held the college did not do so, a violation of the faculty manual.

“And it elected to terminate my clients, who taught classes in all four music degrees offered by the school, and the college retained less-senior members of the music department, those who only taught in the music industry classes,” said Moriarty.

The College of Saint Rose issued a statement to WAMC saying it was disappointed in the judge’s determination, and that it would file an appeal.

The statement reads in part:

“Until the matter can be heard by the appellate court, the College will comply with the court’s decision in this employment matter. The court’s decision does not change the program reductions that were announced in December 2020 as part of a collaborative plan to build a sustainable future for Saint Rose.”

Though she was not available for an interview Thursday, White spoke to WAMC after announcing the cuts in December of 2020:

“It was a process, and I think the thing that was important to underscore about the process is it was in unison and collaboration with faculty. We worked with Rep Com which were representatives of the faculty and our administrative team. They analyze data and then they spoke with department chairs. That data made available then to the full faculty and it basically gave revenue. It gave enrollment numbers and recognized the fact that they maintained the integrity of the college and the educational mission,” she said.

Moriarty would not comment on the college’s intention to appeal, but said her clients are looking forward to reinstatement.

“We expect that they will be teaching the same classes that they have and they all are incredibly happy about this decision,” said Moriarty.

The judge says the professors are to be reinstated at the same rank they held when terminated.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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