The University of Oregon and College of Design Dean Christoph Lindner responded June 5 to the age discrimination lawsuits brought by three College of Design professors, denying their claims and asking for dismissals of the cases.
Architecture professors Gerald Gast, Hajo Neis and Don Genasci, filed age discrimination and retaliation suits against UO and Lindner for a total of nearly $4.3 million. Gast’s and Neis’s suits also included breach of contract claims, alleging they had signed contracts that said they would primarily teach at the Portland campus.
UO said the professors’ contracts with the university did not specify a campus and said the professors were reassigned to Eugene as part of a “multi-pronged approach” to address a lack of research productivity and curricular updates and decreasing enrollment at the College of Design’s Portland campus, court documents show.
“These changes were all made with the goal of infusing the Portland program with different courses from a greater variety of backgrounds and perspectives that were informed by current research and to improve connections with the local architectural community,” the university wrote.
UO asked for the cases to be dismissed with prejudice, so the cases could not be brought again if new evidence comes to light, and asked that the professors pay its costs and attorney fees.
Lawyers representing the professors and the university were not available for comment at time of publication. The Emerald reached out to UO Communications for comment but did not receive an answer before time of publication.
According to the professors’ original complaints, filed in February, they were born between 1938 and 1947 and “were the oldest three faculty members in the Portland Architecture program in 2017 and 2018.” Their jobs were relocated to UO's Eugene campus by Lindner in May 2017, court documents show. The two remaining architecture professors in Portland were both under 60.
On May 16, All three professors filed notices of intent to apply for default judgment, meaning they would ask a judge to decide in their favor because the university had not responded, three months after they had filed their initial complaints. But that judgment was never made, court documents show.
In UO’s answer to Genasci’s lawsuit, the university alleged Genasci accepted a settlement proposal on March 5, court documents show. This would end his suit.
The university also included a counterclaim to Genasci’s lawsuit, saying that he voluntarily submitted to binding arbitration, a private mediation process with a third-party mediator whose decision is as final as a judge’s would be, which ended in the March 5 settlement. UO alleged he broke their contract when he continued with his suit after this arbitration ended.
No claims of arbitration or settlement were made in the answers to Gast’s or Neis’s suits.
Lindner is leaving UO in August for a new position as Dean of the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment at the University College of London.
The Emerald will continue to report on this lawsuit as it develops. PDFs of the court documents are available below.
On June 5, the University of Oregon and Dean of the College of Design Christoph Lindner answered age discrimination lawsuits brought against them by three architecture professors in February.
The three professors who sued the University of Oregon and College of Design Dean Christoph Lindner for age discrimination filed notices of intent to apply for default judgment on May 16.