Two University of Oregon professors reached a settlement this week in two age discrimination and retaliation lawsuits filed against the university and former College of Design Dean Christoph Lindner, according to a press release from the professors’ attorney.
The settlement requires the university to pay $170,000 to Warren Gerald Gast and Hans Joachim Neis, both architecture professors at the UO’s Portland campus.
“The principles we stood for in the lawsuit are more important to us than the monetary settlement. We felt we owed it to the program and to our faculty colleagues in the Department of Architecture to take action,” Gast said in the press release.
The UO tried to dismiss the claims in June, saying in court filings that the 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.”
“For the reasons outlined in the University’s previously filed Answers and the settlement agreements, the University of Oregon and former Dean Christoph Lindner disagree with the plaintiffs’ allegations,” UO spokesperson Kay Jarvis said in a statement about the settlement. “The settlements were made to eliminate the cost and inconvenience of proceeding through trial.”
Craig Crispin, Gast and Neis’ attorney, said the settlement marks the end of a two and a half year-long process. The pair filed the claims after the University reassigned them to the Eugene campus in May 2017 despite the fact that they were the oldest tenured faculty members at the department in Portland.
Gast and Neis, both of whom have permanent residences in Portland, said that they had signed contracts stating that their duties would be based in Portland, aside from occasional visits to Eugene. They initially sued for breach of contract as well, and still have the option to do so if the university relocates them to Eugene. According to the press release, Neis said “retaining that right to sue for breach of contract is necessary because our full status in Portland remains officially unresolved.”
Neis also said that his and Gasts’ usual graduate courses were “taught by less expensive part-time adjunct faculty” while the case was ongoing.
Prior to the settlement, United Academics, the UO’s faculty labor union, resolved grievances with the university that guaranteed Gast and Neis a minimum two-year stay at the Portland Campus.
Another UO professor, Donald Genasci, originally filed an age discrimination complaint alongside Gast and Neis when the three of them sought a collective $4.3 million in damages, but a Multnomah County Judge dismissed Genasci’s lawsuit in August.
Lindner announced his departure from UO last March and is currently serving as the Dean of the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment at the University College of London.