A former Iona College business professor claims he was forced out because of a practice of replacing older faculty with younger teachers.
George L. De Feis sued the New Rochelle college, former President Joseph Nyre, business school dean William Lamb and professor John Meyer on Oct. 10 in Westchester Supreme Court, claiming age discrimination.
“That discrimination, bred by the desire by Iona’s administration for a younger faculty in Iona’s School of Business, manifested in a concerted effort to harass … De Feis,” the lawsuit states.
Iona spokeswoman Mary Cronin said the college does not comment on pending litigation or personnel matters.
De Feis, 59, earned degrees from Cooper Union, Baruch College and Pace University. He has taught at Iona since 2007 as a visiting professor, adjunct professor and then a tenure-track assistant professor.
In 2015, he was named chairman of the department. His teaching and scholarship had been deemed excellent during contract renewals, according to the lawsuit, and he was on track for a tenured position.
But his progress stalled in 2017 after the college hired Lamb as the business school dean.
De Feis claims that “removing and replacing older faculty with younger faculty members were Lamb’s primary mandate.”
Ten teachers over the age of 50 “have been or will be pushed off the faculty,” the complaint states, and a disproportionate number of new teachers are younger than 40.
De Feis claims he was sabotaged by the “Gang of Four” – Meyer and three professors who are not named as defendants in the lawsuit – during the peer review process when he came up for a two-year contract renewal in 2017.
They submitted negative evaluations and cited shortcomings that had never been raised during his 15 years at Iona. One member of the “gang,” for instance, gave him a rating of 2 on a scale of 1 to 15, while two other colleagues scored him at 14 and 15.
The review committee denied a new contract.
De Feis filed a grievance, and a committee, composed of former deans and tenured faculty, investigated.
The committee found that De Feis had been subjected to an “uncollegial attitude” that compromised the process, according to the complaint, and recommended that his contract be renewed “in the interest of fairness.”
Nyre rejected the committee’s decision and offered De Feis a one-year contract and a another chance to apply for a two-year contract.
Weeks later, Lamb allegedly advised De Feis that it would be virtually impossible to satisfy the requirements for a two-year contract. Meyer allegedly concurred and said he would not support a contract renewal.
They “blacklisted” eight of his published works, according to the complaint, deeming them unworthy of consideration for promotion or tenure.
De Feis applied again for the two-year contract. He was denied and terminated.
The complaint accuses Iona and the business school officials with age discrimination under state and federal law. He is asking for unspecified damages.
De Feis now works at Stockton University in New Jersey as assistant professor of business studies, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Nyre became president of Seton Hall University on Aug. 1. Meyer is chairman of Iona’s Department of Management, Health Care Management and Business Administration. Lamb is dean of graduate and adult learner recruitment at EAB, a consulting organization in Richmond, Virginia.
De Feis is represented by Robert L. Levy and H. David Krauss of Bantle & Levy in Manhattan.