A small private university near Portland, Oregon is being condemned for firing a tenured professor who raised issues of sexual abuse by university board members and anti-Semitic comments by the school’s president, The Oregonian reported Thursday.
Linfield University came under fire from students, alumni, parents and a national educational rights organization after Professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner was dismissed without a hearing.
The head of the university’s English department stepped down from his role in protest, saying the university had no plan on how to handle Pollack-Pelzner’s students with only weeks left in the semester before final exams.
“I have been fielding emails from Daniel’s students. But because I am no longer chair, I will now be forwarding those inquiries to your office,” Professor David Thomas Sumner wrote to the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Students and alumnae posted harsh comments on social media, with one parent of a Linfield graduate saying she was removing a donation to the university from her will, the report said.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a group that defends the rights of students and faculty, slammed the decision and demanded the university reinstate Pollack-Pelzner.
FIRE said there were serious concerns over the abrupt firing of Pollack-Pelzner “after he raised serious allegations of wrongdoing by the university’s senior leadership” including “anti-Semitic remarks by Linfield’s president and the institution’s mishandling of sexual harassment by board members.”
The organization said Linfield had denied the professor “the procedural protections promised to tenured faculty, raising a glaring red flag.”
“The egregious nature of terminating a faculty critic without process cannot be overstated, nor can the chilling effect on student and faculty expression that will follow Linfield’s reckless conduct,” said Adam Steinbaugh, one of FIRE’s lawyers.
Two psychology professors had said that Linfield President Miles Davis once stated during a meeting with faculty that: “You don’t give Jews soap when you send them to the showers.” Davis said he had no recollection of making any reference to the Holocaust, and apologized if any of his comments made people uncomfortable, the Oregonian reported.
The university fired Pollack-Pelzner “for cause,” claiming he had made false allegations, was “insubordinate” and “interfered with the university’s administration of its responsibilities.”
Pollack-Pelzner was a faculty representative on the university’s board and had publicly complained about how Linfield had handled numerous sexual abuse complaints by students and faculty against other trustees on the board, and accused Davis of making anti-Semitic comments to him.
Former Linfield trustee David Jubb resigned from the board and was indicted for sexual abuse of a student trustee in February 2019 and abusing three other students in 2017. Jubb has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Board chairman David Baca was accused of failing to protect students, but has remained in his position.
The Anti-Defamation League’s Pacific Northwest office called on Davis to resign “to begin the process of moving forward and healing on campus.”
By Thursday morning, Linfield had removed Pollack-Pelzner’s pages from its website, but alumni were letting the university know they would hit them in the pocketbook.
“I call on my fellow alumni to halt all financial contributions and support to Linfield University and its associated programs,” tweeted Linfield graduate Chad A. Griffith, saying that Davis Davis and Chair Baca must be held accountable.