Baptist-affiliated Oregon university fires Jewish tenured professor who alleged antisemitism
(JTA) — Linfield University has fired a Jewish professor who accused the school’s president of making antisemitic remarks.
Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, a tenured professor who taught English literature at the small Oregon university, has accused Linfield President Miles K. Davis of making multiple antisemitic remarks in recent years. The antisemitism, he said, was partly a backlash to Pollack-Pelzner demanding that the school do more to address allegations of sexual assault against multiple university trustees, including Davis.
Pollack-Pelzner and a Linfield University spokesperson both confirmed to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he had been fired but did not comment further. An email from Linfield Provost Susan Agre-Kippenhan to the school community, sent late Tuesday afternoon, said that a member of the faculty had been terminated for “serious breaches of the individual’s duty to the institution.”
“As a matter of policy and privacy, personnel matters are confidential, but maintaining that is not always possible, particularly when the precipitating events involve false public accusations that have, sadly, harmed the university,” Agre-Kippenhan wrote, adding that a safe environment on campus “cannot be achieved if individuals abuse their positions of trust and take deliberate actions that harm the university.”
Pollack-Pelzner, who has taught at Linfield for more than a decade and has tenure, recently went public with his allegations of antisemitism, prompting local and national press coverage. Pollack-Pelzner and other professors alleged that Davis made antisemitic comments regarding Jewish noses and the Holocaust. Pollack-Pelzner also alleged that, in response to his calls to address sexual assault allegations, Davis made a speech to the board of trustees warning of disloyalty and telling them to follow Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Pollack-Pelzner was also a trustee, representing the school’s faculty.
Davis denied the allegations and has said he is not Christian. He has asked the NAACP to investigate whether accusations against him were motivated by racial animus. Davis is Linfield’s first Black president.
Linfield, a university near Portland with some 2,000 students, has almost no organized Jewish presence on campus and only a handful of Jewish students and faculty. It is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA.
In recent weeks, the local branch of the Anti-Defamation League and the Oregon Board of Rabbis both contacted the school expressing concern about the allegations. The board of rabbis called for the resignations of Davis and the chair of the board, David Baca, whom Pollack-Pelzner also accused of antisemitic remarks.
The faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences also overwhelmingly voted to approve a no-confidence motion calling on Davis and Baca to resign. The university has stood behind Davis and Baca.
On Monday, days after the faculty vote, the school removed professors’ ability to email the entire faculty as a group.
Because Pollack-Pelzner has tenure, it appears that his termination must go through a process outlined by the school’s faculty handbook. According to the handbook, Pollack-Pelzner must be served a “statement of charges,” and then has the right to a hearing, 20 days later, in front of an “elected faculty hearing committee,” where he would have the right to counsel. He would then be afforded another hearing in front of the school’s governing board.
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