banner-optimized_0_0.png
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Regional Interests

Fired Linfield University professor files lawsuit, alleging illegal retaliation

Pioneer Hall is seen through the signature oak trees at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Pioneer Hall is the oldest building on the Linfield campus, constructed in 1881.
Pioneer Hall is seen through the signature oak trees at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Pioneer Hall is the oldest building on the Linfield campus, constructed in 1881.

A Linfield University professor has sued the McMinnville-based institution after being fired for publicizing alleged sexual harassment and anti-Semitic incidents involving university leadership.

Linfield fired English professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner in April, after he had publicly shared allegations of sexual harassment against top university board members and the president, Miles Davis, as well as alleged anti-Semitic comments from Davis.

Pollack-Pelzner’s lawsuit argues the professor’s firing violates protections for whistleblowers against retaliation, as well as breaching the Oregon Workplace Fairness Act, “which prohibits employers from restricting employees’ ability to communicate about sexual harassment and assault,” according to a statement from the professor’s legal team, announcing the suit.

Linfield University officials responded to the suit Monday, pushing back against Pollack-Pelzner’s legal step and the allegations behind them.

“Linfield’s priority is, and will remain, the safety and wellbeing of its students,” said Linfield spokesperson Scott Nelson in an email to OPB.

“It is disappointing but comes as no surprise that former professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner has filed this lawsuit. We believe his claims are without merit and we will not let them be a distraction from the important work underway at the university.”

Before firing him, Linfield university leaders questioned the truth of Pollack-Pelzner’s assertions and said at least some of the allegations had been investigated and were not substantiated. Faculty members familiar with the incidents say the investigations were flawed or incomplete.

Pollack-Pelzner’s public conflict with Linfield University drew heated criticism toward Linfield and support for the professor, even before he was fired. The allegations of anti-Semitic comments drew condemnation from the Anti-Defamation League of the Pacific Northwest and the Oregon Board of Rabbis. Faculty in Linfield’s College of Arts and Sciences also passed a vote of “no confidence” in President Davis and board chair David Baca.

After he was fired, Pollack-Pelzner continued to get support — and Linfield criticism — from across the globe.

The NAACP’s Salem-Keizer chapter released an investigation shortly after Pollack-Pelzner was fired, ostensibly to bolster Davis’s claims that the professor’s concerns fit in a context of racial discrimination at the institution. Davis and more than one of the board members involved are Black. Several faculty members said they were not interviewed by NAACP, after they asked questions about its focus.

The American Association of University Professors decried the university’s firing of Pollack-Pelzner and announced an independent investigation into what occurred. Other longtime supporters of the university, including high-profile donor Ronni Lacroute, publicly distanced themselves from the institution.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting