Hundreds of professors from scores of institutions have already signed a petition in support of Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, whom Linfield University fired this week. Pollack-Pelzner, formerly a chaired professor in Shakespeare studies at Linfield, recently went public with allegations of anti-Semitism involving members of the Board of Trustees. Pollack-Pelzner, who is Jewish, said the hostile environment intensified after he, as the sole faculty trustee, pressed board members to do more about report of sexual misconduct in their ranks.
Linfield had previously investigated Pollack-Pelzner’s concerns, finding that no university policies were violated. Dissatisfied with how things had progressed internally, Pollack-Pelzner began discussing his experiences on social media and in news articles. After a faculty vote of no confidence in President Miles Davis and David Baca, board chair, and after Linfield cut off university Listservs to eliminate mass faculty communication, the university fired Pollack-Pelzner Tuesday, effective immediately. In so doing it, cited his breaches of duty to the university and accused him of insubordination and spreading falsehoods. Pollack-Pelzner has denied lying about anything.
“The case is of special import -- if Linfield is able to fire faculty with impunity, it will set a precedent that will eviscerate the foundational principles of both free speech and of faculty governance on university campuses,” the petition says. “It is clear that Pollack-Pelzner’s complaints are reacting to, rather that causing, deep and perennial troubles at Linfield. Instead of addressing its own defects and shortcomings, Linfield has fired Pollack-Pelzner both as a punishment for his publicly holding the university responsible and as a warning to every other member of the faculty.”
A separate letter to Davis from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which is quoted in the petition, expresses particular concern about the lack of due process afforded Pollack-Pelzner, despite his tenured status.
“Linfield’s process-free termination of Pollack-Pelzner cannot be reconciled with the robust procedural protections it promises its faculty,” says that FIRE letter. “It is also difficult to square Linfield’s actions with the university’s strong policies committing it to protect its faculty members’ freedom of expression, which shields Pollack-Pelzner’s speech unless it falls into one of the narrow exceptions to that rule. Linfield’s express refusal to turn over the matter to independent review by Linfield faculty heightens our concern that the university cannot demonstrate that Pollack-Pelzner’s comments are unprotected defamation.”