Linfield University has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by former Professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner for $1,037,500 in compensation for emotional distress, lost wages, and attorney fees. Pollack-Pelzner was a tenured professor who was fired after he accused President Miles Davis of making antisemitic remarks, including jokes about Jewish noses and the gas chambers. He also accused the board of trustees of sexual misconduct. Rather than simply rebut the allegations, Davis and the school stripped Pollack-Pelzner of tenure and fired him with little due process or warning. Indeed, Pollack-Pelzner was not even aware of his termination until he tried to access his work account and received an automated response that he was no longer employed at Linfield.
The University insists that it is not admitting guilt and only wants to avoid further loss of “time and energy from the mission of the institution.” If so, it found a weird way of doing it. They have litigated this weak case for two years and were compelled to reach a seven figure settlement.
Once again, there seems to be no accountability for this costly case. Two things stand out in the wake of the settlement. Professor Pollack-Pelzner will not return to the school and Davis will remain as president. (Pollack-Pelzner is now visiting at Portland State University).
This was a clear violation of the due process and free speech rights of a faculty member. The lack of due process was shocking. Indeed, the case was so egregious that it landed Linfield on the list of the “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech” of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE). As president, the most important duty of Davis is to preserve free speech and academic freedom on his campus. He not only failed to do so, but was the driving force of this abusive action.
An investigation by the American Association of University Professors found that Linfield violated several policies by dismissing Pollack-Pelzner without due process, violating his academic freedom, and then denying him severance pay or notice of termination.
Linfield’s actions (and failure to acknowledge its abusive actions) seriously undermines its status as an academic institution. The President and the board cost the school dearly in their conduct and should resign in the interests of the institution. Moreover, the faculty should demand such action to restore the university’s standing as an institution of higher education.