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February 14, 2023 1:43 pm

Linfield University Pays $1 Million to End Lawsuit Alleging Retaliation Against Jewish Professor


avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner. Photo: Twitter.

Linfield University has settled for over $1 million a lawsuit alleging that it fired a professor for exposing sexual abuse and complaining about antisemitism.

Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, who was a tenured English professor at the university — which is located in McMinnville, Oregon — alleged breach of contract, retaliation and an attempt to “silence” his disclosures of gross misconduct, according to a complaint filed in Jan. 2021.

“We are so proud of Dr. Pollack-Pelzner’s unwavering courage to speak truth to power and to advocate for meaningful change on behalf of his students and fellow professors at Linfield,” Pollack-Pelzner’s attorney, Dana L. Sullivan said in a statement on Feb. 6. “Ultimately, we hope his case sends a clear message that sexual harassment must not be tolerated on any campus and that institutions that seek to silence whistleblowers will be held to account.”

Recently, The Oregonian, a local daily, reported that Linfield University agreed to pay Pollack-Pelzner $1,037,500 while declining to concede that his version of events is true. Scott Nelson, a university spokesperson told the paper that internal discussions yielded a consensus that it was “preferable to resolve this situation and move on.”

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In his legal complaint, Pollack-Pelzner said he first raised concerns about several trustees accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault after becoming a university trustee in 2019. In one case, a trustee who later resigned was indicted on charges of abusing four students. Pollack-Pelzner additionally claimed that he asked the university to address the problem with more training and other measures, but was rebuffed by President Miles Davis, who asked him to withdraw a faculty report detailing other allegations of harassment.

Davis later accused Pollack-Pelzner of pursuing a “secret agenda” aimed at “destroying Linfield from within.”

That same day, Davis is said to have asked in a faculty meeting why several Linfield professors had been “so concerned” with swastikas and other racist and antisemitic graffiti recently discovered on campus. In the past, Pollack-Pelzner also alleged, Davis had made antisemitic remarks about “Jewish noses” during a discussion of Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice.”

Pollack-Pelzner’s firing in April 2021 triggered waves of support from hundreds of professors nationwide, who signed a petition demanding an investigation of his dismissal.

“Everyone should be able to work and study without fear of discrimination or harassment, and everyone should be able to report their safety concerns without fear of retaliation,” Pollack-Pelzner said after the settlement was announced. “I’m grateful for the many students, alumni, and colleagues who joined me in demanding change and refused to be silenced when Linfield failed to uphold these essential principles.”

Follow reporter Dion J. Pierre at @DionJPierre.

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