ADL calls on Oregon university president to resign over firing of Jewish professor

Ben Sales

(JTA) — Criticism is mounting over the firing of a Jewish professor who accused his Oregon university’s leadership of making antisemitic comments, with the local branch of the Anti-Defamation League joining calls for the president of the school to resign.

Students as well as fellow academics are also protesting the decision by Linfield University, a Baptist-affiliated university with some 2,000 students, to fire Daniel Pollack-Pelzner. According to The Oregonian, the university has hosed down sidewalk-chalk messages supporting Pelzner, threatening the students who wrote them with fines, and has torn down fliers criticizing his termination.

Pollack-Pelzner, an English literature professor who had tenure, was fired on Tuesday after he and others publicly accused Linfield President Miles K. Davis of making multiple antisemitic comments, including comments about Jewish noses as well as the Holocaust. Pollack-Pelzner said he believed the antisemitism was partly in response to his asking the school to do more to address allegations of sexual assault.

Davis has denied the allegations, and the university has supported him, even in the face of a vote by the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences calling on him to resign.

On Thursday, Pollack-Pelzner told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he learned he was fired only when he discovered he was locked out of his work email. When he sent an email to the account from his personal email, he received an automatic response saying he no longer worked at the school.

Linfield’s faculty handbook requires a lengthy process, including two formal hearings, before a professor with tenure can be fired — procedures that have not been followed in this case. Pollack-Pelzner says he doesn’t know what his next steps will be, and that he isn’t sure how he could persuade the administration to follow the guidelines in the handbook.

“It’s been such a blow and it’s so overwhelming,” he told JTA. “I’m trying to figure out what my options are. All I’ve been trying to do for the last two years is to get Linfield leadership to follow its own policies. I haven’t seen any indication that people in positions of power at Linfield want to hold themselves accountable.”

Several organizations have come out in Pollack-Pelzner’s defense. The local chapter of the ADL sent a letter Wednesday calling on Davis to resign to “allow the community to heal.” The Oregon Board of Rabbis had previously called on Davis to resign.

Miri Cypers, the ADL Pacific Northwest regional director, told JTA that the university sent her a response saying that the necessary steps have already been taken to engage in a “process of healing.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which aims to defend student and faculty freedom of speech on campus, sent a letter to Davis Thursday night demanding that he reverse Pollack-Pelzner’s termination, condemning what it called “reckless conduct.” The Shakespeare Association of America also came out in support of Pollack-Pelzner, who teaches about Shakespeare, writing, “Whistleblowers should not be punished and anti-semitism and other forms of racism should be condemned.”

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