The Chronicle of Higher Education
by Tom Bartlett and Jack Stripling
April 29, 2021
A president sacks his toughest faculty critic, and outrage goes national.
Daniel Pollack-Pelzner’s work-issued MacBook froze in the middle of a Zoom call on Tuesday afternoon. At first Pollack-Pelzner, who was working from home, thought it might be his internet connection. Then the laptop restarted, and he saw a message saying he had been locked out. He checked his work email on his phone and discovered he was locked out of that, too. Concerned, he emailed his work account from a personal account, and received the following auto-reply: “Daniel Pollack-Pelzner is no longer an employee of Linfield University.”
And that’s how Pollack-Pelzner, a tenured professor of English, found out that he had been fired from the university where he’d worked for more than a decade.
Pollack-Pelzner’s unceremonious dismissal followed months of conflict with the university’s leadership. That war of words became public in March, when the professor posted a thread on Twitter in which he accused the university’s president and its Board of Trustees of abusing their power. His complaints centered on how allegations of sexual misconduct against several members of the board had been handled. In addition, Pollack-Pelzner, who is Jewish, said that he had been “religiously harassed” by the president.
It’s an ugly, complicated dispute, replete with charges and countercharges about proper university procedure and what, exactly, was said during closed-door meetings and in casual conversations. But there have already been reverberations beyond Linfield, a 1,900-student college in McMinnville, Ore., about an hour’s drive from Portland. So far the Anti-Defamation League has urged the president to resign; a chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has started an investigation; and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has issued a statement saying it is “seriously concerned” about the situation.