Pioneer Hall is seen through the signature oak trees at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Pioneer Hall is the oldest building on the Linfield campus, constructed in 1881.

Pioneer Hall is seen through the signature oak trees at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Pioneer Hall is the oldest building on the Linfield campus, constructed in 1881.

Bradley W. Parks / OPB

The Pacific Northwest chapter of the Anti-Defamation League wrote a letter to Linfield University’s Board of Trustees on Thursday expressing disappointment and concern over claims of antisemitism chronicled in a professor’s social media posts.

THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:

Linfield President Miles Davis said in a responding letter that the professor’s tweets were part of a “smear campaign” against university administration.

Last week Linfield professor and faculty trustee Daniel Pollack-Pelzner tweeted that he faced antisemitic comments after he reported that multiple members of the university’s Board of Trustees had been accused of sexual misconduct by students and faculty over the past year.

One of those reports included former board member David Jubb, who was indicted last year on eight counts — seven counts of third-degree sexual abuse and one count of first-degree sexual abuse. There is a jury trial scheduled for that case in November.

Some of those counts relate to a female Linfield student who filed a federal lawsuit in 2019 stating that Jubb had sexually assaulted her, inappropriately touching and grabbing her without her consent. That lawsuit is still pending.

In another account, a faculty member accused Linfield President Davis of misconduct.

According to the summary of the independent investigation of that report, which was provided to OPB, Davis had approached the faculty member from behind, and rubbed his hands up and down the professor’s arms while saying he looked forward to a scheduled meeting.

The outside investigator found the faculty member’s report to be “substantiated by a preponderance of the evidence,” but said that it did not rise to the level of violating Linfield’s harassment or Title IX policy.

Linfield laid this, and other allegations, out in a statement last year from the Executive Committee of the university’s board of trustees.

Pollack-Pelzner tweeted that after he passed on misconduct reports, he faced comments related to his religion from the head of the human resources department and the board chair, and he had also heard President Davis talk about “measuring the size of Jewish noses.” In addition, Pollack-Pelzner said that Davis told him people were overreacting to swastikas that had appeared on campus.

“Finally, the President said that people like me were destroying [Linfield] from within and could only show loyalty by accepting the teachings of Jesus Christ in the New Testament,” Pollack-Pelzner tweeted.

Pollack-Pelzner’s tweets stated that he was censored by the board in meetings.

THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:

“The people who have been accused deny that these things were ever said,” Linfield spokesperson Scott Nelson said in a statement.

Nelson said outside law firms, internal investigators and the university’s human resources office investigated and found no evidence to support the claims of antisemitic comments Pollack-Pelzner laid out in his posts.

“The university respects that individuals are free to express their opinions on social media, but that doesn’t make them accurate,” Nelson said. “Linfield stands against xenophobia, racism, antisemitism and sexual misconduct in all forms.”

In its letter Thursday, Anti-Defamation League Pacific Northwest Regional Director Miri Cypers wrote that the ADL is not representing Pollack-Pelzner as his attorney nor is it in a position to verify his allegations, but that it is troubled by his descriptions of the incidents.

“In order to mitigate the harm caused by discrimination, or even the perception of discrimination, it is important that Linfield University thoroughly investigate the allegations raised,” Cypers wrote.

Additionally, the ADL encouraged Linfield leadership to attend trainings on bias and antisemitism.

Linfield President Davis responded Friday to the ADL’s letter. He said that as an African-American man, he understands “the need for education, training and community engagement on matters of discrimination and intolerance.”

Davis stated that none of the allegations in Pollack-Pelzner’s tweets are recent and that they were all initially raised nearly a year ago. Davis said the university initiated internal and external investigations of each incident and found no support for the claims in Pollack-Pelzner’s posts.

“Linfield has extensive and robust programs to educate and train students, faculty and staff on matters of discrimination, sexual harassment and misconduct, and intolerance,” Davis wrote. “We strive for an inclusive and welcoming campus for our students and employees.”

He acknowledged the university still has work to do, particularly surrounding implicit bias and microaggressions. But he pushed back hard on the allegations surfaced recently by Pollack-Pelzner.

“Most important, you should know that Professor Pollack-Pelzner has been engaged in a smear campaign toward me and the administration at Linfield University,” Davis wrote. “His recent Twitter posting is just the latest salvo in an effort that has caused harm to the university and our community.”

Davis also noted that two of the trustees who were accused of sexual misconduct are African-American.

Pollack-Pelzner said he hopes Linfield puts its energy toward building a safer and more supportive community for everyone instead of focusing its energy on him.

“These are real issues that Linfield has to deal with, and I understand the impulse to blame the messenger and claim that the harm is in the act of reporting rather than what’s being reported, but I’m hopeful that if we continue to shed a light on these abuses of power that that will allow us eventually to be able to rebuild and heal,” Pollack-Pelzner said.

He continued: “What I want is for Linfield to be a place where everyone feels that they can report what’s happened to them without fear of harassment or retaliation and that we can have the education and the community commitment we need to prevent these abuses from happening in the first place.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include information about investigations of sexual harassment at Linfield, based on summaries provided to OPB after the story originally published.

THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:
THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR: