Salem-Keizer NAACP says Linfield president treated unfairly due to race

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
April 30, 2021 10:16 p.m. Updated: April 30, 2021 11:21 p.m.

Calls for the Linfield president’s resignation have risen following widespread conversations over allegations of antisemitism and sexual misconduct

In a report released Friday, a local chapter of the NAACP said it has found that Linfield President Miles Davis has been treated unfairly due to his race.

The Salem-Keizer NAACP said it was contacted by Davis earlier this month. Davis, who is a Black man, “shared his concerns regarding allegations of racial animus,” according to the findings summarized by NAACP chapter president Reginald Richardson.


Last week, when news of the NAACP inquiry was released, Linfield spokesperson Scott Nelson had told OPB that the university did not solicit the organization and that it did not know what prompted the inquiry.

Nelson reiterated on Friday that until he read the report, he was not aware that Davis had reached out to the NAACP first.

According to Richardson, the scope of the NAACP’s investigation was to determine if attacks on Davis were unfair and if he was facing unfair treatment if it was likely because of his race.

There have been recent calls from the Linfield community and beyond for Davis to resign. Those came after a Linfield professor tweeted about antisemitic remarks he had heard from Davis. That professor, Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, who is Jewish, also brought up that Davis had been accused of sexual misconduct by a faculty member in the past. Linfield fired Pollack-Pelzner earlier this week.

“Linfield University is an institution that claims to honor human rights and academic freedom, celebrate diverse cultures, foster a climate of mutual respect, and promote an inclusive environment that affirms the value of all persons,” Richardson wrote in his report. “However, the Salem Keizer NAACP did not observe that commitment extending to President Davis.”

Richardson said his chapter of the NAACP found that Davis had been subject to “numerous instances of unfair treatment since his arrival in July 2018,” and he said that unfair treatment happened because of Davis’ race.

Richardson pointed out that Davis has been accused of being aggressive, intimidating and abusive, among other words, and he said that specific language comes from racial stereotypes.

“White males who exhibit bold, audacious, independent, and free-spirited behaviors are celebrated,” Richardson wrote. “These same behaviors displayed by Black males may be seen as threatening, aggressive, too-loud or violent.”

With regards to allegations of sexual misconduct against Davis, Richardson noted, although an outside investigation found Davis’ conduct did not violate Linfield policy, the allegations continued to be discussed internally, in the news and on social media “to the detriment of President Davis and the university community.”

In a summary of that investigative report obtained by OPB, the encounter that led to the misconduct allegation filed against Davis by a faculty member was found to have occurred, it just did not rise to violating Linfield’s harassment or Title IX policies.


Richardson wrote that the NAACP’s investigation was also “subject to false and racist attacks.”

He wrote that the Salem-Keizer NAACP had invited six Linfield faculty members, including Pollack-Pelzner, to contribute to the inquiry, but they refused. Though, Richardson said, faculty members have talked with the Oregon Board of Rabbis and the Pacific Northwest Anti-Defamation League — both organizations that have called for Davis’ resignation.

In an email to Richardson, provided to OPB, the professors said they did not refuse outright to be part of the inquiry, but rather asked for more information about it.

At the time they were asked to participate in the NAACP’s inquiry, those six faculty members stated that the timing of the investigation felt like an act of retaliation — as they had all recently spoken out about accusations from students and faculty of harassment perpetrated by Davis and other Linfield leaders.

“Subjecting employees of a university to immediate outside investigation after they have reported harassment and retaliation — no matter how well-intentioned the investigation — is itself an act of retaliation,” the professors had written back to Richardson at the time.

“It is this kind of culture at Linfield — one in which people who object to abuses of power then face further consequences from those who have been accused of committing the abuses — that we have tried to change, thus far with limited effect.”

The professors wrote to Richardson that an investigation of this sort should be conducted by an NAACP chapter outside of Oregon in order to be truly unbiased. They also noted that such an investigation might examine whether or not Linfield has enforced its harassment, discrimination and retaliation policies equally for all members of the campus community.

But, the professors said, “although we have not accepted your invitation to speak at this time, this does not constitute a blanket decline from all six of us to participate in the inquiry by your organization at any time in the future.”

The professors also noted that two out of the six of them are people of color.

Overall though, Richardson wrote that Linfield leadership, specifically its Board of Trustees, was partly at fault for being “unprepared for the challenges a Black leader would undoubtedly face in a predominantly white university.”

Richardson gave the university a variety of recommendations including to:

  • Retract the “damaging and racialized language” that has been used against Davis, and hold those individuals accountable for “disseminating hatred”
  • Require yearly training on bias, racism and microaggressions for all current and future employees
  • Creating more opportunities for faculty of color to take part in leadership discussions

Linfield spokesman, Nelson, said that the report was shared with the university only just before it was distributed to members of the media.

“The report speaks for itself,” Nelson said. “I hope, though, that this becomes a moment when conversations like the ones reflected here are able to turn into a positive for the campus community. We all need to do a lot of listening and reflecting, as well as rebuilding trust and understanding.”


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