The American Association of University Professors announced Tuesday that it is launching an investigation into Linfield University’s dismissal of a tenured professor.
Linfield University fired professor and Shakespeare scholar Daniel Pollack-Pelzner late last month due to “serious breaches” of his “duty to the institution,” according to the university. In March, Pollack-Pelzner posted on social media about past allegations of sexual misconduct and antisemitism involving university leaders, including current university president Miles Davis.
The AAUP initially reached out to Linfield President Davis on April 30, a few days after Pollack-Pelzner was fired.
In that letter, the Director of AAUP’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance, Gregory Scholtz, wrote that dismissing a tenured professor without a pre-termination hearing, as in Pollack-Pelzner’s case, is in violation of principles supported by faculties and higher education institutions nationwide.
In that April 30 letter, Scholtz urged the university to rescind Pollack-Pelzner’s dismissal notice and to reinstate him. The organization authorized its investigation into Linfield after that did not happen.
“An action to dismiss a tenured professor without the administration’s having first demonstrated adequacy of cause is in violation of principles and procedures established by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and endorsed by more than two hundred other groups in higher education,” the AAUP wrote in a statement Tuesday. “AAUP principles and procedures are in fact incorporated into the Linfield University faculty handbook, so the administration’s action against Professor Pollack-Pelzner was evidently taken in flagrant violation, not only of AAUP-recommended standards, but of the institution’s own regulations.”
Scholtz wrote to Davis Monday, stating that the AAUP will be creating an ad hoc committee composed of professors from other institutions to begin the investigation.
“The AAUP’s staff will provide the ad hoc committee with relevant information for its examination, and the committee will arrange to interview you, Professor Pollack-Pelzner, and other involved individuals to ensure that all parties have the opportunity to present their positions,” Scholtz wrote to Davis.
Scholtz did not lay out a timeline for the investigation, but he wrote that he would contact Davis soon with the names of the ad hoc committee members and an estimate of the date Davis will be contacted for an interview.
“In the meantime,” Scholtz wrote, “we would emphasize the Association’s receptivity in this case, as in all others, to a resolution that would preclude the necessity for the investigation now authorized.”
Linfield spokesperson Scott Nelson told OPB that Linfield does not have an official AAUP union chapter.
“While we respect the AAUP, this matter is not suitable for resolution through an ad hoc committee of a private, outside organization,” Nelson said.
According to AAUP Oregon, although Linfield does not have an official chapter that partakes in collective bargaining, it does have an advocacy chapter.
This is not the first time an organization has questioned the legality of Linfield’s termination of Pollack-Pelzner.
Following the professor’s firing, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education — a nonprofit based in Philadelphia — questioned the reasoning behind Pollack-Pelzner’s dismissal in a letter to Linfield President Davis.
Linfield representatives at the time said the university’s action against Pollack-Pelzner was legal.
The investigation announcement follows mounting pressure on Linfield from other quarters, including from alumni and a national festival with long ties to the university.