Jewish professor wins lawsuit after being fired for criticizing boss' anti-Semitic joke

Linfield University recently settled a lawsuit with professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, who was allegedly fired for criticizing its president’s anti-Semitism and its handling of harassment cases.

The remarks in front of Pollack-Pelzner came as he called for Linfield to do more about sexual harassment cases against President Miles K. Davis and other members of the Board of Trustees.

Linfield University recently settled a lawsuit with professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, who was allegedly fired for speaking out against its president’s anti-Semitic remarks and its handling of harassment cases. 

The settlement awarded $1 million out of the requested $4 million, and Miles K. Davis remains Linfield’s president. 

Pollack-Pelzner said that Davis made anti-Semitic remarks, “including jokes about gas chambers and comments on the size of Jewish noses,” the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent reported. 

Two other Linfield professors shared their experiences of Davis’ anti-Semitism, with one recalling that he said, “You don’t send Jews to the showers with soap,” shortly after assuming the presidency in 2018.

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The anti-Semitic remarks in front of Pollack-Pelzner came as he called for Linfield, a private university in Oregon, to do more about students’ and faculty members’ sexual harassment cases against Davis and other members of the Board of Trustees, according to the Jewish Telegraph Agency

When Linfield terminated Pollack-Pelzner in 2021, the provost sent an email to faculty and students saying that the university “took the extraordinary step of terminating the employment” of a faculty member “for serious breaches of the individual’s duty to the institution,” The Oregonian reported. 

The email continued to call Pollack-Pelzner’s criticisms of Davis and the Board, which he shared in a Twitter thread, “false public accusations that have, sadly, harmed the university.” 

Pollack-Pelzner was terminated so quickly, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) wrotethat his work laptop shut down during a virtual conference. 

Linfield University shared a statement with Campus Reform

The Jewish Telegraph Agency described the termination as an act of “backlash,” with Pollack-Pelzner recalling that Davis responded to his criticism by “warning of disloyalty” during a Board meeting. 

Subsequent investigations suggest that the harassment identified by Pollack-Pelzner and his claims of wrongful termination are substantiated. 

“One of the trustees whose alleged sexual misconduct was the source of complaints was indicted on eight charges–one felony count of sexual abuse in the first degree and seven misdemeanors–and ultimately sentenced to probation as part of a plea agreement,” FIRE reported. 

An investigation from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) refuted Linfield’s justifications for terminating Pollack-Pelzner. A lengthy report, summarized by FIRE, says that Linfield violated its policies by skirting due process for Pollack-Pelzner, a tenured professor. 

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The AAUP criticized two of Linfield’s other claims: the university tried to apply the rules of employees, not faculty, to his termination and said that rules for faculty could not apply because the university developed them before Davis became president. 

Davis, in turn, initiated his own investigation in 2021 with the help of a local NAACP chapter. The NAACP said that Linfield has “deeply-held resistance to Black leadership and culture,” which “fueled the ferocity of resistance to organization change,” according to a copy of the report obtained by the Jewish Telegraph Agency.

“President Davis has been accused of being divisive, intimidating, combative, aggressive, disrespectful and abusive,” the report continued. “This coded language plays off racist and toxic stereotypes with a long history in this country.”

The Jewish Telegraph Agency reported that the Anti-Defamation League, Oregon Board of Rabbis, and “the faculty of Linfield’s College of Arts and Sciences” had “called for [Davis’] resignation.”

Pollack-Pelzner is now a visiting scholar at Portland State University (PSU) and scholar-in-residence at the Portland Shakespeare Project. After news of his settlement broke, he took to Twitter to thank “all the students, alumni, and colleagues around the world” who supported him. 

His tweet shows a photo of a chalked sidewalk asking that Linfield “DO BETTER.”

“Hope this will put a steep price tag on the actions of Linfield leaders and deter other universities from making the same choices,” Pollack-Pelzner wrote. 

Campus Reform contacted all relevant parties listed for comment and will update this article accordingly.