Linfield University in Oregon agreed to pay more than $1 million to a whistleblowing professor whom the school fired via email after he complained about incidents of sexual harassment and antisemitism.
Fox News, The Oregonian and other news outlets reported that English professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner had settled his wrongful-termination lawsuit for $1,037,500, of which $435,000 is going to attorney fees. The university admitted no wrongdoing and reportedly settled at the urging of its insurance carrier.
The settlement doesn’t prevent Pollack-Pelzner, who has a Ph.D. in English from Harvard University, from speaking about the case. He’s now a visiting scholar at Portland State University.
“Everyone should be able to work and study without fear of discrimination and harassment, and everyone should be able to report their safety concerns without fear of retaliation,” he told The Oregonian.
Pollack-Pelzner raised concerns about sexual-harassment allegations made by student and faculty as well as alleged inappropriate contact by school trustees. He was fired in April 2021 after going public, learning about it when he tried to send an email from his personal account to his university account and got an automated response that said he was no longer employed by the school. One of the school trustees resigned in protest to support Pollack-Pelzner.
He also claimed that Miles Davis, the school’s president, had told an antisemitic joke about the size of Jewish noses. According to The Oregonian, two other professors claimed the president once joked that Jews don’t need soap when they go to the showers, in a reference to the Holocaust. Davis told The Oregonian he didn’t recall making such a remark but apologized if anything he said had made people uncomfortable.
Pollack-Pelzner, who was tenured, sued for $4 million and claimed his firing was a retaliation. The American Association of University Professors investigated and found that the school violated several policies in the way he was treated, including his termination without a hearing.
The dismissal sparked criticism across the country and brought focus to the larger issue of efforts around the country to reduce protections for university professors.
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