$1 Million Settlement Reached for Linfield University Professor Fired for Whistleblowing

Posted on February 7, 2023

Portland, OR

As Linfield University students return to classes today for the Spring semester, a million-dollar settlement agreement between fired Professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner and Linfield University has been announced.  Tenured English professor Dr. Pollack-Pelzner filed the initial lawsuit against Linfield in July 2021 for unlawful whistleblower retaliation. Linfield had abruptly terminated Pollack-Pelzer’s employment in April of that year, after he repeatedly called upon university leadership to address reports by students and faculty of sexual harassment by university trustees and the president.

The termination touched off a national and international outcry from the academic community, including Linfield students and faculty. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) undertook its own investigation into Pollack-Pelzner’s firing, citing issues of “academic freedom and due process” as serious concerns meriting closer examination. In April 2022, AAUP released a full report admonishing Linfield for its retaliatory termination of Pollack-Pelzner in violation of generally-accepted principles of academic freedom. Shortly after, the AAUP added Linfield University to its list of officially censured administrations—the AAUP’s first censure of any University from Oregon. (full investigative report here: https://www.aaup.org/report/academic-freedom-and-tenure-linfield-university-oregon)

The AAUP report found that, by taking leaders at the highest level at the university to task for disregarding their obligation to address serious safety issues on campus, Dr. Pollack-Pelzner was fulfilling his responsibilities as the faculty’s elected representative to the board of trustees, and his speech and conduct were protected by principles of academic freedom. Instead of taking meaningful action to address reports of harassment by trustees and the president, Linfield attempted to silence Pollack-Pelzner and, when he persisted, fired him without notice or a hearing–both preconditions for the dismissal of tenured faculty.

In the wake of Pollack-Pelzner’s retaliatory firing, several colleagues at Linfield stepped down from their roles in connection with the University as a sign of solidarity, including longtime Linfield Board of Trustee member and donor, Ronni Lacroute, Director of Linfield’s Center for Wine Education, Gregory Jones, and Anthropology and Sociology Professor Jeffrey Peterson.

Now a visiting scholar at Portland State University and scholar-in-residence at the Portland Shakespeare Project, Dr. Pollack-Pelzner is relieved to put this challenging legal dispute behind him and hopeful that his advocacy has had a positive impact.

“Everyone should be able to work and study without fear of discrimination or harassment, and everyone should be able to report their safety concerns without fear of retaliation,” Dr. Pollack Pelzner reflected. “I’m grateful for the many students, alumni, and colleagues who joined me in demanding change and refused to be silenced when Linfield failed to uphold these essential principles.”

The non-confidential settlement releases Linfield University from any further legal action from Dr. Pollack-Pelzner, but does not bar him from talking about his case or the agreement reached.

“We are so proud of Dr. Pollack-Pelzner’s unwavering courage to speak truth to power and to advocate for meaningful change on behalf of his students and fellow professors at Linfield,” noted Pollack-Pelzner’s attorney Dana Sullivan,  “Ultimately, we hope his case sends a clear message that sexual harassment must not be tolerated on any campus and that institutions that seek to silence whistleblowers will be held to account.”

Lawsuit specific info contact: lead attorney Dana Sullivan, Buchanan Angeli Altschul & Sullivan LLP, office: (503) 974-5023, email: dana@baaslaw.com

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