A university in Oregon has agreed to pay just over $1 million to a Jewish professor who the school fired after he reported several incidents of alleged sexual misconduct and antisemitism.
Linfield University, a private school in McMinnville, settled with English professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner for $1,037,500 to settle a wrongful termination lawsuit, according to local press reports and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The settlement, first reported by The Oregonian, is meant to cover the professor’s lost wages, emotional distress and attorney fees. While the settlement protects Linfield from further legal action by Pollack-Pelzner, it doesn’t prevent him from talking about the case.
Pollack-Pelzner, now a visiting scholar at Portland State University, said he’s pleased with the outcome.
‘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,’ said Pollack-Pelzner, according to The Oregonian. ‘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.’
Pollack-Pelzner had accused the school’s president, Miles Davis, of making antisemitic remarks in front of him, including jokes about gas chambers and comments about the size of Jewish noses. The professor also repeatedly raised concerns about student and faculty allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate contact by the school’s board trustees.
Pollack-Pelzner was fired in April 2021, shortly after going public with these and other allegations. He learned about his termination when he tried sending an email from a personal address to his Linfield email and got an automated response telling him he was no longer employed.
After he was fired, Pollack-Pelzner sued the school for $4 million, claiming he was fired due to retaliation. Pollack-Pelzner was a tenured professor and began teaching at Linfield in 2010. He held an endowed chair in Shakespeare studies until his abrupt termination in late April 2021.
A subsequent investigation by the American Association of University Professors found that Linfield violated several policies in its treatment of Pollack-Pelzner. Among the alleged violations were dismissing Pollack-Pelzner without due process, violating his academic freedom and refusing to give him at least one year of severance pay or notice of termination.
‘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,’ said attorney Dana Sullivan, who represented Pollack-Pelzner.
Linfield didn’t admit any wrongdoing and disputed Pollack-Pelzner’s claims but agreed to the settlement nonetheless at the recommendation of the university’s insurers.
‘Defending against litigation, even when confident in the legal outcome, diverts time and energy from the mission of the institution,’ Linfield Associate Vice President for Strategic Communications Scott Nelson said in a statement. ‘More importantly, this agreement allows Linfield to focus on building and expanding upon its rich educational heritage and creating a welcoming community for all.’
Several people affiliated with Linfield left the school in solidarity with Pollack-Pelzner in the wake of his firing, including the trustee who had endowed the professor’s chair in the English department.
Davis remains Linfield’s president despite calls from the Anti-Defamation League, the Oregon Board of Rabbis and other groups for his resignation.
Last year, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education ranked Linfield as one of its ’10 worst colleges for free speech.’