Report on Dismissal of Shakespeare Scholar at Linfield University

By Gregory F. Scholtz

The AAUP published an investigative report in April concerning the summary dismissal of Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, a tenured English professor and holder of an endowed chair in Shakespeare at Linfield University, a small private institution in McMinnville, Oregon. As the report relates, Pollack-Pelzner’s difficulties began after the faculty elected him as their representative on the board of trustees. Following his first board meeting in the role of “faculty trustee,” female colleagues and former students reported that they had been the objects of sexual misconduct by board members at social events following board meetings. As faculty trustee, Pollack-Pelzner believed it was his responsibility to share these allegations with the board and to ask for remedial action. When he concluded that the board and the administration were not taking adequate steps to address the problem, he made the sexual misconduct charges public on Twitter, along with the charge of antisemitism (Pollack-Pelzner is Jewish) on the part of certain administrators and board members. Less than a month after he posted his tweets, the Linfield administration suddenly terminated his tenured appointment without affording him any process, much less the academic due process required by the AAUP. In its introduction, the report notes that Pollack-Pelzner received the first and final notice of his dismissal when, after getting an “access denied” message upon attempting to log on to the university’s network, he sent an email from his Gmail account to his Linfield email address and received the message “Daniel Pollack-Pelzner is no longer an employee of Linfield University.”

The investigating committee found that the Linfield administration violated the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and the institution’s own regulations, which incorporate AAUP-recommended dismissal standards, when it summarily dismissed Pollack-Pelzner without having demonstrated adequate cause for dismissal before an elected faculty hearing body. The committee also found that the administration’s action violated Pollack-Pelzner’s academic freedom to participate in institutional governance without retaliation, also in contravention of the 1940 Statement and derivative AAUP policy documents.

At its June meeting, Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure will vote on whether to recommend to the AAUP’s governing Council that Linfield University be added to the AAUP’s list of censured administrations.