AAUP to Investigate Linfield U and Collin College | Inside Higher Ed
The American Association of University Professors said this week that it’s investigating two institutions for alleged violations of academic freedom. At Linfield University in Oregon, the AAUP will be examining the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, the former Ronni Lacroute Chair in Shakespeare Studies. Pollack-Pelzner publicly criticized the university’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations involving members of Linfield’s Board of Trustees and accused some trustees, including the university president, of making anti-Semitic comments. He was fired soon after, with Linfield accusing Pollack-Pelzner of “conduct that is harmful to the university” and of circulating “false statements.”
The AAUP said in a statement about its investigation that dismissing a tenured professor “without the administration’s having first demonstrated adequacy of cause is in violation of principles and procedures established by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and endorsed by more than two hundred other groups in higher education. AAUP principles and procedures are in fact incorporated into the Linfield University faculty handbook, so the administration’s action against Professor Pollack-Pelzner was evidently taken in flagrant violation, not only of AAUP-recommended standards, but of the institution’s own regulations.”
Linfield said in a statement that it does not have an AAUP union chapter on campus, and while “we respect the AAUP, this matter is not suitable for resolution through an ad hoc committee of a private, outside organization.”
At Collin College in Texas, the AAUP is investigating the summary dismissal of Suzanne Jones, a former longtime professor of education, and the nonrenewal of Lora Burnett, a former professor of history. “The stated basis for the dismissals of Professor Jones was her critique of the administration’s COVID-19 policies, in evident violation of her academic freedom to address any institutional policy or action while exercising her governance responsibilities,” the AAUP said in its announcement. “The stated reasons for the nonrenewal of Professor Lora Burnett were that she made ‘private personnel issues public that impair the college’s function’ and engaged in ‘personal criticisms of coworkers, supervisors, and/or those who merely disagree’ with her, which suggests that the nonrenewal may have been in response to activity which should be protected by academic freedom — speaking freely as a citizen and as an educational officer of her institution.”
Collin did not respond to a request for comment about the investigation.
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