Letter to the editor: Alumni address decision to sign President Davis resignation petition

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We are alumni from the classes of 2009, 2010, and 2011.  It is with heavy hearts that we write to explain our decision to sign both the petition requesting that President Davis step down, as well as the alumni letter encouraging major donors to stop their donations until he does so.

Like many, we have been disappointed to watch Linfield receive negative national press coverage for this explosive decision to abruptly fire tenured professor Dr. Daniel Pollack-Pelzner.  We believe this action perpetuates a culture of fear of retribution at Linfield.

In 2018 we were grateful to see Linfield hire Miles Davis as President: instating a Black president seemed like great progress for Linfield.  Friday’s report from the NAACP gave us pause about the ways that racial dynamics are also at work in this complicated conflict.  We appreciate that the NAACP has pointed out the lack of diversity at all levels within Linfield and challenged the community to consider what of this situation arises from a resistance to Black leadership.

At the same time, we are very bothered that, in his recent interview with Oregon Live Davis undercuts the credibility of Linfield Faculty in order to defend himself.  In responding to Professor Linder and Professor Thompkins’s accusation that he used an inappropriate holocaust metaphor when speaking about faculty cuts, why did Davis feel the need to point out that their recollections didn’t match? He goes on to admit (and defend) that he did, in fact, make the comment about Jews and gas chambers. No matter how the metaphor was phrased, it was inappropriate and antisemetic.

President Davis calls on his critics to give him the chance to demonstrate his humanity. We ask: how will Dr. Daniel Pollack-Pelzner demonstrate his humanity after being abruptly fired without due process?  In his interview, President Davis likens the actions of Pollack-Pelzner to theft or vandalism, but as far as the public is aware, all Pollack-Pelzner has done was criticize the leadership.

Davis then goes on to argue that if the faculty are offended by things he says they should just talk it out with him. Clearly there is a power dynamic at play, and faculty members are right to fear retribution, given the recent firing of Dr. Pollack-Pelzner. Davis has not created a culture of openness and honesty that would allow offended faculty to be forthcoming about those issues.  As we’ve corresponded with former professors about this in the past few days, they have made the point to pass us their personal email addresses in case their email is cutoff as abruptly as Dr. Pollack-Pelzner’s was.

Lastly, Davis’s remarks about the sexual misconduct accusations perpetuate a narrative in which the intention of the perpetrator matters more than how the actions were received by the victim.

When speaking about allegations into sexual misconduct on his behalf, Davis is quick to point out that he did not go against the Linfield policy and that his actions were not done with sexual intent.  That may be true.  But we would much prefer Davis to set an example for the Linfield community by validating the way his actions were perceived by the woman who raised the concern.  He must know that saying, “I’m sorry if you were offended, but…” is not a real apology. 

The NAACP report indicates that accusing President Davis of being “divisive, intimidating, combative, aggressive, disrespectful and abusive” is coded racist language. While it is appropriate to examine the racial components at play, after hearing the way that President Davis attacks the credibility of faculty who raise critiques against him, justifies antisemetic comments, and perpetuates problematic narratives about sexual misconduct, we believe he is not fit for leadership at Linfield University. 

We encourage other alumni to speak out as well. 

Becca Méndez (Williams), Class of 2010

Ansley Clark, Class of 2010

Ajeeta Khatiwada, Class of 2010

Shannon Oddo (Merrick), Class of 2010

Dayna Streufert (Tapp), Class of 2011

Kate Agenbroad (Peterson), Class of 2009