Linfield named one of “Worst Colleges for Free Speech: 2022” by free speech non-profit

Maddie Loverich, Editor-in-chief

Last week, Linfield University was included on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education list of “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech: 2022”, which included other private and public colleges from around the nation that the organization has identified as “actively working to shut down student and faculty speech rights.”

The organization has released the “Worst Colleges for Free Speech” list annually since 2011, naming and highlighting a total of 80 institutions through the years. According to Adam Steinbaugh, FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program director, the list is intended to serve as a reminder that institutions should take corrective measures. 

“It’s a wake up call because institutions hope that they can ride out some negative publicity for maybe a couple days, weeks or–in Linfield’s case–months,” Steinbaugh said. “This is a damage to their reputation and to the institution’s values that is going to carry on for years.”

According to the list, FIRE included Linfield on the list based of the termination of former tenured professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner’s in 2021 after he raised concerns about the Board of Trustee’s handling of sexual abuse allegations and alleged anti-Semitic comments.

“Linfield is included because they have the dubious honor of having done something that is pretty remarkable, which was to fire a tenured faculty member with no due process whatsoever, and to do so because the institution’s leadership objected to his speech,” Steinbaugh said. “Which is flatly contrary to the freedom of expression, which Linfield says that it promises to its students and faculty. It is remarkable that there’s been no action by the [Board of Trustees] to address this pretty serious misconduct by the institution’s leadership.”

FIRE’s mission, as stated on their website, is to protect and defend student and faculty rights at colleges and universities across the country. The nonprofit was founded in 1999 by University of Pennsylvania history professor Alan Charles Kors and Boston civil-liberties lawyer Harvey A. Silverglate in response to feedback from their 1998 book titled “The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses.”

“Please know that Linfield supports free speech and expression – including criticism of leadership,” said Linfield’s chief marketing officer, Scott Nelson. “It’s always our goal to listen carefully and have respectful, productive conversations with community members of many, often differing, viewpoints.”

Nelson went on to address the inclusion of Linfield on the list. 

 “With employee-related issues, in particular, critics are often free to pass judgment while the university is prevented from sharing a complete response, limited by our adherence to policies, procedures, privacy guidelines and the facts,” he said. “This is one such case.”

In July, Pollack-Pelzner announced he would be suing Linfield for $4 million in damages, including $3.5 million in economic damages for the loss of his teaching position and $500,000 in non-economic damages, such as emotional distress. 

“We wish [Pollack-Pelzner] the best of luck in obtaining justice here because we certainly know that the institutions leadership is not interested in correcting their wrongs,” Steinbaugh said.