Monday, May 03, 2021

The Linfield Aggression (and What It Tells Us About Vulgar Anti-Academic Discourse)

Some of you might have come across the wild-and-getting-wilder fiasco that is currently embroiling Oregon's Linfield University. The quick and dirty summary:

  • (Jewish) tenured professor and faculty trustee accuses the university board of turning a blind eye to sexual assault by high-level collegiate officials, and the university's (Black) President of making antisemitic remarks.
  • University board of trustees dismisses complaints and tries to sweep them under the rug.
  • Professor goes public with complaints; faculty votes no-confidence in the administration; ADL and other local Jewish organizations rally behind professor.
  • University fires the (again, tenured) professor with no notice and no process -- he finds out when he tries to log in to his email and is locked out.
  • Outcry grows larger, university president refuses to resign and commissions a report from the local NAACP saying he's the victim of anti-Black bias.
That's pretty rough, but it gives you the basic idea.

From what I've seen, the Linfield administration has gone on a truly drunken power trip here (its explanation for why it can summarily terminate a tenured professor without any of the procedural protections guaranteed in the faculty handbook is beyond absurd), and for the most part that's how it's being covered in the academic community -- university administrators abusing power, almost universal rallying in defense of the Jewish professor who was terminated as a whistle-blower.

I'd just note that there is a vulgar understanding of the state of academic and/or "anti-oppression" discourse that I think would not predict this response. That is, given that the terminated academic is Jewish and claiming antisemitism, and the terminating university president is African-American, those who hold the vulgar view would assume that the academic world would either ignore or outright support the injustice done to the Jewish professor because, after all, automatic hierarchy of oppression and Jews-are-White etc etc. That this has not been the reaction, and that there has again been near-universal support for the Jewish faculty member, perhaps might be thought to falsify some of the more uncompromising presumptions of the vulgar discourse.

It won't -- these presuppositions are no doubt unfalsifiable -- but it should.

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