By editorial board • 

Time running short to calm the roiling waters at Linfield

It’s not the fault of Linfield’s leadership that rising costs, declining enrollment, decreasing appeal abroad, inadequate endowment, a raging pandemic and burgeoning competition have jeopardized the future of their venerable institution.

But it may well be their fault that eroding trust, plunging morale, diminishing transparency, damaging publicity and the specters of harassment, discrimination and exploitation are threatening to make its burden of woes unsustainable.

And let’s not mince words. That leadership is personified in two individuals — the board chair, David Baca, and president, Miles Davis.

You can’t lead a university without the support of its faculty any more than you can command an army without the support of its troops. Lose the men and women charged with carrying out your mission and you’re in deep trouble.

We fear the situation is dire danger of reaching that point at Linfield. And if the board and administration continue their current track, we can’t hold out much hope.

There’s been too much minimizing, denying, denigrating and retaliating. Critical support is eroding as a result, and not just among the faculty, but also the school’s home community, its base of alumni support, its prospective students, and the families of those potential students.

The leadership has made English Professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner a particular target. That’s because he has used his role as faculty board representative to press concerns about sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and antisemitism, and recently restated them in detail in a series of public tweets and follow-up interviews with media.

It has portrayed him as a liar, leaker and malcontent motivated by a thirst for power. It has accused him of misusing his board position, spreading false and malicious claims in seeking to undermine the administration.

But the faculty credits him with impeccable academic and personal credentials, which is what led it to trust him with the board role in the first place. Holder of a B.A. from Yale and Ph.D. from Harvard, he’s known for keen intellect and thoughtful, well-modulated expression.

The Baca-led board chose Davis to assume leadership of the college three years ago because it considered him a dynamic and charismatic change agent. It felt he was up to breaking however many eggs it took to produce an omelet capable of reversing flagging Linfield fortunes.

He swiftly set about proving the board right on two important counts — recruiting and fundraising. He also displayed the kind of entrepreneurial audacity necessary to use precious endowment money securing a gleaming new nursing school campus in Portland.

But the board allowed David Jubb, now facing eight counts of sexual assault for advances he allegedly forced on its student representative, to retain his trustee seat after three students accused him of having victimized them in 2017. And both the board and president have often seemed too heavy-handed and defensive in their responses.

That behavior threatens to undermine all the good accomplished on other fronts.

As just one case in point among many, we would cite the board’s decision to strip its student and faculty representatives of their voting and executive session rights. Doing so appears petty and punitive at a time when people on both the inside and outside are looking instead for acts of healing, good intentions and coming together.

Assuming Jubb’s pending trial isn’t settled via plea bargain, Linfield is headed for another round of debilitating publicity. So things could become worse before they get better.

We urge Baca, Davis and their board and administration brethren to call a truce with the faculty, extend an olive branch and see if reconciliation may yet be possible. The future of Linfield University may well depend on it.

Comments

Oregonian

Baca and Davis have obviously lost the respect of the faculty. It is too late to call a truce or try to mend the relationship. The board must quickly force them out, replace them and move on with more agreeable leaders.

Linfield needs to get someone in admissions who can control enrollment better. They had a surprise drop in enrollment a few years ago, panicked and let everyone in who could fog a mirror.

wofdad1

This is very disturbing for a legacy institution like Linfield. There's an old saying from one of the Inklings (C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and Co.) that "having lost sight of their way, they redoubled their effort". It sounds like leadership has only been able to maintain momentum for a short time, not through this kind of adversity and not with the necessary teamwork provided by faculty. Not dealing with the sins of a trustee is incomprehensible. Next up- outside consultants, fire some lieutenants and re-shuffle some management positions.

LML

If protesters yell that the emperor has no clothes are you going to believe them? Pollack-Pelzner Is a “target” because he wanted it. Martyrdom is so in these days. Davis has been treated very poorly and the faculty has been very unprofessional. Everyone needs to quit whining- act like adults and stop creating the chaos. The woke socialist faculty who are creating this mess need to stop being jerks. President Davis has been cleared of wrong doing and gets lumped in with other garbage and people need to separate facts from fiction. There is so much disfunction in Administration- where do you start? Let Davis do his job.

David Bates

Let's not mince words; the situation has already reached that point at Linfield. Weeks ago, really.