Longtime Linfield University trustee Ronni Lacroute, who endowed a Shakespeare studies chair to keep English professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner at the private college, resigned Sunday from the board in protest of his abrupt firing.
In a letter to Linfield’s board, president and provost, Lacroute wrote that she could no longer serve “in good conscience” as a trustee.
“I am appalled by the summary termination of an esteemed, brilliant and respected tenured faculty member … who out of a sense of moral obligation has sought for the past year to bring deep-seated problems to light in order to help the Linfield community to thrive.”
Pollack-Pelzner, who had served as a faculty trustee, was fired Tuesday after he denounced the university’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations from students and faculty against board members, alleged that President Miles K. Davis had made an anti-Semitic remark about the “length of Jewish noses” and accused Davis of retaliating against him for speaking out.
The university, in a statement last week, said Pollack-Pelzner was fired for cause after he “deliberately circulated false statements about the university, its employees and its board,” was insubordinate and “interfered with the university’s administration of its responsibilities.”
Lacroute, a trustee for more than a decade, resigned after attending an hours-long board meeting Saturday, when she said members were told to be positive and that the school was headed in the right direction.
Lacroute, who has contributed more than $4 million to the school, said she’ll continue to support the university and the McMinnville community. Earlier this year, she was recognized as “Fundraising Supporter of the Decade,” as part of the 2020 BroadwayWorld Regional Awards, according to the university.
Lacroute lives in Yamhill County. In 1991, she co-founded a vineyard and what became the world-class winery WillaKenzie Estate on 420 acres of property that had previously been a cattle farm, pastures and forest. As co-owner with her former husband, she immersed herself in the wine business for a quarter century until selling the winery in 2016.
She has been a donor to Linfield for more than two decades through three university presidents, creating specific funds to support faculty, staff and students, including the Ronni Lacroute Endowed Chair in Shakespeare Studies that Pollack-Pelzner held.
Lacroute, a theater lover who has provided financial support for many theater organizations and productions in the Pacific Northwest, said she created the $2 million endowed chair in April 2016 for Pollack-Pelzner as a way “to keep Daniel” at Linfield “because he was such a stunning professor.” Pollack-Pelzner obtained tenure and was promoted to associate professor that same year.
She said she learned of his firing from another faculty member.
“I was incensed,” she said. “You just don’t do that. The university didn’t want negative communication, but that’s not how you stop it. It’s how you make it worse. You take care of the problems. You just don’t suppress speech.”
Lacroute also has created the Lacroute Arts Fund, Lacroute Composer Readings and Chamber Music Program, Lacroute Initiative for Advancing the Liberal Arts and the Lacroute Endowed Academic Achievement Scholarship at Linfield.
Lacroute said she doesn’t accept the explanation from the university and Davis that the faculty handbook didn’t apply to Pollack-Pelzner because he was fired for cause as an employee and not for the work he did as a professor . The handbook outlined a process for disciplining tenured professors that called for a statement of charges at least 20 days before a faculty committee hearing is held.
Pollack-Pelzner, 41, had his work laptop shut off while he was still on a work-related Zoom meeting Tuesday afternoon and learned he was no longer employed in a message that bounced back to his personal email when he sent a message to his university email. He received a termination letter via FedEx on Wednesday.
Pollack-Pelzner had pushed the board to do more to address allegations of sexual misconduct by four board members, including David Jubb, a trustee who resigned…