Mark McPhail, a tenured professor and administrator who was abruptly fired from Indiana University Northwest last year after an administrator accused him of saying “the solution to racism is to kill all the white people,” was recently named interim provost of Linfield University in McMinnville. , Ore.
Linfield’s administration has come under fire from its own faculty after it abruptly terminated a tenured Jewish professor last year following a series of tweets that sparked allegations of sexual misconduct by the university against several board members. The professor also said he had been “religiously harassed” by the president.
Both McPhail and Daniel Pollack-Pelzner’s case at Linfield involve a failure of due process, in which the faculty member appears to have been fired without a hearing, said Mark Criley, senior program officer for the Division of Academic Freedom and Tenure. and leadership in the American Association of University Professors.
It can be beneficial for an institution to hire someone “who knows due process rights and has a really vivid understanding of their value because they’ve been denied and they’ve suffered the consequences,” Criley said.
McPhail was originally hired as IU Northwest’s executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, but after butting heads with the chancellor at the time, he resigned and took a job as a communications professor. Similar difficulties persisted when he began to receive poor reviews for his teaching.
In September 2021, after a colleague accused McPhail of doing
For the comment about killing white people, McPhail was fired for “threats of physical violence,” according to a letter from a university administrator.
I saw an opportunity for Linfield to bring in an experienced and highly qualified administrator.
In response to the firing, McPhail, who said he never threatened anyone at the institution, sued the university, accusing administrators of violating his due process and discriminating against and retaliating against him. His case received support from national organizations such as FIRE and the American Association of University Professors.
The AAUP has appointed an ad hoc investigative committee made up of faculty members from various institutions to further investigate the McPhail case. They await the results of that investigation in a few months.
At Linfield, Pollack-Pelzner was a tenured English professor who was fired after publicly criticizing university administration on Twitter. He, too, has sued his former agency, saying he was fired in retaliation.
The Pollack-Pelzner case also attracted national attention from a number of organizations, including the AAUP, which investigated it. The association found that the administration had retaliated against Pollack-Pelzner for “speech and conduct she engaged in as part of her duties as a faculty trustee” and that the institution violated its own rules and the AAUP’s Guide to Academic Freedom and Tenure by failing to “demonstrate” sufficient cause for dismissal. “
In June, the association added the Linfield administration to its censured list.
Linfield administrators declined to comment on the incident.
Shortly after his story was published in Chronicle, McPhail says he received a LinkedIn message from Miles K. Davis, president of Linfield University, a small private institution.
McPhail recalls that Davis said he had a lot of empathy for her. Davis needed an interim provost and thought McPhail could do the job.
McPhail received his offer letter in July and began serving as interim provost on August 15.
“I saw an opportunity for Linfield to bring in an experienced and highly qualified administrator,” Davis said in an email Chronicle. “His scientific background and previous experience in higher education make him an ideal candidate for Linfield as we move forward.”
McPhail said Davis was also transparent about Linfield and the challenges of his presidency.
As interim provost, McPhail will work directly for Davis. Linfield plans to conduct a national search for a permanent provost in the spring. But for now, McPhail is optimistic about the institution and describes the environment as welcoming. It was always his dream to become a college president, but after what happened at IU Northwest, he thought that dream was shattered. Now things seem to be getting better.
“I feel good being here,” he says.