Victoria Tillinghast | News Editor
An email was sent today at 12:42 p.m. to ODU students, faculty and staff concerning the joint decision made by Dr. Allyn Walker and ODU President Brian Hemphill for Walker to step down from their position at the conclusion of the Spring 2022 semester. This is following the media and public backlash concerning assistant professor Walker’s interview with the Prostasia Foundation discussing their book “A Long Dark Shadow: Minor Attracted People and their Pursuit of Dignity.”
In a joint statement from Walker and Hemphill Walker shared that their “research was mischaracterized by some in the media and online, partly on the basis of my trans identity. As a result, multiple threats were made against me and the campus community.”
Hemphill wrote in the announcement email, “Understandably, questions have been raised about the potential impact of this situation on academic freedom and free speech.” Addressing the situation briefly, he wrote, “Debate and disagreement are at the heart of research and learning. ODU faculty members in many disciplines are engaged in cutting-edge research that, by its very nature, tests the boundaries and challenges accepted wisdom. Some of it may be controversial, and controversial research is often misunderstood and mischaracterized.”
“However, faculty members must be free to pursue their work, while — at the same time — others must remain free to comment upon it from both inside and outside of the academy.”
Hemphill is confident that the situation will continue to be a matter of discussion both on and off campus that is in line with ODU ideals, such as protecting freedom of speech and rejecting violence.
“The safety and security of individual Monarchs and our collective campus are of the utmost importance,” he said in his joint statement with Walker.
Walker shared with Jezebel.com in an interview on Nov.19 that, “It’s frustrating to be misunderstood.” They continued:
“I have been attacked in numerous ways. To me, it’s part of this larger, partisan attack on academic freedom. And it’s unfortunate because it’s going to have a really chilling effect on anyone studying any controversial subjects, but especially this subject, which is really important.”
Walker reiterated with Jezebel that the goal of their research is ultimately to protect children, as well as taking the time to make it clear that their views were their own and not reflective of the university.
Walker took the time to thank the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in their joint statement with Hemphill. FIRE, who according to an article posted today, shared that they provided Walker with representation at no cost through their Faculty Legal Defense Fund during the controversy. FIRE also wrote to ODU last week condemning the erasure of student messages on PRIDE rock calling for Walker’s removal from campus.
“FIRE stands on principle and will defend free expression on campus no matter the speaker’s viewpoint,” the article reads.
The Mace & Crown will continue to cover this story as it unfolds.