Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:
These last few days have been a challenging time for our campus and our community. As many of you are aware, our University has been at the center of much controversy surrounding a faculty member's description of research concerning pedophilia, a subject that is not only sensitive, but is also personally traumatic for many.
In recent days, as I have been engaging with our students, faculty, staff, alumni, supporters, and community members, I have been struck by how many people have personally endured the tragedy of child sexual abuse in some way. For them, especially, this is a challenging time, triggering terrible memories and causing fresh pain.
Many individuals have shared with me the view that the phrase "minor-attracted people" is inappropriate and should not be utilized as a euphemism for behavior that is illegal, morally unacceptable, and profoundly damaging. It is important to call pedophilia what it is. As a father, I am troubled by this narrative and its potential consequences for my children and that of future generations.
Ideally, we would be able to debate even the most challenging issues without disruption or threats of violence, but that is not the world we live in today. Our campus has recently become the target of threats and other unacceptable disruption.
As the President of Old Dominion University, my foremost responsibility is for the safety of everyone associated with the campus. For this reason, Dr. Allyn Walker has been placed on administrative leave. Additional actions have been taken to enhance safety and security, and I encourage everyone to look out for each other and report anything of concern immediately. Additionally, a public statement, as attached, is being shared with media outlets, as well as posted on the University's website and social media accounts.
Research into sensitive topics and the expression of new or controversial views lie at the heart of academic research. Old Dominion University remains committed to providing an environment in which our faculty can and will engage in rigorous research. At the same time, this freedom carries with it the obligation to speak and write with care and precision, particularly on a subject that has caused pain in so many lives. I am confident that our Monarch family will rise to the occasion in our continuing campus dialogue, and I am equally confident that we share a common starting point for the discussion: rejection of any form of sexual abuse of children.
I encourage all Monarchs, both near and far, to reach out to each other, offer support, and utilize ODU's counseling services or Employee Assistance Program whenever it may be helpful to do so. I know that we will work our way through these difficult issues together as a Monarch family!
Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D.
Statement from Old Dominion University
November 16, 2021
Old Dominion University has placed Dr. Allyn Walker on administrative leave, effective immediately, from their position as assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice.
Reactions to Dr. Walker's research and book have led to concerns for their safety and that of the campus. Furthermore, the controversy over Dr. Walker's research has disrupted the campus and community environment and is interfering with the institution's mission of teaching and learning. "I want to state in the strongest terms possible that child sexual abuse is morally wrong and has no place in our society," said ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. "This is a challenging time for our University, but I am confident that we will come together and move forward as a Monarch family."
The actions we are taking today are motivated by our obligation to maintain a safe and conducive learning environment for our students, faculty, and staff.