Just days after an Old Dominion University (ODU) assistant professor gave an interview seeking to normalize the phrase “minor-attracted persons” as an alternative to pedophile, the school placed the assistant professor on leave.
On November 8, Dr. Allyn Walker gave an interview to the Protasia Foundation in which the assistant professor – who identifies as non-binary – made the case for the term “minor-attracted persons.”
“It’s less stigmatizing than other terms like pedophile,” Walker said in the interview, according to Fox News. “A lot of people when they hear the term pedophile, they automatically assume that it means a sex offender. And that isn’t true. And it leads to a lot of misconceptions about attractions toward minors.”
The interview was about Walker’s book, “A Long Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity,” which Walker insisted was not a defense of child sexual abuse.
Walker said in the interview that it is “never OK to abuse a child.” Walker also made the point in a statement released by ODU.
“I want to be clear: child sexual abuse is an inexcusable crime. As an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice, the goal of my research is to prevent crime. My work is informed by my past experience and advocacy as a social worker counseling victims. I embarked on this research in hopes of gaining understanding of a group that, previously, has not been studied in order to identify ways to protect children,” Walker said.
The interview sparked outrage online and on campus, eventually resulting in ODU releasing a statement condemning Walker’s comments and research.
“Old Dominion University has placed Dr. Allyn Walker on administrative leave, effective immediately, from their position as assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice,” university spokesperson Amber Kennedy said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Reactions to Dr. Walker’s research and book have led to concerns for their safety and that of the campus,” Kennedy added. “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.”
ODU President Brian O. Hemphill also released a statement.
“I want to state in the strongest terms possible that child sexual abuse is morally wrong and has no place in our society,” Hemphill said. “This is a challenging time for our University, but I am confident that we will come together and move forward as a Monarch family.”
Some students at the university were shocked by Walker’s interview. Andrew Lambakis, president of ODU’s College Republicans, told local outlet WVEC that he was “was very surprised and shocked. I actually didn’t believe it until I saw it on Twitter.”
“I’m actually thinking about planning a peaceful protest against Allyn Walker,” Lambakis added.
Another student, Jaelan Jackson, told WTKR News: “Honestly it just sounds gross. Just because you’re not acting on it, to acknowledge it is weird and not OK at all. It feels uncomfortable to know that someone’s like that on campus.”