NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Old Dominion University has put an assistant professor on administrative leave after a strong public reaction over their research on people who are attracted to children prompted safety concerns on campus.
Old Dominion made the announcement in a statement Tuesday night, saying Dr. Allyn Walker had been placed on leave “effective immediately” from their position as assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice.
Walker’s research on pedophilia and people who have a sexual attraction to children recently gained national attention both in the local community and on the internet. Walker’s research called for change in the way we refer to “minor-attracted persons” who don’t act on their attractions.
The professor said using a different term for the people doesn’t indicate anything about the morality of the attraction, but differentiates these people from those who sexually abuse children, which Walker says is always wrong.
In addition, Walker said by understanding more about the group of people, society can better protect children from abuse.
However, the research was not well-received by many.
Tuesday evening, some students gathered outside the Webb Center on campus to protest, calling for the firing of Walker.
“It is okay to research it is okay to find out this information. It is not okay to sympathize and create a term to blanket what pedophilia is,” said ODU sophomore Geni Piatkowski.
ODU said Tuesday that the research and the assistant professor’s book on the issue “have led to concerns for their safety and that of the campus.”
The university added that the controversy 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,” ODU wrote in a news release.