Old Dominion University (ODU) has placed a professor on leave after a viral video circulated on social media in which the professor defended pedophilia, which he described as “minor-attracted persons,” Fox News reports.
In a statement on Tuesday, ODU spokesperson Amber Kennedy announced that “Old Dominion University has placed Dr. Allyn Walker on administrative leave, effective immediately, from [his] position as assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice.”
“Reactions to Dr. Walker’s research and book have led to concerns for [his] safety and that of the campus,” the statement from the university continued. “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.
In another statement, the university said that “Old Dominion, as a caring and inclusive community, does not endorse or promote crimes against children or any form of criminal activity.” University President Brian Hemphill gave his own statement, declaring “in the strongest terms possible, that child sexual abuse is morally wrong and has no place in our society. 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 outrage stems a video in which Walker, in an interview with a group called the Prostasia Foundation, claims that there are “misconceptions” about the term “pedophile,” and subsequently defended the use of the phrase “minor-attracted persons” as “less stigmatizing than other terms like pedophile.”
“A lot of people when they hear the term pedophile, they automatically assume that it means a sex offender. And that isn’t true,” he claimed. “And it leads to a lot of misconceptions about attractions toward minors.”
Walker had previously written a book on the subject called “A Long Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity.” He describes the book as “a study of non-offending, minor-attracted persons.”
“My work is informed by my past experience and advocacy as a social worker counseling victims,” Walker said in a statement regarding the controversy. “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.”
Students on campus expressed disgust with the professor’s words. The president of the ODU College Republicans, Andrew Lambakis, said that his group was considering planning a protest against Walker.
“I was very surprised and shocked,” Lambakis said. “I actually didn’t believe it until I saw it on Twitter.”
Another student, Jaelan Jackson, said “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.”