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ODU puts professor on leave after comments defending people attracted to children

ODU Walker Protest
ODU Walker Protest
Old Dominion University Police investigate third case of sexual assault this semester
Posted at 6:29 PM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-17 13:06:55-05

NORFOLK, Va. - Old Dominion University placed Dr. Allyn Walker on administrative leave from their position as assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice after a controversial interview they gave defending people attracted to children went viral and garnered nationwide attention.

In an interview with the Prostasia Foundation, Walker concluded that it is "never OK to abuse a child," but argued that there is no morality attached to attraction towards children as long as it isn't acted on.

The interview revolved around their book, "A Long Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity," described as "a study of non-offending, minor-attracted persons."

"Having an attraction to minors, as long as it isn’t acted on, doesn’t mean that the person who has those attractions is doing something wrong," Walker told the Prostasia Foundation. They continued, saying that people with a sexual attraction to minors "would [cause] a lot of harm" if they acted on it, but that there is a "big difference" between those people and child sexual abusers.

According to the school, reactions to Walker's research and book have led to concerns for both their and the campus' safety, and the controversy over Walker's research is interfering with ODU'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 university says that Walker will not be on campus and will not be interacting with students.

News 3 has also asked the University if Walker is on leave with or without pay and we are waiting for a response.

Hemphill's full statement is as follows:

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.

ODU's Asterisk Trans Advisory Board also released a statement denouncing the "misappropriation of queer experiences" in Walker's book, saying that the controversy generated by Walker's research "innately included and simultaneously maligned [the trans community] without our consent."

As Old Dominion University’s Transgender Student Advisory Board, As(t*)erisk seeks to create a trans-affirming campus community that embraces the gender diversity of its members. In pursuit of gender equity and inclusion, Ast(*)erisk seeks to eradicate the stigma against the ODU trans* community through education, engagement, and advocacy. This year (2021) the trans* community has endured the stigma and fear generated by the 102 anti-trans legislation introduced across the US. The erasure of our voices and our rights has challenged and continues to challenge our sense of safety and well-being, access to liberty, and basic human right to dignity. In a year that has been marked by unprecedented efforts to further stigmatize and villainize trans* people, most especially trans* youth, we will not stay silent on the recent controversies concerning Allyn Walker’s book, the misappropriation of queer experiences within it, and the transphobic response they elicited.

In a recent interview regarding their book that seeks to dignify and de-stigmatize pedophilia, Walker stated “That stigma itself can lead to harm.” The stigma Walker is referring to is that which exists against people who self-identify as “minor-attracted persons” but within society-at-large are regarded as pedophiles. As(t*)erisk vehemently rejects the use of the former term/”identity” and will instead use the latter as it has been defined in the Oxford Dictionary to denote specifically “a person who is sexually attracted to children”. Walker’s choice to use the former in their work and appropriate exclusively queer experiences to further contextualize their argument is reprehensible. The second chapter of their book, “Leading a Double Life: Staying Closeted and Coming Out as a MAP”, is grossly misappropriating the traumas that LGBTQIA+ people exclusively endure as a natural part of their lived experience because of stigma. To liken these traumas to the holistically unrelated experiences of pedophiles, there are no words to describe the violations and damage Walker’s irresponsible choice in words have done to their community writ-large and specifically at ODU.

The LGBTQIA+ community has long fought against the stigma that so wrongly aligns us with notions of sexual deviance. We have fought against this stigma while also bearing the increased vulnerability to and prevalence of experiencing sexual and emotional trauma that being a sexual and gender minority brings. Walker’s misappropriation of exclusively queer experiences in their book has reignited the ignorant assumption of LGBTQIA+ individuals as sexual deviants and unfounded association with pedophilia. Most recently, this propensity within society was seen in the media discourse over the bathroom bills which again sought to demonize trans* community members in their pursuit of gender equity and the right to use gender-affirming bathrooms.

This week is Trans* Awareness Week which concludes with Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), a day to remember the lives lost to transphobia and anti-trans violence. In a year with the highest number of lives lost, it is with incredible disappointment and sadness that we as trans* student leaders are forced to respond to a “controversy” that has innately included and simultaneously maligned us without our consent.

The LGBT Life Center told News 3 that the organization "supports higher learning, studies, and questions around controversial topics so that we can better understand people and our world." They also went on to say that "if anyone is having unhealthy thoughts about children, we recommend seeking immediate help before harm comes to any child, any person or our community at large."

Some students on campus have shown their standpoint on the Walker's comments using graffiti.

ODU Walker Protest
ODU Walker Protest