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ODU professor to step down after controversial research on pedophilia gains national attention

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by: Nathan Crawford

Posted: Nov 24, 2021 / 03:53 PM EST / Updated: Nov 25, 2021 / 10:30 AM EST

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Old Dominion University assistant professor Dr. Allyn Walker is set to step down in May 2022 when their current contract expires, the school announced in a statement on Wednesday.

"We have concluded that this outcome is the best way to move forward," ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., said. "We hope today's action helps bring closure for our Monarch family. As we move forward, I encourage all members of the Monarch family to continue our efforts toward healing and civil discourse."

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 a change in the way we refer to "minor-attracted persons" who don't act on their attractions.

Walker was placed on administrative leave on November 16 and will remain on leave until their contract expires next May.

"My scholarship aims to prevent child sexual abuse," Dr. Walker said. "That research was mischaracterized by some in the media and online, partly on the basis of my trans identity. As a result, multiple threats were made against me and the campus community generally. I want to thank Old Dominion University for giving me the opportunity to teach and to conduct my research, and the ODU Department of Public Safety for monitoring the threats against me and the community."

In an interview, Walker distinguishes between people who are attracted to children and act on that attraction and those who are attracted to children and do not act on that attraction.

Walker calls those who don't act "MAPs" or "minor-attracted persons." The professor says it 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.

Betty Wade Coyle, who is the executive director emeritus of Champions for Children: Prevent Child Abuse Hampton Roads, says it's important to distinguish between thoughts and actions.

"I think that [the professor] states very clearly that pedophilia, or, I think one of the issues is the use of that word, that acting on your thoughts of sexual molestation of children is wrong. Absolutely. And that's a good, bright line to draw," said Coyle.

On November 16, ODU 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.

Read the full joint statement below:

Today, Old Dominion University and Dr. Allyn Walker are announcing that Dr. Walker has decided to step down from their position as assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at the expiration of their current contract in May 2022. Dr. Walker will remain on leave until that time.

"We have concluded that this outcome is the best way to move forward," ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., said. "We hope today's action helps bring closure for our Monarch family. As we move forward, I encourage all members of the Monarch family to continue our efforts toward healing and civil discourse."

"My scholarship aims to prevent child sexual abuse," Dr. Walker said. "That research was mischaracterized by some in the media and online, partly on the basis of my trans identity. As a result, multiple threats were made against me and the campus community generally. I want to thank Old Dominion University for giving me the opportunity to teach and to conduct my research, and the ODU Department of Public Safety for monitoring the threats against me and the community."

Dr. Walker continued: "I am particularly grateful for the outpouring of support from many among the ODU community, as well as others in my research fields who have publicly affirmed the value of my work in advancing child safety. My Department Chair, Mona Danner, my colleagues, and my students all have been especially supportive. And, finally, I am thankful for the assistance of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) during this time."

"The safety and security of individual Monarchs and our collective campus are of the utmost importance," President Hemphill said. "For ODU, these will always remain top priorities as we pursue our mission in a caring, inclusive, and supportive community, one that respects academic freedom and remains willing to discuss controversial ideas in an atmosphere free of intimidation or violence."

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