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Old Dominion University in Richmond, Virginia on July 18, 2015. Photo: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Old Dominion University put a professor on administrative leave following an uproar over their research into people who are sexually attracted to children.

Driving the news: "Reactions to Dr. Walker's research and book have led to concerns for their safety and that of the campus," the public university wrote in a statement on Nov. 16, adding that Professor Allyn Walker's leave is "effective immediately."

  • Walker, an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice, sparked controversy over the use of the term "minor-attracted people" in their academic research.
  • Walker in their book, "A Long, Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity," challenges "assumptions that persons who are ... attracted to minors — often referred to as 'pedophiles' — are necessarily also predators and sex offenders," the University of California Press writes of the book.

Students launched an online petition and protested on campus calling for Walker's removal upon learning of their research. The petition as of Friday afternoon has received more than 12,000 signatures.

  • The controversy "disrupted the campus and community environment and is interfering with the institution's mission of teaching and learning," the university said in 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," said the university’s president, Brian O. Hemphill.

Walker told the Washington Post that their research was misunderstood, saying: "The idea that I’m somehow condoning child sexual abuse is absolutely outrageous. I really think it’s a coordinated effort about attacking the LGBTQ community," said Walker, who is transgender.

  • Walker's research, they told the Post, talks to people "who have unwanted attractions and never want to harm a child, but they’re unable to get the help that they want because they’re scared" of the response.
  • Walker did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Axios.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Storms pummel flood-hit Pacific Northwest as border river overflows

An image of the water-logged Sumas Prairie area taken last Friday. Photo: B.C. Ministry of Transportation/Twitter.

The latest ferocious storm system to hit the Pacific Northwest triggered fresh evacuation orders and at least one mudslide in flood-ravaged British Columbia, Canada, late Sunday.

Threat level: Flood sirens sounded in Washington state as the Nooksack River overflowed. Henry Braun, mayor of Abbotsford, B.C., told reporters the water flow was headed toward the Canadian border city later Sunday. "There's nothing to stop it," he said.

Updated 5 hours ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

Former Defense Secretary Esper sues Pentagon over book

Former President Trump and former Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the White House in 2020. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper filed a lawsuit Sunday against the Defense Department, accusing the Pentagon of "censoring" his First Amendment rights by redacting aspects of his upcoming book on the Trump administration.

The big picture: Esper, who served as defense secretary from July 2019 until he was fired by then-President Trump in November last year, alleges in the suit that "significant text" is "being improperly withheld from publication" of the manuscript "under the guise of classification."