Wheaton takes first steps to fire professor over theology dispute

by christiannewsjournal
Wheaton College

A panel of Wheaton College faculty will meet within the next 30 days to consider whether to recommend termination for one of their colleagues, political science professor Larycia Hawkins.

The hearing is part of the evangelical university’s standard process for terminating a tenured professor. Administrators placed Hawkins on paid leave in December after she made comments on social media about Muslims and Christians worshipping the same God. Her statements were part of a campaign of solidarity with Muslims sparked by recent debates about refugees and terrorism. To show support for her Muslim neighbors, Hawkins announced she would wear a hijab, the traditional head covering for Muslim women, during Advent.

Wheaton administrators didn’t oppose Hawkins wearing the hijab but said her claims about similarities between Islam and Christianity raised questions about her commitment to the university’s Statement of Faith. Hawkins initially said she would seek reconciliation with her employer and submitted a letter to administrators explaining her position. But when they asked for a meeting to discuss the issue further, she refused to participate.

Following the “impasse reached by the parties,” Provost Stanton Jones recommended the university initiate termination-for-cause proceedings, according to a statement posted on the school’s website Tuesday.

Speaking through a spokeswoman, Hawkins declined to comment on the situation but maintained “Christian support for the Muslim community amid the ongoing anti-Muslim climate.”

Wheaton administrators have repeatedly said her support for Muslims is not the problem.

Hawkins has taught at Wheaton for nine years, and this is not the first time she’s clashed with administrators. She’s been asked three times to explain herself in light of the college’s statement of faith. The first time involved her support for liberation theology, and the other two times involved alleged support for homosexuality.

After the faculty panel makes its recommendation, Wheaton President Philip Ryken will make his own recommendation to the university’s board of trustees, which has final say on Hawkins’ employment. In 2006, Wheaton fired a professor who converted to Catholicism because he no longer embodied “the institution’s evangelical Protestant convictions,” according to The Washington Post.

— by Leigh Jones

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