Wheaton, Hawkins profess no hard feelings

Higher Education | College to name scholarship for the departing political science professor it once wanted to fire
by Leigh Jones
Posted 2/10/16, 05:40 pm

As part of reconciliation efforts with one of its former professors, Wheaton College will create an endowed scholarship for summer interns working on peace and conflict projects.

Leaders at the evangelical Christian college in Wheaton, Ill., announced the scholarship during a news conference this morning held jointly with former political science professor Larycia Hawkins, for whom the grant will be named. During her time at the school, Hawkins had developed a certificate program in peace and conflict studies.

Today’s public event followed the announcement Saturday that the college and Hawkins had reached a confidential settlement to end efforts to revoke her tenure and remove her from the faculty. Hawkins has not said what she plans to do next or whether she will continue her academic career at another university.

Neither Hawkins nor Wheaton administrators took questions this morning after reading from prepared remarks.

“We want to learn everything that we can from this situation,” university president Phillip Ryken said, noting the college and Hawkins are moving forward in “genuine” friendship. “We hope to become a better, stronger community with a shared understanding of academic freedom in the context of Christian convictions.”

On Saturday, Ryken said he had asked the school’s board of trustees to conduct a review of the process for addressing faculty and personnel issues in the future, especially when it comes to possible violations of the school’s statement of faith. Hawkins started a furor over theology and academic freedom in December after declaring on social media that Christians and Muslims serve the same God. School administrators quickly placed her on paid leave and initiated the process required to fire her. She insisted she had not violated the school’s statement of faith and planned to fight to keep her job.

This morning, Hawkins said she would cling to happy memories of her nine years at Wheaton. She also repeated the calls for unity among all people that she voiced on Facebook in December.

“Today is Lent, the beginning of a season of fasting, a season to reflect where we are on our spiritual journeys, who we are and what we are becoming,” she said. “So, I ask you: Who are you? Do you find yourself in your neighbor? Because yes, we are all created in the image of the divine. But we find ourselves in our neighbors, we find ourselves in other people.”

While Hawkins and Ryken spoke of reconciliation, a group of about two dozen Wheaton students, alumni, and religious leaders called for repentance. The group gathered on the school’s campus to call for Wheaton and other Christian universities to “confess and repent of the sins of racism, sexism, and Islamophobia, and recognize that all humans have dignity and are created equal in the eyes of God.” The group planned to pray and fast for 40 days.

Hawkins’ December statements about Christians and Muslims came as part of a campaign to show solidarity with Muslims in America facing suspicion and hostility after November’s high-profile terror attack in Paris, which prompted political leaders to call for tighter restrictions on Muslim refugees entering the country. During Advent, Hawkins wore a hijab, the traditional head covering for Muslim women.

Ryken said Wheaton believes in religious freedom and opposes any repression, including of Muslims.

Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.

Read more from this writer

Comments

You must be a WORLD Member and be logged in to the website to comment.
  • Joe M
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:55 pm

    " reconciliation efforts" "summer interns working on peace and conflict projects."Seriously? No, seriously, excuse me while I throw up. Mistakes were made, but it is pretty obvious to anyone who reads between the lines that even with nine years Hawkins was not a terrific fit, unless Wheaton is going to go the way of the USCCB and start proposing Angela Davis as a an evangelical saint. Racism is a very real sin, but it was not a sin here: the fact it is being so ballyhooed shows that Wheaton faculty and students are not very much less living in a campus bible then their Ivy League counterparts. Wheaton rescinds their suspension, and then in fear of being slapped with a lawsuit creates a *Peace and Justice* scholarship. Simply embarrassing. I guess Evangelicals dare not offend. Personal motives may be swell, but the actual decision, lame. They should offer Jim Wallis an endowed chair, based on this stupidity.

  • William H
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:55 pm

    It's sounding more and more like Wheaton is renouncing it's Christian heritage.

  • Beth
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:55 pm

    William H - I don't think that's a fair characterization of Wheaton at all.  Actually, Dr. Hawkins is leaving because of Wheaton's doctrinal stands, so they have gone through a lot of grief and heartache in an effort to stay true to their convictions.

  • JerryM
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:55 pm

    This latest turn of events unfortunately give off the scent of politics more than the fragrance of Christ. 

  • Mokouteh Toe's picture
    Mokouteh Toe
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:55 pm

    The clothes on people from Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel scare me.

  • Mokouteh Toe's picture
    Mokouteh Toe
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:55 pm

    lol

  •  William Peck 1958's picture
    William Peck 1958
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:55 pm

    Joe M - <like>

  • JasonRosas
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:55 pm

    Thank you for including Hawkins' December facebook post, "Today is Lent, the beginning of a season of fasting, a season to reflect where we are on our spiritual journeys, who we are and what we are becoming,” she said. “So, I ask you: Who are you? Do you find yourself in your neighbor? Because yes, we are all created in the image of the divine. But we find ourselves in our neighbors, we find ourselves in other people." Frankly, is there anything she has said that would make us think she personally knows the Lord Jesus Christ? 

  • JT
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:55 pm

    Wheaton's statement of faith is very clear. The first line of the statement of faith is: "WE BELIEVE in one sovereign God, eternally existing in three persons: the everlasting Father, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit." Now how could this be the same God of the Muslims if they do not believe in a triune God. This statement of faith is affirmed and reaffirmed annually. Now the professor has affirmed this statement 8 times. Now that she has changed her mind then her beliefs no longer align with Wheaton's statement of faith. Therefore, she should have resigned at that point. Wheaton had no choice but to part ways with the professor. This has nothing to do with anti-Muslim sentiment. It is a recognition by both parties that their theology does not agree. No apology by Wheaton is necessary.

  • Lizards88
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 12:55 pm

    I hope she goes to the Middle East, then she will find out how Muslims treat women.

ADVERTISEMENT