Wheaton, Larycia Hawkins agree to part ways
Higher Education | Surprise announcement comes just days before the professor was set to go before a faculty council
by Leigh Jones
Posted 2/06/16, 10:35 pm
Wheaton College and Larycia Hawkins, the political science professor who started a furor over theology and academic freedom after declaring on social media that Christians and Muslims serve the same God, announced tonight they are amicably parting ways.
The surprise announcement came just days before Hawkins was to go before a faculty panel at the evangelical university in Wheaton, Ill., to defend her comments. Several groups of faculty members had voiced support for Hawkins, who maintained throughout the conflict that Wheaton was treating her unfairly and had no reason to question her adherence to the evangelical college’s statement of faith.
Hawkins made her controversial comments in mid-December as part of a campaign to show solidarity with Muslims. She announced she also would wear a hijab, the traditional head covering for Muslim women, during Advent. Wheaton administrators quickly put her on paid leave pending an official review.
Hawkins was a tenured professor who had worked at the school for about nine years.
“I appreciate and have great respect for the Christian liberal arts and the ways that Wheaton College exudes that in its mission, programs, and in the caliber of its employees and students,” Hawkins said in the joint statement issued with her now-former employer.
According to the press release, neither Wheaton nor Hawkins will be providing details of the settlement agreement. But “in pursuit of further public reconciliation,” Hawkins and Wheaton administrators will hold a joint press conference on Wednesday.
“Wheaton College sincerely appreciates Dr. Hawkins’ contributions to this institution over the last nine years,” Wheaton College president Philip Graham Ryken said in the joint statement. “We are grateful for her passionate teaching, scholarship, community service, and mentorship of our students.”
As part of the public reconciliation attempt, Provost Stanton Jones told faculty members he had apologized to Hawkins for the way he handled the situation. Jones recommended in January that the college fire Hawkins, which triggered the formal review process that would eventually have ended with a Board of Trustees vote.
“I asked Dr. Hawkins for her forgiveness for the ways I contributed to the fracture of our relationship, and to the fracture of Dr. Hawkins’ relationship with the College,” Jones wrote in an email to the faculty that was obtained by The Washington Post. He said he had shown a “lack of wisdom and collegiality” in dealing with Hawkins through another colleague, rather than directly.
The situation caused such an uproar on campus that Ryken said he has asked the board to weigh in on the process and the way it was handled.
“Because concerns have been raised about many aspects of this complex situation—including concerns related to academic freedom, due process, the leaking of confidential information, possible violations of faculty governance, and gender and racial discrimination—I have asked the Board of Trustees to conduct a thorough review,” Ryken wrote, according to the Post.
On Friday, slightly more than one-third of the school’s faculty signed a letter asking for Hawkins’ reinstatement. She has previously accused administrators of being on a witch hunt to pander to “platinum donors.”
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.