Wheaton College professor Dr. Larycia Hawkins is leaving the institution after fallout from a controversial Facebook post she made about Muslims and Christians worshipping the same God.The most recent news is that, after placing Hawkins on paid administrative leave on December 15, Wheaton reversed its decision to terminate her. However, she and the college have mutually decided to “part ways.”
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) February 7, 2016
There was also controversy because many thought Hawkins was placed on leave for wearing a hijab in solidarity with Islamic women. She had stated she would wear it through Advent, from November 29 through December 2015. Wheaton’s website clarified that the administrative leave did not result from the hijab but from theological differences with the college’s doctrinal statement. Hawkins was given an opportunity to write a response to a summary of the ideas that Jones determined were her theological beliefs based on her reply and her Facebook page, which pictured her wearing a hijab, noted the Chicago Tribune.
“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book and as Pope Francis stated … we worship the same God.”
By January, the issue had escalated and Provost Stan Jones delivered a notice of recommendation for termination to President Philip Ryken and Hawkins. She held a press conference explaining her belief in God, her concern for the oppressed, and the college’s tradition of intellectual discourse–not suppression–of different points of view. This occurred two days after she received the notice. She also said she was being pressured to resign, although other professors had posted similar Facebook statements. On February 2, Jones wrote a letter to faculty, apologizing for making a hasty decision, according to Christianity Today.
“I communicated to Dr. Hawkins that I recognize her as a sister in Christ, and that it was never my intent to call the sincerity of her faith into question. 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. While I acted to exercise my position of oversight of the faculty within the bounds of Wheaton College employment policies and procedures, I apologized for my lack of wisdom and collegiality as I initially approached Dr. Hawkins, and for imposing an administrative leave more precipitously than was necessary.”
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) February 7, 2016
What Jones did not apologize for was his heartfelt belief that Hawkins’ statements elicited questions over her understanding of Christian doctrine, and Jones concern about this continued. However, he withdrew the notice and deferred to Ryken who informed the faculty via an email on February 6, added Christianity Today.
“This is a time for prayer, lament, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. 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. One of the main purposes of this review will be to improve the way the College addresses faculty personnel issues in the future, especially when these issues relate to our Statement of Faith.”
In a seemingly swift turn of events, Ryken sent another email within two hours, which stated the professor would not be returning to the school, although she and the administration resolved their issues. He also invited her colleagues to a private worship service on Tuesday night and a reception, where Hawkins would say goodbye.
This left some confused, as they didn’t understand why “reconciliation” did not involve Hawkins remaining at Wheaton. Many students had demanded that she be reinstated.
[Photo via Facebook]