“We believe that the college has demonstrated a pattern of differential over-scrutiny about Dr. Hawkins’s beliefs”
A Wheaton College faculty diversity committee has described the school’s proceedings against the campus’ first black female tenured professor as “discriminatory on the basis of race and gender, and, to a lesser extent, marital status” in an internal advisory memo obtained by TIME.
Political science professor Larycia Hawkins was placed on paid administrative leave by the evangelical Illinois school in December. The college acted after Hawkins chose to wear a hijab and write a Facebook post expressing solidarity with the Muslim community, which faced criticism following the terror attacks in San Bernardino, Calif. “As Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God,” wrote Hawkins.
Her post was celebrated by some evangelicals and condemned by others like pastor Franklin Graham. The school’s provost has formally recommended that she be fired, citing concerns over her theology, and he will prosecute Hawkins at a hearing of nine-tenured faculty members scheduled for February 11. Wheaton faculty are required to annually sign the school’s “Statement of Faith,” which outlines the historic doctrinal commitments of evangelical Christianity. The statement, which Hawkins has signed and continues to embrace, does not address the longstanding divisions in evangelical circles over the theological relationship between to Islam and Christianity.
The controversy has roiled the small campus, which is unaffiliated with another school by the same name in Norton, Mass. Wheaton College in Illinois is a evangelical liberal arts flagship, and the alma mater of evangelist Billy Graham. Several faculty have privately complained that Hawkins has been treated differently than other white faculty at the school. In a nine-page memo issued Jan. 29 to the committee that will hear Hawkins’ case, the Diversity Committee of Faculty Governance—an elected body of six professors charged with guiding faculty discussions of diversity issues—agreed that discrimination had taken place.
“We believe that the college has demonstrated a pattern of differential over-scrutiny about Dr. Hawkins’s beliefs in ways often tied to race, gender, and marital status,” the memo, crafted and approved by the Diversity Committee, states. “This pattern of over-scrutiny precipitated mis-steps and discriminatory differential treatment of Dr. Hawkins in the present proceedings.”
The authors also wrote that the school has made “demonstrable and admirable efforts” to promote diversity in recent years. While they did “not question the institution’s or administration’s goodwill toward Dr. Hawkins,” the authors argued that “discrimination can and does occur even when people of goodwill don’t intend it.”
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