A complaint was filed against Hamline University in St. Paul last week because of its refusal to reinstate an instructor who was effectively fired for sharing two paintings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in class.
The Foundation for Individuals Rights and Expression (FIRE) filed the complaint with the Higher Learning Commission, alleging the school is not in line with accreditation requirements protecting the freedom of expression.
“Accrediting agencies like HLC are often the last line of defense for faculty members’ expressive freedoms, particularly adjuncts who lack tenure protection and the resources to challenge such decisions,” the complaint states.
FIRE pointed to Hamline’s academic freedom policy, which gives faculty the right to explore “all ideas, some of which will potentially be unpopular and unsettling.”
“Hamline has no right to dismiss an art history instructor for teaching art history,” said FIRE Program Officer Sabrina Conza. “Hamline clearly doesn’t understand what academic freedom means, even though it explicitly promises faculty this core right.”
The instructor has not been identified by name in any reports, but the university’s vice president of “inclusive excellence,” David Everett, confirmed with the student newspaper that the instructor is no longer employed by the school.
Hamline University President Fayneese Miller doubled down on the instructor’s removal in a campus-wide email.
“As has been reported, this past semester an adjunct instructor displayed images of the prophet Muhammad. Students do not relinquish their faith in the classroom. To look upon an image of the prophet Muhammad, for many Muslims, is against their faith,” she said.
FIRE said in its complaint that “this conception of academic freedom is inconsistent with all widely established standards and HLC requirements.”
“We gave Hamline plenty of time to reverse course, but it’s clear they’re not planning to deliver on their academic freedom promises,” said FIRE attorney Alex Morey, who authored the complaint. “If Hamline won’t listen to free speech advocates or faculty across the country, they’ll have to listen to their accreditor.”