Hamline faculty said President Fayneese Miller’s mishandling of a controversy surrounding academic freedom has done “great harm” to the school’s reputation and called on her to resign Tuesday.
Dr. Erika López Prater sued the St. Paul university last week after she was fired for showing paintings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in an art history class. She warned students about the paintings in both the syllabus and during class, and gave them the option of leaving class. Many Muslims believe their religion forbids visual depictions of Muhammad.
López Prater alleges in her lawsuit that Hamline administrators, primarily vice president of inclusive excellence David Everett, knowingly and publicly defamed her by calling her actions “undeniably Islamophobic.”
For several days, Miller adamantly refused to admit to any wrongdoing on the part of the school. After the lawsuit was filed, she and Board of Trustees Chair Ellen Watters acknowledged that it was “flawed” to describe López Prater’s actions as “Islamophobic.”
Full-time faculty members met on Tuesday. According to media reports, 86 percent of faculty voted to issue the following statement, which calls for Miller’s immediate resignation.
“In response to the current events and crisis facing the Hamline community concerning academic freedom, the faculty of Hamline University stand by these statements: We are distressed that members of the administration have mishandled this issue and great harm has been done to the reputation of Minnesota’s oldest university.
We, the faculty of Hamline University, stand for both academic freedom and the education of all students. We affirm both academic freedom and our responsibility to foster an inclusive learning community. Importantly, these values neither contradict nor supersede each other. We respect the diverse voices, backgrounds, and experiences of the entire Hamline community (students, faculty, staff, and administrators), and support the right of all to have their voices heard. We believe our diversity of knowledge and experience makes us a stronger, richer community. Without this diversity, we would incompletely represent the community we strive to be.
We defend the right to academic freedom for the purpose of a strong liberal arts education and to uphold the principles of democracy. We reject unfounded accusations of Islamophobia. We condemn the hateful speech and threats targeting students and other Hamline community members. We stand for intellectual debate and sharing of resources and knowledge without fear of censorship or retaliation. We stand for the right to challenge one another’s views, but not to penalize each other for holding them. We call for the fair treatment of and due process for all Hamline community members. We thank and applaud students, faculty, and others in the Hamline community and beyond, who have taken the time and had the courage to speak out.
As we no longer have faith in President Miller’s ability to lead the university forward, we call upon her to immediately tender her resignation to the Hamline University Board of Trustees. We are united in this statement. We are the faculty of Hamline University.”