A professor at conservative evangelical university Wheaton College has been suspended for sharing her views on Islam on social media. Larycia Hawkins, a tenured professor of political science at the school, wrote on social media that Christians and Muslims share the same God. The expression evidently did not go over well with her colleagues, and Hawkins was disciplined by the school.
Wheaton’s administration addressed the situation on Tuesday, writing that Dr. Hawkins had been placed on leave “in order to give more time to explore theological implications of her recent public statements concerning Christianity and Islam…Dr. Hawkins’s administrative leave resulted from theological statements that seemed inconsistent with Wheaton College’s doctrinal convictions.”
Last week, Dr. Hawkins announced her intention to wear a Muslim headscarf in support of her Muslim neighbors. “I stand in solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she also wrote on social media. Dr. Hawkins had been inspired by a student’s suggestions that all female college students should wear hijabs on their flights home for the holidays.
The college insists that it was Dr. Hawkins’s commentary that lead to her suspension and decidedly not her decision to wear a hijab. She was asked to provide a theological response to several other statements, though no details have been released at this time. There have been mixed responses to the situation from students, many of whom speak in support of the professor and several of whom disparaged her comments and applauded the university’s action.
A former student of the college told the New York Times that Dr. Hawkins had been one of her “favorite, most influential professors.” Another student believed the school had taken appropriate action, arguing that it is an insult to both Christians and Muslims to say that they “unite under the same beliefs,” adding that she thinks “as an evangelical school that has a statement of faith, it is wrong for us to call Muslims brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Dr. Hawkins’s suspension was effectively immediately and will last through the spring semester. The announcement has sparked protests around the campus with many people maintaining solidarity with her.