Massachusetts' Wheaton College hammered by Hawkins supporters

  • Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, is catching flak from people who are mistaking it for Wheaton College in DuPage County.

    Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, is catching flak from people who are mistaking it for Wheaton College in DuPage County. courtesy of KEITH NORDSTROM/Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts

 
 
Updated 1/7/2016 10:18 AM

The dispute between Wheaton College and Professor Larycia Hawkins inadvertently has spilled over to a small liberal-arts college on the East Coast.

Michael Graca, assistant vice president of communications at the 1,600-student Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, said Wednesday his college has been besieged with angry voice mails, emails and social media outrage as Hawkins' case in Illinois has drawn national attention.

 

Hawkins, a political science professor at Wheaton College in DuPage County, was put on administrative leave last month for saying Christians and Muslims worship the same God. On Monday, Hawkins received notice of the "initiation of termination proceedings" from the provost of the evangelical school.

But because the two schools share the same name, some critics apparently are venting their frustration at the wrong one.

"Our colleges share the same name, and people outside of Chicago are reading this and have decided the story is about us," Graca said. "Since this all started we have been the subject of misdirected social media posts, voice mails and emails. Some are very ugly. Someone left a voice mail for a staff member, essentially threatening to put the staff member's personal information online so others could bombard them with messages."

Graca said his office has worked hard to return every voice mail and email and correct social media posts to set the record straight. He said the college, which currently has students from 39 states and 66 countries, could be losing potential students as a result of the negative publicity.

"We respond to let the person know they've reached the wrong place, but we can't reach those who conclude its us but never said anything," Graca said. "For every one person who says something, there's 10 who walk away with a wrong conclusion."

His secular institution, he said, was founded in 1834 by the Wheatons, a historically prominent family in the Norton area.

"The patriarch was a congressman and judge. It's probably worth noting he was also an abolitionist in his day," Graca said. "So we're committed to having an inclusive and diverse community."

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