Faculty, students 'deeply saddened' by Wheaton College professor's departure

  • Larycia Hawkins, the Wheaton College political science professor placed on administrative leave for writing that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, speaks during a Jan. 6 news conference. She and the college have agreed to part ways.

      Larycia Hawkins, the Wheaton College political science professor placed on administrative leave for writing that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, speaks during a Jan. 6 news conference. She and the college have agreed to part ways. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Larycia Hawkins and Wheaton College have agreed to part ways about eight weeks after school officials placed her on administrative leave for her Facebook post stating that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

      Larycia Hawkins and Wheaton College have agreed to part ways about eight weeks after school officials placed her on administrative leave for her Facebook post stating that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted2/8/2016 5:30 AM

Professor Larycia Hawkins' time at Wheaton College may have ended with a mutual agreement to part ways with the college. But fellow faculty member Michael Mangis says discussions about the issues that led to her departure are far from over.

"On campus, I think there is a lot of exhaustion and woundedness at how this has been drawn out," said Mangis, a psychology professor. "I think it's going to take some time to rebuild the community, and especially it's going to take some time for the administration to rebuild trust with the faculty in particular."

 

Hawkins, a Christian, was placed on administrative leave for saying Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Students, faculty and alumni have since expressed their support for Hawkins and called on Wheaton College to reinstate her.

A statement released Saturday announced that the college and Hawkins "found a mutual place of resolution and reconciliation" and "have reached a confidential agreement under which they will part ways." Provost Stanton Jones also sent a letter to faculty, saying he withdrew charges for firing Hawkins and apologizing for some of his reactions to Hawkins' remarks.

Still, Mangis said he is among many faculty and students who are "deeply saddened" that Hawkins was not reinstated.

"Even if this is the end of the specific situation around Dr. Hawkins' position, I think given all that has happened over the last few weeks, there's going to be a long process of investigating the roots of racism and sexism as a system within the institution," he said. "We have a lot of work ahead of us."

Hawkins was placed on administrative leave Dec. 15 after her Facebook posts included written support for Muslims, such as, "I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book," and, "As Pope Francis stated ... (Christians and Muslims) worship the same God."

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Hawkins also wore a hijab to show solidarity with Muslims.

Placing Hawkins on leave seemed to be a way the school could "placate outside people," said student Alicia Artis, who thought Hawkins would be "brought back and this would all blow over -- which obviously didn't happen."

As a minority student from New York, Artis said she found Hawkins both approachable and inspiring. She's known as a professor minority students could turn to, Artis said, and made herself available to those who had hard time adjusting at the college because of issues involving race or sexual orientation.

"I'm not happy that Dr. Hawkins isn't coming back," said Artis, a senior, nor is she "particularly pleased with the institution right now."

"I admire Dr. Hawkins and how she has handled everything," she added.

Though it's been a "sad and difficult situation," sophomore Hayley Bennett said she knows the character of the administration and trusts the college to make the right decision. In the end, she said, she hopes both sides found reconciliation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A joint news conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Chicago Temple First United Methodist Church in Chicago, according to the Wheaton College statement. The statement said neither side would take questions at or after the news conference, nor would they talk to the media before then.

Faculty and students are looking forward to hearing more than the limited information released so far, Mangis said.

"I think most faculty see that the time for protest of this specific situation is over," he said. "But there are still other things in the future we may want to take a stand on."

• Daily Herald staff writer Steve Zalusky contributed to this story.

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