Group stands in solidarity with Wheaton College professor
Some Wheaton College students and alumni are expressing doubts the school has fully reconciled with former political science professor Larycia Hawkins and fear the controversy over her departure exposes deeper issues on the evangelical campus.
"There's been no truth-telling. For there to be real reconciliation, there are stories that still need to be told," alum Stephen Ticsay said. "There are answers that still need to be given, there is transparency that still needs to be had and modeled."
Ticsay joined a rally with roughly two dozen students and religious leaders outside the school's Edman Chapel Wednesday in a display of solidarity with Hawkins, who was put on leave in December for saying Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
The school announced Saturday that it and Hawkins "found a mutual place of resolution and reconciliation" and "have reached a confidential agreement under which they will part ways."
The on-campus rally was being held at the same time Hawkins and Wheaton College President Philip Ryken were appearing together in Chicago at a news conference. At that conference, Ryken announced the school was creating an endowed scholarship in Hawkins' name.
The rally also came as students attended an Ash Wednesday service and the morning after a private reconciliation service in which Hawkins was "gracious and forgiving" and suggested institutions such as Wheaton are a "bubble" that needs to be burst, senior Natalie Drevets said.
"Often times we're very inwardly focused (at the college), and we don't take time to see those on the margins, those outside of ourselves," she said.
Student Maryam Bighash also attended the service Tuesday night where Hawkins spoke. She said some of her classmates asked, "If we love her (Hawkins) so much, if she was so great to our school, why is she leaving?"
"And to be honest," Bighash said, "we had no answers."
Administrators have called for the school's board of trustees to conduct a review of the process that led to Hawkins departure and those at the gathering said students and faculty should be involved in the review. Students also urged the college to do more to recruit minority faculty in the wake of Hawkins' departure. She was Wheaton's first tenured African-American female professor.
The group announced the launch of a nationwide fast that calls upon the college community and other evangelical Christian institutions to "confess and repent of the sins of racism, sexism and Islamophobia, and recognize that all humans have dignity and are created equal in the eyes of God."
The Rev. Linda Thomas, a professor at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, joined religious leaders who sang hymns outside Edman.
"We stand in solidarity with the students of Wheaton College who are doing powerful things as they stand up with their professor," she said.
Hawkins, who is a Christian, was placed on administrative leave Dec. 15. Her Facebook posts days earlier 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."
College officials have said she was put on leave to "give more time to explore significant questions regarding the theological implications of her recent statements."
Ticsay, who holds a degree in biblical and theological studies, was frustrated that the college hasn't explained why Hawkins' defense of her statements weren't sufficient.
"My hope in all of this, in this whole ordeal is that people would be able to recover Dr. Hawkins' initial action, and that was an act of unimpeachable Christ-like love," he said.