Chicago professor suspended over Islam comments has no plans to resign

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Despite Christian colleges suggestion that Larycia Hawkins requested terms of separation, the tenured professor said she has never brought up resigning

A tenured professor at a Christian college in suburban Chicago who was suspended for saying Christians and Muslims worship the same God has said she has no plans to resign.

Larycia Hawkins, an associate professor of political science at Wheaton college, said she wouldnt accept an offer by officials to teach again, which was contingent on her agreeing to revoke her tenure for at least two years.

The 43-year-old professor, who has been with the evangelical college for nine years, announced earlier this month that she would wear a hijab as a demonstration of human solidarity with Muslims, in the wake of the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, which authorities said was inspired by Islamist terrorists.

Hawkins said the decision was made as part of her Christian advent worship and has prompted pushback almost exclusively from other Christians.

I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind, she posted on Facebook.

As a result of her comments, the college placed Hawkins on administrative leave. On Tuesday, Wheaton said it would give more time to explore significant questions regarding the theological implications of her recent public statements, including, but not limited to those indicating the relationship of Christianity to Islam.

Despite Wheatons suggestion on Tuesday that Hawkins requested terms of separation, the professor said she has never brought up resigning from the college.

I have tenure, Hawkins told the Guardian. So I am insistent that my tenure should not be revoked, adding: Thats a non-option as far as Im concerned, because Ive committed no offense. Its inexplicable to me why thatd be the best possible scenario.

Hawkins said an in-person meeting was held over the weekend, but discussions have not continued since. Wheaton confirmed that extremely frank conversation and communication had taken place in recent days, but asserted that further theological clarification from Hawkins is needed.

[U]nfortunately Dr Hawkins has stated clearly her unwillingness to participate in such further clarifying conversations, the college said in a statement on Tuesday. This represents an impasse on our efforts toward reconciliation.

The statement continued: Both parties are in discussion toward a final and comprehensive resolution. Because of the arrival of the Christmas holidays, however, it will be some time before the contours of that resolution are solidified.

But Hawkins said further discussions on the sincerity of her faith are wholly unnecessary. At the time she was placed on administrative leave, Hawkins said, she was asked to deliver a theological statement as part of her review a statement that appeared to satisfy the college provost.

I was told that my statement was sufficient and if thats the case, then what do we have to discuss? Hawkins said. I continue to maintain, if its good or its approved, why are we still discussing my theology?

The suggestion by the college that discussions between officials and the professor have reached a stalemate is also inaccurate, she said. On Tuesday, Wheaton suggested both parties have begun discussing the possibility of a voluntary resignation but said those discussions may have reached an impasse.

Not so, Hawkins said.

I havent shut down the conversation, she told the Guardian. My goal throughout this process has been cooperation and reconciliation. What I feel is that presenting me these options that are, actually, non-options, theyre shutting down the lines of communication and saying Im the one whos shutting it down.

Hawkins has been asked on three previous occasions to affirm Wheatons statement of faith.

The decision to place Hawkins on administrative leave prompted an intense backlash on social media from students, who called on Wheaton to reinstate the professor under the hashtag #ReinstateDocHawk. Local advocacy groups have also criticized the colleges decision.

Arise Chicago, a nonprofit workers rights group whose board of directors includes Hawkins, said the professor has faithfully served our board with such commitment and excellence. The group has been assisting Hawkins in the situation, including media requests.

Our board and staff are disappointed, however, with the workplace injustice she is currently facing, the group said. We are dispirited that a woman of courage, who sought to express love, and through her faith reach out to those who are marginalized, is now facing attempts to push her to the margins.

The college has not taken a position on Hawkins donning the traditional headscarf, saying broadly that, We support the protection of all Americans including the right to the free exercise of religion, as guaranteed by the constitution of the United States.

Hawkins declined to comment on whether she believes Wheaton is taking action against her for wearing the hijab. But, she said, it should be abundantly clear to the college that shes committed to upholding its statement of faith.

I have integrity, Hawkins said. If I didnt, I would leave. Im a Christian theres nothing else to explain.

Hawkins is preparing to return to her hometown in Oklahoma for the holidays. She said she plans to wear the hijab indefinitely, as shes committed to my message of solidarity.

The thing that prompted me to show solidarity is really the living out [of] these principles that I teach for my students, she said.

In the coming days, Hawkins said shed like the dialogue to shift away from her situation with Wheaton, and toward the ongoing rhetoric in the US about Islam.

Thats the narrative I want to be central, Hawkins said. I want the focus to be taken away from Wheaton not doing right by me. Thats bad but whats even worse is the kind of tolerance toward the bigotry, for the hatred, for Islamophobia, for the political rhetoric and [how] we dont check politicians. Because were too lazy, too intellectually lazy to say thats against American values.

She continued: Its against Christian values. Its not what the Bible teaches me to do. As a little girl, Ive known to love thy neighbor. Thats the message.

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