Wheaton College comes to agreement with professor

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WHEATON, Ill. — Wheaton College officials have reached a resolution with it’s professor, Larycia Hawkins.

Hawkins was suspended in December after wearing a hijab and saying Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

A statement from the school says Hawkins and Wheaton reached a confidential agreement under which they’ll “part ways.”  It went on to say they “have come together and found a mutual place of resolution and reconciliation.”

A Wheaton College administrator yesterday reversed his decision calling for her termination and apologized for acting in haste.

Wheaton Provost Stanton Jones told professors in an email Saturday night that he had turned over the decision of whether to vacate the administrative leave of their colleague Larycia Hawkins to college president Philip Ryken.

“I stand by my concerns that Dr. Hawkins’ theological statements raised important questions,” Jones wrote to faculty. “However, in light of the deficiencies in my early responses, and recognizing that Dr. Hawkins’ Theological Response was a promising start toward answering satisfactorily some of the questions that I was raising at the time, I revoked the (recommendation for termination) and turned resolution of the administrative leave over to President Ryken.”

In January, the college’s faculty council, 10 professors elected by their peers, unanimously recommended withdrawing Hawkings’ suspension and halting termination proceedings against the associate professor of political science, “due to grave concerns about the process.”

In December, Hawkins, 43, announced on Facebook that she would don a hijab as part of her Advent devotion to show support for Muslims who had been under scrutiny since mass shootings in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she posted on Facebook, along with a photograph of herself in a hijab. “And as Pope Francis stated … we worship the same God.”

Within days, the college placed Hawkins on paid administrative leave through the spring semester, pending a review.

According to the private evangelical college, not clarifying what makes Christianity distinct from Islam put Hawkins in conflict with Wheaton’s statement of faith.

Though she submitted a theological response to questions about her statement of solidarity, Jones said it did not resolve the issues.

Hawkins said the college had recommended she resign. She said the college also proposed a two-year revocation of her tenure, during which time she would continue conversations about the theological implications of her statements and her decision to wear the hijab.

Before students returned to campus from winter break in January, Jones took the first step toward firing Hawkins.

“The only way forward is to go back to the beginning where this whole thing started with Larycia,” Gary Burge, a professor and New Testament scholar, and member of the faculty council, said last month. “My own feeling is that the college will find the courage to rescind the leave of absence.”

While the administrative leave is still in place, Hawkins is no longer expected to attend a Feb. 11 hearing with the college’s faculty personnel committee, an elected body made up of nine tenured faculty members–a part of the termination process.

-Chicago Tribune Report

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