Wheaton College to ‘part ways’ with hijab-wearing professor

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Wheaton College announced Saturday that the Christian college will “part ways” with Larycia Hawkins, a professor who was suspended for violating university policy with Facebook posts that said Muslims and Christians worship the same god.

The college said on its website that it and Hawkins “reached a confidential agreement under which they will part ways.”

Hawkins, the first African-American female ever to become a tenured professor at Wheaton College, was suspended in December after she posted a picture of herself wearing a traditional Muslim headscarf, with a message that she would wear the hijab for the duration of the Advent season to show solidarity with Muslims.

School administrators objected to statements Hawkins posted with the photos. “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” Hawkins wrote. “And as Pope Francis stated … we worship the same god.”

College officials said the declaration that Muslims and Christians “worship the same god” violated the “Statement of Faith” — an affirmation of belief in specific interpretations of scripture that the college requires all employees to sign each year. At the recommendation of Stanton Jones, Wheaton’s provost, the college began the administrative process to fire Hawkins, though Hawkins had said repeatedly she hoped to work things out.

Neither Hawkins nor college officials responded to requests for comment Saturday.

The dispute has prompted concerns about academic freedom at a college considered one of the nation’s elite Christian schools — one where students weren’t allowed to dance or smoke until 2003.

The posting Saturday included quotes attributed to Hawkins and Philip Graham Ryken, Wheaton’s president, and said neither side plans to offer any other public comment until Wednesday.

“Wheaton College sincerely appreciates Dr. Hawkins’ contributions to this institution over the last nine years,” Ryken is quoted as saying. “We are grateful for her passionate teaching, scholarship, community service and mentorship of our students.”

“I appreciate and have great respect for the Christian liberal arts and the ways that Wheaton College exudes that in its mission, programs and in the caliber of its employees and students,” Hawkins was quoted as saying.

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