Yesterday Wheaton College announced that provost Stanton Jones had recommended the termination of tenured political science professor Larycia Hawkins. (If you’re new to the story, here was my summary and reaction in mid-December, after Hawkins was suspended.) After a faculty committee makes its own recommendation, Wheaton president Philip Ryken will then take the matter to the college’s board for final action.
Today, Hawkins held a press conference to give her response to the Wheaton announcement. I haven’t been able to find a full recording or transcript yet, but CNN included some video from WBBM-TV in its story today. “I am flummoxed and flabbergasted by the events of the last two weeks,” began Hawkins, surrounded by Wheaton faculty, students, and alumni, plus local religious leaders. After recounting a timeline of her interactions with Jones, Hawkins stood defiant:
Wheaton College cannot intimidate me into cowering in fear of the enemy of the month as defined by real estate moguls, senators from Texas, Christians from this country, bigots, and fundamentalists of all stripes.
Then the Chicago Sun-Times posted a different minute-long video excerpt on YouTube:
Complaining that Wheaton had singled her out, among all others in the Wheaton community, “to answer for a Facebook post that was actually committed to living out the love of Christ and the principles of the statement of faith,” Hawkins concluded on a dire note: “No one is safe.” If this extended to what was said in the classroom, she warned, “that’s the end of liberal arts. That’s the end of Christian liberal arts. That’s the end of the academy. If no one is safe to teach, then we’re done. We’re done.”
I’m sure there’s more context here, and will look forward to reading further coverage of the press conference. But for now, I’m just curious how widely her comments about academic freedom resonate:
- If you’re a Christian college professor, staff member, alumnus, or student, does the Hawkins case cause you to fear for the future of the liberal arts on such campuses?
- Do you have a clear sense of the boundaries of what you may say and ask within learning communities that both value the academic freedom of the liberal arts and require affirmation of certain theological doctrines, ethical standards, etc.?
- Have those boundaries shifted of late?
Feel free to message me privately on this blog’s Facebook page or send me an email if you’d rather not comment publicly. I suspect that Hawkins is tapping into concerns about academic freedom that are ever-present on Christian college campuses, but may have become more pressing — for a variety of reasons — in recent months and years. Just wondering if that instinct is on target or not…