academic freedom

New York Times magazine profile turns former Wheaton College professor into a heroine

New York Times magazine profile turns former Wheaton College professor into a heroine

When I saw the New York Times magazine was running a lengthy take-out on Larycia Hawkins by a Wheaton graduate, I hoped it would shed some light on her beliefs and motives. The article was far more textured and nuanced than other efforts I'd seen.

And yet. One of the photos of Hawkins -- posed with decorative purple scarf wound about her head and left shoulder while her right shoulder remained uncovered except for a black spaghetti strap dress underneath -- gave me some pause.

This wasn’t a hijab we were seeing here. It was a decoration. If Hawkins showed up on the streets of certain majority Muslim countries (think Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) dressed like that, she might not make it out in one piece.

Members of the GetReligion team have already written a lot about about Professor Hawkins, so bear with us once more. The article starts thus:

Three days after Larycia Hawkins agreed to step down from her job at Wheaton College, an evangelical school in Wheaton, Ill., she joined her former colleagues and students for what was billed as a private service of reconciliation. It was a frigid Tuesday evening last February, and attendance was optional, but Wheaton’s largest chapel was nearly full by the time the event began. A large cross had been placed on the stage, surrounded by tea lights that snaked across the blond floorboards in glowing trails.

The college chaplain read from a psalm and then:

Philip Ryken, the college’s president of six years, spoke next. His father had been an English professor at Wheaton for 44 years, and he grew up in town, receiving his undergraduate degree from the college. “I believe in our fundamental unity in Jesus Christ, even in a time of profound difficulty that is dividing us and threatening to destroy us,” he told the crowd. “These recent weeks have been, I think, the saddest days of my life.” It was the night before the first day of Lent, the 40-day season of repentance in the Christian calendar.
Wheaton had spent the previous two months embroiled in what was arguably the most public and contentious trial of its 156-year history. In December, Hawkins wrote a theologically complex Facebook post announcing her intention to wear a hijab during Advent, in solidarity with Muslims; the college placed her on leave within days and soon moved to fire her. Jesse Jackson had compared Hawkins with Rosa Parks, while Franklin Graham, an evangelist and Billy Graham’s son, declared, “Shame on her!”

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Idaho Statesman lavishes multi-story package on another evolving theology professor

Idaho Statesman lavishes multi-story package on another evolving theology professor

I make it my practice to scan newspapers all over the West for interesting pieces on religion and sadly, it’s newspapers in large cities that provide 99 percent of the coverage. Smaller newspapers tend not to have the budget for a full- or part-time religion reporter, even though there are lots of good religion stories out there.

Recently someone forwarded me a lengthy piece in the Idaho Stateman, a 47,855-circulation newspaper based in Boise. Seeing a two-story-and-sidebar package about a controversial theology professor at a local Nazarene university is a rarity for a newspaper that size.

Come to think of it, though, Boise, pop. 214,237, is larger than Salt Lake City (which has religion reporters at both of its newspapers), but there are no listings in the Religion Newswriters Association database for members in Idaho. So, it was a surprise to see the following Aug. 14 story in the Stateman’s Sunday paper:

Why does God allow evil?
How come my loved one dies of cancer, even though I pray for recovery, but others survive without faith or prayer?
Where did creation come from?
These are the kinds of tough theological questions that many people spend their lives wrestling with.
The Rev. Thomas Jay Oord wondered about these questions, too. But the answers he gave likely mean the popular theology professor at Northwest Nazarene University never works at a Nazarene university again.

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Seventh-day Adventist college fracas proves that local coverage is often better

Seventh-day Adventist college fracas proves that local coverage is often better

Every week, yet another Christian college is in an uproar over clashes between doctrine and 21st century culture.

Thus, it’s no great surprise that one of North America’s 13 Seventh-day Adventist schools should be on stage now. The focus is on Pacific Union College, a Napa Valley institution ranked as America’s most beautiful college in 2012 by the Daily Beast and Newsweek. That is pretty amazing when you consider it was up against the University of California-Santa Barbara and Pepperdine.

However, its psychology department is in much disarray, according to a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education that tells of the department’s decision to invite Ryan Bell to speak. GR’s own Bobby Ross has written quite a bit about the publicity-seeking Mr. Bell who has gotten lots of favorable coverage for his recent decision to dump his Christian faith and become an atheist.

Even though Bell is a PUC alum, it’s not hard to imagine how inviting him onto campus would set the collective teeth of college administrators on edge.

 After forcing a psychology professor to disinvite a controversial speaker, Pacific Union College is, for the second time in less than three years, facing turmoil within and departures from its department of psychology and social work, along with renewed questions about its commitment to academic freedom.
The latest uproar at the institution, a small Seventh-day Adventist liberal-arts college in California, began when Aubyn S. Fulton, a professor of psychology, invited Ryan Bell, a former pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist Church who had become an atheist, to speak at a colloquium.

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When Gordon College disciplines a dissident prof, RNS leaves out some crucial details

When Gordon College disciplines a dissident prof, RNS leaves out some crucial details

Just when we thought the narrative of Christian college professors getting fired for unorthodox statements had finally died down, up pops another case.

Like the hijab-wearing Larycia Hawkins, who got the boot at Wheaton College because of her comments likening Christian theology to Islam (and possibly some controversial stances on sexuality), here's a new case involves a professor who accused her employer of an "ugly practice" in a letter to the editor of a local paper.

This narrative is about hiring non-celibate homosexual teachers and a tenured professor who feels her employer is deeply wrong. The employer likewise disagrees with her and has demoted her.

The professor recently sued. Religion News Service picks up there:

BOSTON (RNS) -- A Gordon College philosophy professor is suing her employer for allegedly breaching her free speech rights and retaliating after she publicly criticized the Christian school for its policy of not hiring sexually active gays and lesbians.
Lauren Barthold’s suit, filed April 28 in Essex Superior Court, claims she lost a leadership role and was denied an opportunity to seek a promotion after she spoke with news media and published a letter to the editor of The Salem News, a local newspaper.
“As a direct result of Professor Barthold having publicly voiced her opposition to the discriminatory practices of Gordon, Gordon retaliated against her,” the suit alleges, “first by threatening to terminate her, and later disciplining her by demoting her from her position as Director of the Gender Studies Minor.”
In her July 2014 letter to the editor, Barthold, who has academic tenure, called Gordon’s hiring policy “discriminatory” and urged sympathizers to help change it by bringing economic pressure to bear on the school. According to the suit, Gordon College President Michael Lindsay and the Board of Trustees confronted her and disciplinary measures followed.

These next two paragraphs are also important:

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Banned for beliefs: Washington Post tries to tackle the fracas at Marquette University

Banned for beliefs: Washington Post tries to tackle the fracas at Marquette University

The long-smoldering struggle between Marquette University and a prickly professor made the Washington Post this week. But there's something funny about the headline:

A university moved to fire a professor after he defended a student’s right to debate gay marriage. Now he’s suing.

A little surprising, in itself, I guess. But what if I told you it's a Catholic university? A Jesuit one, at that? If criticizing gay marriage -- quoting, for example, the teachings of the Catholic church -- during a discussion in class is not allowed in a Catholic, Jesuit university …?

There is a good summary at the top of Post story, at least:

The conflict began in 2014: After a student complained after a philosophy class that he was disappointed that he and others who question gay marriage had not been allowed to express their views during the classroom discussion, the graduate-student instructor told him that opposition to gay marriage was homophobic and offensive and would not be tolerated in her theory of ethics class. John McAdams, an associate professor of political science at Marquette, blogged about it, writing that the instructor "was just using a tactic typical among liberals now. Opinions with which they disagree are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed ‘offensive’ and need to be shut up."
The story went viral, touching as it did on the heated debates over issues such as campus culture, gay rights, academic freedom, whether students should be protected from comments they find offensive or hurtful, and where the lines should be drawn in discussions of charged topics such as race and sexuality to ensure that people don’t feel stigmatized or unsafe. The instructor was targeted on social media by people angered by McAdams’s account of the incident and ultimately left the university.
McAdams was suspended without pay the following month and banned from campus, and in March of this year he was told by university president Michael Lovell he could not return to teaching unless he wrote a letter acknowledging that his behavior had been reckless and incompatible with Marquette values and that he feels deep regret for the harm he did to the instructor.
On Monday, McAdams and the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty filed a lawsuit in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, claiming breach of contract.

Now, Marquette would never be mistaken for Catholic University of America, in which faculty members are, to some degree, required to stick with traditional church teachings.

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