“It was never our intent to suggest that academic freedom is of lower concern or value than our students — care does not ‘supersede’ academic freedom, the two coexist.”
Two weeks ago, we shared the story of an art teacher at Hamline University, Erika López Prater, who didn’t renew her contract after she showed her students images of the Prophet Muhammad.
The school overreacted and panicked about offending Muslim students. The teacher sued, and the school revised its views on the issue.
From the New York Times:
After Lecturer Sues, Hamline University Walks Back Its ‘Islamophobic’ Comments
Hamline University officials made an about-face on Tuesday in its treatment of a lecturer who showed an image of the Prophet Muhammad in an art history class, walking back one of their most controversial statements — that showing the image was Islamophobic. They also said that respect for Muslim students should not have superseded academic freedom.
University officials changed their stance after the lecturer, who lost her teaching job, sued the small Minnesota school for religious discrimination and defamation.
“Like all organizations, sometimes we misstep,” said a statement from Ellen Watters, the chair of the university’s board of trustees, and Fayneese S. Miller, the president. “In the interest of hearing from and supporting our Muslim students, language was used that does not reflect our sentiments on academic freedom. Based on all that we have learned, we have determined that our usage of the term ‘Islamophobic’ was therefore flawed.”
The statement added, “It was never our intent to suggest that academic freedom is of lower concern or value than our students — care does not ‘supersede’ academic freedom, the two coexist.”
The Star Tribune has more on the lawsuit:
Art instructor who showed images of Prophet Muhammad in class sues Hamline University; school officials say calling it Islamophobic was flawed
A former art instructor who showed images of the Prophet Muhammad in class has sued Hamline University, saying administrators defamed her and reneged on an offer to teach in the spring semester.
Attorneys for Erika López Prater announced Tuesday that she had sued the university for defamation, religious discrimination and breach of contract, among other things. Less than two hours later, the university’s president and board chair said in a joint statement that they had “learned much” about Islam and that the previous decision to describe the incident as Islamophobic was “flawed.”…
In the lawsuit, attorneys for López Prater said she shared her syllabus with a department chair and others at Hamline University and no one raised concerns about her decision to show the images.
“Students viewing the online class had ample warning about the paintings,” wrote attorney David Redden. “Students viewing the online class also had ample opportunity to turn away from their computer screens, turn their screens away from them, turn off their screens, or even leave their rooms before the paintings were displayed.”
Redden wrote that a department leader initially told López Prater “it sounded like you did everything right.”
Watch Erika López Prater make a few comments about this below:
Professor Erika López Prater, an adjunct professor who was nonrenewed by @HamlineU for exercising her right to academic freedom, explains the importance of challenging students as a pedagogical tool in the classroom. pic.twitter.com/5HwntagWoT
— FIRE (@TheFIREorg) January 17, 2023
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