More than 800 Wheaton College alumni are threatening to withhold financial gifts to the school unless it reconciles with a political science professor put on administrative leave last month for saying Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
Clara Kent, a 2014 graduate, emailed a letter signed by 815 alumni to President Philip Ryken, Provost Stanton Jones and the college’s board of trustees. Those who signed are former students who graduated from the 1950s to last year.
The letter said the manner in which the administration has questioned and scrutinized Larycia Hawkins since she expressed solidarity with Muslims on Facebook “brings us to seriously question Wheaton’s judgment and will to engage in discourse about complex and important issues of our time with civility and integrity.”
“We, the undersigned, respectfully request that all termination proceedings against Dr. Hawkins cease immediately, that she be fully reinstated as a tenured Associate Professor of Political Science, and for administration to issue a public acknowledgment for the grave institutional missteps that have irreparably damaged Dr. Hawkins’s reputation within the academy and credibility among evangelical Christians,” the letter says. “Until full restoration and reconciliation are reached, each of us will prayerfully reconsider our commitment to financially support the mission of Wheaton College.”
The college responded with a one-sentence statement Friday afternoon.
“The college is aware of the letter from alumni,” spokeswoman LaTonya Taylor wrote, “and is committed to addressing their concerns.”
Kent said other smaller groups of alumni have sent letters to the school since Hawkins was put on leave, but this is the first large-scale, unified effort by alumni to address the administration. She said the letter was not sent out of anger or revenge, but to steer the college in what supporters believe is the right direction.
“We wouldn’t push back if we didn’t still love the college,” she said. “We love Wheaton. That’s why we’re fighting so hard.”
The college informed Hawkins on Jan. 4 that it was initiating termination proceedings.
Hawkins, who is Christian, was placed on administrative leave Dec. 15 after she posted several comments on Facebook expressing support for Muslims.
“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she wrote. She also wrote, “As Pope Francis stated … (Christians and Muslims) worship the same God.”
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