A Christmas Story: Prof’s Gesture Of Solidarity Could Cost Her A Job

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Blake Neff Reporter
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The Wheaton College professor who decided to celebrate Christmas by showing solidarity with Muslims could end up losing her job over the stunt.

Earlier this month, political science professor Larycia Hawkins announced on Facebook she would be wearing a hijab until Christmas to show solidarity with Muslims who encounter bigotry in their daily lives. She described them as “people of the Book” who worship the same God as Christians.

Hawkins’ rhetoric, though, wasn’t pleasing to her employer, Wheaton College, which is an evangelical Christian school that requires all faculty members to adhere to a statement of faith in order to keep their jobs. School officials say Hawkins’ statements didn’t adequately distinguish Islam from Christianity, and they responded by suspending her indefinitely (though the college defines this as non-punitive administrative leave).

Now, although many students and ministers have protested for Hawkins to return to the classroom, it appears increasingly likely Hawkins will eventually lose her job over the affair.

According to The Chicago Tribune, Hawkins was given a chance to return next fall, but only if she agreed to give up tenure for two years, which means she could be fired at-will during that span. Hawkins, who believes she has done nothing wrong, refused, leaving the two parties at an impasse.

“I was naively thinking they wanted to cooperate,” Hawkins said, according to the Tribune. “I have tenure, and I have to fight for that.” Hawkins’ rhetoric has moved south significantly even since Monday, when she said she believed the school was earnestly working towards a full reconciliation.

This is actually the fourth time Hawkins has been in hot water with school officials for a perceived lack of Christian orthodoxy. Last year, for instance, she was asked to explain a Facebook photo that showed her attending a party on the same day as Chicago’s gay pride parade (Wheaton requires staff to affirm marriage as between a man and a woman).

In a statement released Tuesday, Wheaton claimed Hawkins has considered resigning her post. But Hawkins maintains she isn’t even thinking of doing so, and is determined to keep her job, as much for her colleagues’ sake as for her own.

“I may get nothing out of this,” she said. “This is about standing up for my colleagues. If I can be thrown under the statement of faith bus, so can they. Everyone is cast under a cloud of suspicion.”

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