Hamelin faculty urge the university’s president to resign amid a row over Islamic art and academic freedom

Hamlin University faculty on Tuesday overwhelmingly demanded that faculty president Fiennes Miller resign, saying they “no longer believed” in her ability to lead the institution after officials “mishandled” the debate over Islamic art and academic freedom.

“It became clear that the damage had been done and the repair that needed to be done, that new leadership was necessary going forward,” said Jim Schieble, president of the Hamlin University College Board, in an interview Tuesday.

Miller did not respond to requests for comment as of Tuesday evening. in Monday interviewMiller said the episode was painful and uncomfortable and called it a “learning experience”.

The call for Miller’s resignation comes at a tense time for St. Paul’s, a private university that has subsequently drawn international attention. I decided not to renew the contract An art teacher showing pictures of the Prophet Muhammad in class.

During an online art class in October, assistant instructor Erika Lopez-Prater showed students two-century-old works of art depicting the Prophet receiving revelations from the angel Gabriel that would later form the basis of the Qur’an.

One of the students in her class, Aram Wedatallah, president of the Muslim Students’ Association, contacted the administrators and told them that she felt offended and that the “teacher’s warning” was evidence that she should not have shown the pictures. Some Muslims believe that images of the Prophet Muhammad are strictly forbidden while others have artwork of him in their homes.

Instructors and groups promoting academic freedom have largely rallied around Lopez-Prater, saying she has done more than most professors to prepare students for the images and allow them to avoid seeing them.

Local and national Islamic groups Offered different opinions. Some said the school had to act to protect the student whose religion had been insulted, while others said the university’s decision to describe the incident as anti-Islam ignored diversity of thought within Islam.

The faculty members are upset Miller handled the incident Schieble said they met several times to decide how they wanted to respond.

Schieble said 71 of the 92 faculty who participated in Tuesday’s board meeting agreed with the statement, which called for Miller to resign immediately. Twelve voted against and nine abstained. Schieble said the university has about 130 faculty members.

The faculty members’ statement said they emphasize academic freedom and their responsibility to provide an inclusive learning environment and that “these values ​​do not conflict with or replace each other.”

She said they reject the “baseless accusations of Islamophobia” and threats targeting students and other community members in recent times. It calls for “due process for all members of the Hamelin community.”

Lopez Prater Hamlin sues for defamation, religious discrimination, and breach of contract, among other lawsuits. After that suit was filed, Miller and Board of Trustees Chairman Elaine Waters issued a joint statement saying, “Like all organizations, sometimes we make mistakes.”

“In order to listen to and support our Muslim students, language was used that does not reflect our feelings about academic freedom,” the couple wrote. “Based on everything we have learned, we have determined that our use of the term ‘Islamophobic’ was therefore wrong. We strongly support academic freedom for all members of the Hamline community. We also believe that academic freedom and student support can and should coexist.”

Miller became Hamlin President in 2015, coming from the University of Vermont, where she was dean of the College of Education and Social Services. She previously spent 20 years at Brown University, where she served as director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America.

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