The Faculty Council of Wheaton College has recommended that the Illinois school’s administration withdraw its efforts to fire tenured professor Larycia Hawkins and to end her administrative leave, citing “grave concerns” about process.
The council, the school’s highest faculty-elected body that represents the its 200-plus professors, formalized its recommendation Wednesday evening after meeting on Tuesday:
“Following recent discussions between faculty council, President Ryken and Provost Jones, Faculty Council unanimously recommended to administration that the administrative leave and the notification of termination ‘for cause’ of Dr. Larycia Hawkins be withdrawn due to grave concerns about the process,” Lynn Cohick, New Testament professor and chair of the council, wrote on its behalf in an email sent to the entire faculty.
The administration moved to fire Larycia Hawkins, a tenured political science professor, earlier this month, citing questions over her theology after she expressed solidarity with Muslims in a Facebook post and quoted Pope Francis saying that Christians and Muslims “worship the same God.” The controversy has been the greatest for the college in recent memory.
The faculty will have a “Listening Session” with the administration late Thursday afternoon. Faculty plan to ask the administration its specific questions and request answers. The top questions, outlined in the faculty council’s letter, include:
“1. Does the College have a position on what can or cannot be said regarding the question: ‘Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?’”
“2. What is the process for determining acceptable interpretations of the Statement of Faith? Do faculty have a role in this process? How will faculty know if their views and/or statements are in danger of being judged unacceptable?”
“3. Is it considered proper process to place a faculty member on leave based on public statements that could be outside the statement of faith before there is a process of interpretation?”
“4. What is Administrative Leave, and how does the Employee Handbook relate to the Faculty Handbook in the case of disciplinary situations?”
“5. What polices (sic) are in place for administration to deal with 'emergency' social media situations?”
A separate committee, the Faculty Personnel Committee, is still scheduled to hear the administration's trial of Hawkins, in coming weeks.
Elizabeth Dias is a correspondent for TIME covering religion and politics. She is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and Wheaton College, Ill, where she studied theology.