Hamline University led a “vilification” campaign against a professor who was dismissed after controversy over a lesson featuring a portrait of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, according to a new American Association of University Professors (AAUP) report.
The Minnesota school did not renew Dr. Erika López Prater’s contract after a student complained in October 2022 that she showed an unveiled portrait of the Prophet Muhammad during a lesson about Islamic art, which an administrator wrote was “undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful and Islamophobic.” The AAUP, a nation-wide organization of professors, referred to the administration’s response as a “de facto campaign of vilification” and an “assault on fundamental principles of academic freedom,” according to the report.
“The Hamline administration failed to initiate any formal or substantial investigation of the student complaint against Professor López Prater, nor did it afford her a meaningful opportunity to respond to the accusations made against her,” the report reads. “According to the faculty handbook and the collective bargaining agreement, Professor López Prater should have been given the opportunity to file a grievance regarding the administration’s withdrawal of the informal teaching offer for the following semester and its campaign of denigration.”
Report: Adjunct Who Showed Images of Prophet Was ‘Vilified’ A new American Association of University Professors report says Hamline University administrators “encouraged and promoted” a “de facto campaign of vilification.” #HigherEd https://t.co/xEuqbIeMzl pic.twitter.com/fvYWIUTGms
— Inside Higher Ed (@insidehighered) May 22, 2023
The AAUP committee reviewed evidence that suggested that the administration rescinded López Prater’s informal offer to teach a course during the spring 2023 semester because of the incident, according to the report. It alleged that Allison Baker, Department of Art and Digital Media chair, nor the administration “provided a legitimate academic rationale for declining to offer Professor López Prater any further teaching assignments.”
Baker and the administration had reviewed her syllabus and reportedly offered no complaints about the intent to show the portrait. Baker emailed López Prater on Sept. 21 about teaching a spring Contemporary Art class, writing, “my students in your class have said nothing but wonderful things, so we would really love to have you back in the Spring!” according to the AAUP report.
López Prater sued for religious discrimination and defamation in January, and alleges that she suffered “significant emotional distress due to her mistreatment by Hamline,” according to the document. She also alleged the administrators’ comments harmed her personal and professional reputation and could be a barrier for future professional opportunities.
The AAUP found that López Prater was justified to show the portrait during the lesson “on both scholarly and pedagogical grounds.” Administrators originally wrote in an email to faculty that “respect for the observant Muslim students in that classroom should have superseded academic freedom,” but was later walked back.
The statement was “inaccurate and harmful,” according to the AAUP report.
“Hamline University is considering a general reply at this time,” Jeff Papas, Hamline University director of communications, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Baker did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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