AFA Sends Letter to Hamline University Over Dismissal of Professor
Professor fired for showing medieval painting of Muhammad in session on Islamic art
PRINCETON, NJ – The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) today sent a letter to Hamline University regarding its handling of complaints involving a class on the global history of art. During a class session on Islamic art, an instructor showed an image of a well-known medieval Islamic painting of the Prophet Muhammad. The professor reportedly took care to give a “content warning” during the virtual class and provided students an opportunity to turn off their own video feed to avoid viewing the image. Nonetheless, Hamline University denounced and ultimately dismissed the professor without due process.
“I write on behalf of the Academic Freedom Alliance to express our firm view that the university’s action in dismissing the instructor in charge of the course is an egregious violation of academic freedom,” wrote the AFA’s Keith Whittington in the letter. “Hamline University’s actions in this matter go to the very heart of the academic and scholarly enterprise. If a professor of art history cannot show college students significant works of art for fear that offended students or members of the community could get that professor fired for doing so, then there simply is no serious commitment to academic freedom at that institution – and indeed no serious commitment to higher education.”
The letter continued, “The Academic Freedom Alliance stands firmly behind this instructor in this matter and calls on Hamline University to adhere to its academic principles and to immediately and without prejudice reinstate the instructor. Unfortunately, by your actions in this matter you have severely damaged the intellectual climate at Hamline University and told every scholar who sets foot on your campus that free and open inquiry is circumscribed by the sensibilities and sensitivities of the students.”
- Full text of the AFA’s letter to Hamline University
- Coverage of the controversy in New Lines Magazine
- Opinion piece on the matter from AFA member Amna Khalid