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Hamline Should Reinstate Instructor

The AAUP is troubled to learn that an art history instructor at Hamline University suffered repercussions from the university’s administration after showing a slide, in a class on Islamic art, of a fourteenth-century Islamic painting of the Prophet Muhammad. According to news reports, the administration announced that “respect for the observant Muslim students in that classroom should have superseded academic freedom” and declined to renew the adjunct instructor’s appointment, asserting that “because the instructor was an adjunct, her dismissal was not a firing.”

This incident is disturbing on two counts.

First, as the AAUP statement Freedom in the Classroom states, “Ideas that are germane to a subject under discussion in a classroom cannot be censored because a student with particular religious or political beliefs might be offended. Instruction cannot proceed in the atmosphere of fear that would be produced were a teacher to become subject to administrative sanction based upon the idiosyncratic reaction of one or more students. This would create a classroom environment inimical to the free and vigorous exchange of ideas necessary for teaching and learning in higher education.”

Second, the incident highlights the vulnerability of a large portion of the teaching faculty to administrative fiat and student complaints. A dismissal of this sort is violative of the instructor’s academic freedom and has a chilling effect on other faculty in precarious positions.

We call upon the administration of Hamline University to reinstate the instructor to her part-time appointment and affirm the institution’s commitment to academic freedom in the classroom for all faculty members.

 

Publication Date: 
Friday, January 6, 2023