Bioethics Blogs

Wheaton College

I guess this is the “other stuff,” in Bioethics and Other Stuff.  I am copying below my essay that was published today on the website of the American Academy of Religion, as part of Religious Studies News.

Wheaton College, Larycia Hawkins, and Our Academic Life Together

The case of Larycia Hawkins has brought much gnashing of teeth in many areas of academe. Hawkins, a tenured professor of political science at Wheaton College, a Christian liberal arts college, was placed on administrative leave with a recommendation for the initiation of termination proceedings. On February 9, 2016 Hawkins and Wheaton agreed to part ways, with the settlement terms remaining private. According to the College, Professor Hawkins was in trouble for her public declaration (outside the classroom) that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. Some commentators suspect that Wheaton was using the theological issue as a pretext for firing someone who is female and African-American, on a mostly white campus, or that she was really under attack for her act of wearing the hijab as a statement of solidarity with Muslim women. But I am going to take Wheaton at its word here, the better to explore some of the academic implications.

Wheaton can perhaps be faulted for a lack of clarity in the lines it draws. But in general, Wheaton and similar colleges go out of their way to make clear to students and faculty what the expectations are for belief and behavior, and what the consequences can be for crossing those lines. (It is also possible that Hawkins and Wheaton are engaged in a genuine hermeneutical debate about aspects of evangelical doctrine, a debate in which I am not qualified to engage.)   Although I cannot imagine teaching in such a college or sending a child of mine there, I acknowledge that as long as Wheaton is clear and upfront about its requirements, it has the right to enter into a contractual agreement with faculty in which they give up certain areas of academic freedom as a condition of employment.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.