Faculty calls for Hamline president to resign over religious art controversy

An exterior look at Hamline university buildings05
A majority of full-time Hamline University faculty voted Tuesday to ask the school's president to resign.
Ben Hovland | MPR News file

A majority of full-time Hamline University faculty voted Tuesday to ask President Fayneese Miller to resign, criticizing her handling of a Muslim student's complaint over the showing of an image of the Prophet Muhammad in an art history class.

A woman poses for a portrait.
Fayneese Miller, president of Hamline University in St. Paul.
Courtesy of Hamline University.

The school did not renew the adjunct professor's contract. Erika López Prater has since filed a lawsuit against the school. An email circulated around campus saying the showing of the image — which some Muslims consider blasphemous and offensive — was an Islamophobic act.

The faculty members said Miller supported accusations of Islamophobia against the professor and denied her due process. 

The student who complained about the class last fall in which the image was shown said she was deeply disturbed by the image. Aram Wedatalla brought her complaint first to López Prater, then to Hamline administrators, who moved her to another class.

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Since the controversy erupted, the largest national Muslim civil rights group issued a statement saying the use of the image in a classroom was not in and of itself Islamophobic, and the professor was not bigoted in her actions.

The best way to move forward from the international scrutiny is to have new leadership at the top, said Jim Scheibel, a professor and faculty council president.

"We are wounded, we are hurt, our reputation’s been insulted, and so we have a lot to demonstrate that we're the institution that people have known over the years," he said.

Miller has said the school supports academic freedom and also students' well-being.

Hamline University leaders released a statement after news of the former professor’s lawsuit became public, saying based on many scholars and religious leaders weighing in on the matter, they determined their usage of the term Islamophobic was “flawed.”