Hamline University Professors Call for President’s Resignation After Prophet Muhammad Paintings Controversy

The majority of full-time faculty at Hamline University have called for the resignation of the school’s president, Fayneese Miller, over its response to a dispute involving an adjunct professor’s display of religious imagery in an art history class.

The campus incident has spurred debate around academic freedom, as well as issues of inequity and race, that has drawn criticism from scholars and higher education advocates.

On Tuesday, during an all-faculty staff meeting at the Saint Paul, Minnesota-based private liberal arts college, 92 full-time professors voted in favor of officially requesting Miller’s resignation, Jim Scheibel, president of Hamilne University’s Faculty Council, told Sahan Journal, a Minnesota-based nonprofit newsroom. 70 percent of Hamline’s 130 full-time professors attended the meeting, the Journal reported.

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Miller is not subject to action based on the faculty letter, which is addressed to the school’s board of trustees, who have voting authority to remove Miller from her position. The statement in the letter said that faculty believe “great harm” has been done to Hamline’s reputation.

“The reputation of Hamline was deeply tarnished,” Scheibel told the Journal after the vote, adding “I think it’s clear the majority of the full-time faculty do not believe that Fayneese is the one to carry us forward.”  

In October, an adjunct professor at Hamline displayed imagery of the Prophet Muhammad deriving from the 14th and 16th centuries during a virtual class. The move ignited a firestorm on campus after an observant Muslim student, who is affiliated with the school’s Muslim Student Association, reported the incident. Last month, the university declined to renew the professor’s contract.

The school initially characterized the incident as “Islamophobic,” before subsequently walking it back after the art history professor, Erika Lopez Prater, sued the school for defamation.

When students returned to campus this month, tensions were high as the on-campus controversy had progressed. According to reports from Sahan Journal and previous statements from Miller, staff and students have reported receiving violent threats amidst the media attention from the incident.

In a statement earlier this month, Miller defended prioritizing protections for religious minority students enrolled at the school, calling on academics advocates to examine “privilege” in their handling of religious materials in educational spaces. Miller, who is the Minnesota university’s first Black president, has held the position since 2015.

A spokesperson for the school did not immediately respond to ARTnews’s request for comment.

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