Wheaton College’s faculty council sent an email to the faculty on Wednesday, Jan. 20 that included the council’s recommendation to the administration to withdraw from firing associate professor of political science Larycia Hawkins.
During a faculty meeting less than a week later, on Jan. 26, professor of psychology Cynthia Neal Kimball requested that associate professor of music Johann Buis act as a non-voting advocate on the faculty personnel committee. Buis’ role will be to serve as an adviser for any diversity questions that may surface during the hearing.
In an email, Kimball told The Record that she requested Buis’ presence, citing his “cultural interpretive experience.”
The faculty council based its recommendation on concerns over the college’s decision to place Hawkins on administrative leave and then to move towards termination.
This move by the faculty council shows the faculty to be at odds with the administration’s proceedings. Yet, as President Philip Ryken said in last week’s open “Listening Session,” the faculty council’s move to vote in such a manner is rare.
Though the faculty council’s decision was unanimous, the council does not necessarily represent the exact interests of every faculty member. The full-time faculty body, all 203 of them, do not all have a single uniform belief. Nonetheless, the faculty council — made up of around 12 tenured faculty members — represents an influential presence on campus.
Through conversations conducted by The Record, the faculty is split — some believe that Hawkins was acting within the bounds of the statement of faith and others believe that the administration was right to begin the proceedings for dismissal. These anonymous faculty interviews only represent a fraction of more nuanced opinions within the faculty.
The faculty council does not have direct influence in the proceedings on Feb. 11 since the faculty personnel committee writes a recommendation to Ryken based on the hearing. However, the Faculty Council does represent the interests of the larger faculty body and acts “as a liaison between the faculty and the college administration,” according to a statement published on the college’s website on Jan. 21.
The Faculty Personnel Committee hearing has moved from its original Jan. 23 date to Feb. 11. According to the faculty handbook, the faculty personnel committee is required to “set a hearing date within 30 days” of the date of the recommendation to initiate termination for cause proceedings, which was submitted Jan 4.
Following these guidelines, the limit for the date of the hearing would be Feb. 3, and only under “exceptional cases upon sufficient reason” may a hearing be delayed. Even then, according to the faculty handbook, it is only the chair of the faculty personnel committee who may postpone the hearing.
At the time of publishing, it was unclear whether or not there are any guidelines in place to keep the faculty council committee accountable to conducting the hearing within the 30 day limit. Wheaton administration did not reply to interview requests.