President Philip Ryken informed students via email last Saturday that associate professor of political science Larycia Hawkins will “part ways” with Wheaton College.
According to the email, the administration and Hawkins reached a mutual agreement after a series of discussions between Hawkins and Ryken. This notice follows an apology by Provost Stanton Jones and his decision to reverse termination-for-cause proceedings per the request of the Faculty Council.
In his email to the Wheaton College faculty, Jones said that he had apologized to Hawkins for his “lack of wisdom and collegiality as I initially approached Dr. Hawkins, and for imposing an administrative leave more precipitously than was necessary.”
The announcement that Hawkins would leave came only five days before the scheduled trial date and in the midst of a busy weekend on campus. Many questions still remain surrounding the nature of the settlement and how the administration will proceed in Hawkins’ absence.
Chaplain Timothy Blackmon hosted a special chapel service on Feb. 9 that President Philip Ryken called a “reconciliation service” in his Feb. 6 email to the campus. This service was the first time that Hawkins came back to campus to speak publicly before the student body of Wheaton College and was closed to the media.
The following morning, during a press conference in Chicago organized by Arise Chicago, an advocacy group based in the city, Ryken announced that the college will introduce the “Dr. Larycia Hawkins Embodied Solidarity Scholarship” to support summer internship projects in Peace and Conflict Studies. Hawkins founded and was in charge of the Peace and Conflict Studies program.
In addition, according to a press release by Arise Chicago, Ryken also committed to continue the Peace and Conflict Studies program and host a Jewish or Muslim scholar to “spur interfaith dialogue” twice a year.
Jones, who did not speak at the “reconciliation service” the night before, was slotted to speak at the press conference but was unable to come. Reverend CJ Hawking, the moderator of the press conference and executive director of Arise Chicago, did not explain Jones’ absence from the press conference. Individuals interviewed afterwards were unable to explain why he was not present.
Jones, as the Provost and Chief Academic Officer of Wheaton College, was responsible for overseeing Hawkins’ process of administrative leave and for issuing the notice of termination-for-cause on Jan. 4.
Some have expressed concern over who will keep the administration accountable for their actions throughout the investigation. Ryken offered assurances that the Board of Trustees will conduct a “thorough review” to “improve the way the college addresses faculty personnel issues in the future, especially when these issues relate to our Statement of Faith.” The Board will also be examining concerns regarding “academic freedom, due process, the leaking of confidential information, possible violations of faculty governance, and gender and racial discrimination.”
Ryken told The Record that the Board of Trustees will meet on campus this weekend and they “may begin to discuss their review at that time.” It remains unclear what this investigation will look like.
A demonstration took place on Wheaton’s campus before and after chapel while the press conference took place in Chicago. One of the protestors, junior Katelyn Skye Bennett, described the event as a “reconciliation demonstration.”
Not all students shared the same enthusiasm for the demonstration. Junior John Slaughter stated, “what they’re saying is necessary to be said, but I think the timing could have been better.” Other students expressed confusion as to what the protest was about.
The demonstration was lead by Rev. Peter Heltzel, a Wheaton alumnus and theology professor at New York Theological Seminary. Some demonstrators will also be taking part in a 40-day Lenten “Fast of Embodied Solidarity” to continue to meditate on the sins of racism, sexism and Islamophobia among evangelical Christian institutions.