Faculty overwhelmingly demand president's resignation for 'Islamophobic' Muhammad art debacle

Fayneese Miller initially said art history professor should have put "respect for the observant Muslim students in that classroom" over academic freedom.

Published: January 25, 2023 12:49pm

Updated: January 25, 2023 1:43pm

By an overwhelming 71-12 vote, Hamline University full-time faculty demanded the resignation of President Fayneese Miller for her handling of a controversy involving an art history professor's lesson on depictions of holy figures including Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

"We are distressed that members of the administration have mishandled this issue and great harm has been done to the reputation of Minnesota’s oldest university,” according to a faculty statement provided to The Pioneer Press. They "no longer have faith in President Miller’s ability to lead the university forward."

The private university failed to renew Erika Lopez Prater's contract after the opt-out virtual classroom lesson, with diversity chief David Everett saying her actions were "undeniably ... Islamphobic" and she was leaving "in lieu of this incident."

Miller initially said Prater should have put "respect for the observant Muslim students in that classroom," one of whom complained after the class, ahead of academic freedom by not showing any depiction of Muhammad. The art she showed had been made by Muslims hundreds of years ago. 

Following a complaint to Hamline's accreditor, criticism from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Prater's lawsuit against the university, Miller walked back the administration's portrayal of Prater's pedagogy as Islamophobic.

The American Association of University Professors also said it's opening an inquiry into the nonrenewal of Prater's contract, which raises "central questions of academic freedom." An AAUP committee will visit campus next month "to interview the affected parties" and report on its findings.

The Press noted the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, which filed the accreditor complaint, has been circling campus in recent days with a mobile billboard denouncing the administration for censorship.

Hamline did not immediately respond to Just the News on Miller's response to the vote. The administration told the Press Tuesday Miller and her team were considering a response.

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