Hamline University president to retire following Islamic art controversy

by | Apr 3, 2023 | Religion

(RNS) — The president of Hamline University, who was widely criticized for her response to an art history professor who showed students a painting of the Prophet Muhammad, announced Monday (April 3) she would retire June 30, 2024.The announcement comes more than two months after faculty of the St. Paul, Minnesota, university called on President Fayneese Miller to resign immediately, saying they no longer had faith in her ability to lead the university.
Last year, the university did not renew the contract of Erika López Prater, an adjunct professor who showed a treasured 14th-century painting of the Prophet Muhammad in her online art history class. The school went so far as labeling Prater “Islamophobic,” though it later retracted that description.
Miller defended the decision not to renew the professor’s contract, saying, “respect, decency, and appreciation of religious and other differences should supersede academic freedom.”
That sparked an outcry from academics who said the president was bowing to the will of students while trampling on academic freedom and the obligation of faculty to teach students about challenging issues without fear. Miller later walked back the statement, saying academic freedom and respect for students were both important.
But an international firestorm of criticism erupted nonetheless. López Prater, in turn, sued, alleging religious discrimination and defamation.
The depiction of Prophet Muhammad at Hamline University has …

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