You may have seen the story about the Larycia Hawkins, an associate professor of political science at Wheaton, who made a splash by saying that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, and by wearing a hijab for Advent. She was placed on administrative leave, and that was followed by a recommendation that her tenure and employment be terminated. Following that, the Faculty Council of Wheaton unanimously petitioned the administration to withdraw that recommendation.
The Wheaton statement on the whole affair is here. In that statement, they explain that the “hijab for Advent” thing had nothing to do it, but rather that their concerns were over her theological statements. In short, she could wear a hijab. Their problem is that she had the sort of thought processes that might result in her doing so.
When the Faculty Council made their request, they also posed five questions for the administration of Wheaton to answer. In the full recognition that nobody asked me, I will nevertheless endeavor to answer the questions in the same spirit that produced them, suggesting by this somewhat oblique means that the administration of Wheaton answer in this same way. Just a suggestion. That way they can murk up the protest at least as thoroughly as the protesters are murking up the Statement of Faith.
1. Does the College have a position on what can or cannot be said regarding the question: “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?”
When you say “a position,” this appears to assume a heteronormative view of logic and sexuality. “A” position is confining, stifling. This appears to say that there is only one way of looking at these things. We believe that the way to break on through to the other side would be to embrace the full tensions implicit in the sociological narrative and so go on to say that Christians and Muslims both do and do not worship the same God/goddess/infinite force/being/yin/yang. But if this is the case, then it follows that the administration and Professor Hawkins are also saying and doing the same thing, each in our own way.
2. What is the process for determining acceptable interpretations of the Statement of Faith? Do faculty have a role in this process? How will faculty know if their views and/or statements are in danger of being judged unacceptable?
We believe that the process for determining acceptable interpretations of the Statement of Faith would have to be interminable seminars during the summer months, academic workshops at important conferences, and referral to at least three committees.
3. Is it considered proper process to place a faculty member on leave based on public statements that could be outside the statement of faith before there is a process of interpretation?
Nay! The process of interpretation must always come first. That is why we have referred these five questions of the Faculty Council — knowing that we cannot answer them unless there has first been a process of interpretation — to a committee that we here in the Admin Building like to call the Endless Committee. We would love to answer your question, but we have not yet been able to successfully work it through our process of interpretation.
4. What is Administrative Leave, and how does the Employee Handbook relate to the Faculty Handbook in the case of disciplinary situations?
“Administrative leave” is one of the deeper questions in theology. These things are often a mystery. The Employee Handbook is an even deeper mystery, as some of you have pointed out from time to time.
5. What policies are in place for administration to deal with “emergency” social media situations?
Well, again, the process of interpretation must always come first. We begin by trying to define “emergency,” and we must do so in light of the perichoretic dance, unless of course the Muslim God and the Christian God are the same, in which case there is no perichoretic dance, but only a unitarian stomp. But either way, since perichoretic and unitarian may well be talking about the same reality, not to mention dancing and stomping, it follows that “administrative leave” may also be identical to a “promotion and a fat raise.” This side of Jordan, we may never know.