Hamline University has been engrossed in an academic freedom debate this year over the actions of an adjunct instructor at the private Minnesota institution who was teaching global art history. The instructor, Erika López Prater, was discussing Islamic art during one class and briefly exhibited a screen image of Muhammad, the founder and prophet of the Muslim faith. The instructor had warned students in advance of her plan to show the image.
A Muslim student complained, and López Prater will not be teaching the course this semester. Hamline administrators said the decision not to renew her teaching contract this semester was warranted because of the tradition of Muslims avoiding viewing images of Muhammad and the belief held by some adherents that doing so is sacrilegious. But a wide coalition of academic and civil rights groups has defended López Prater, and López Prater argued that her nonrenewal violates traditions of academic freedom—and is particularly egregious given her advance warning to students that she intended to show the image. Her defenders have also noted that Muslims are not all in agreement about displaying images of Muhammad, particularly images like the one shown in class, which was from the 14th century, and those that are respectful of Muhammad.
Then, on Friday, the Hamline Board of Trustees released this statement, published in full: