January 8, 2016
Dr. Philip Graham Ryken, President
501 College Avenue
Wheaton, IL 60187
Dear President Ryken:
We are writing out of deep concern for Dr. Larycia Hawkins. We understand from news reports and statements put out by Wheaton College that Dr. Hawkins has been placed on administrative leave and that now the provost has made a Notice of Recommendation to Initiate Termination-for-Cause Proceedings. We strongly encourage you to immediately reinstate Professor Hawkins and resolve this matter so that she is not terminated from her position.
The Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA) is a bi-national professional association of peace studies scholars and practitioners in the US and Canada. We are also the North American affiliate of the global International Peace Research Association (IPRA). Our members work at public and private colleges and universities and in not for profit agencies and community organizations to advance peace and justice, both here and abroad.
While Professor Hawkins is not a member of PJSA, she is a member of our profession and we are greatly disturbed by reports that indicate her suspension not only goes against the fundamental principles that undergird the academy, but that this suspension directly attacks work she did as part of her role as the Coordinator of Wheaton’s Peace and Conflict Studies certificate program.
Today our nation and world are divided in multiple ways but the field of peace and conflict studies helps us to interrogate and address many of those divisions. The decision to begin the process of firing a tenured faculty member who was modeling for her students the critical thinking process which is foundational to the academic world in general, and peace studies in particular, is at best deeply problematic.
Professor Hawkins was allowed to wear the head-scarf but not to interrogate the social problems that led to her decision to express solidarity with culturally down-trodden members of society.
As an alliance of professionals committed to nonviolent social change and the expansion of peace culture, we find it egregious that an institution of higher education which offers education in peace studies is actively sowing seeds of division. We call on you to stop this unnecessary and unethical response to the actions of Dr. Hawkins aimed at promoting deeper and more peaceful understanding of real-life issues.
We appeal to the faculty at Wheaton to act to block the decision of the college administration and rather to seek genuine and transformative discussions with Dr. Hawkins and to remove the penalties currently imposed.
We urge you to resolve this situation quickly and in a way that leaves no doubt as to the College’s commitment to academic freedom and its stated support for “a robust exchange of ideas among faculty and students on the critical issues of the day.”
Cris Toffolo and Edmund Pries, Co-Chairs
on behalf of the PJSA Board