Whatever the ultimate fate of Erika López Prater’s lawsuit, it has value just for laying out a remarkable set of facts, an indelible portrait of administrative cowardice and malice. Let’s start with this, which makes the bad faith of the admin’s treatment of López Prater apparent from the get-go:
That’s right — the syllabus that Hamline admin describe in writing to the entire campus community as “undeniably Islamophobic” was approved by Hamlime admin ex ante. Somehow, I don’t think anybody has followed through on their alleged principles and resigned.
Second, let’s be clear that in spite of Miller’s elaborate, passive-aggressive denials, López Prater was absolutely fired:
The facts were are not ambiguous: she was offered a class, and it was taken away because she engaged in perfectly sound pedagogical practice. She was fired. Her being an adjunct is relevant to the due process rights she possesses, but is irrelevant to the question of whether she was fired; she was.
Let’s also be clear what the student who raised the complaint was asking for, complaints the Hamline administration not only accepted uncritically but used as the basis to publicly denounce an instructor as Islamophobic:
The student was not asking to not be required to view the pictures, because of course she wasn’t; the syllabus had reasonable religious accommodation practices and warned the student and allowed her to opt out. She was asking that nobody be allowed to view images of the painting. This demand is straightforwardly incompatible not only with academic freedom but with liberal pluralism itself. Education would simply be impossible if this standard was applied with any breadth.
Still, undergraduates are going to make unreasonable claims sometimes; this is part of the educational process. This is where academic professionals should protect a faculty member who had done nothing wrong and reaffirm the university’s commitment to academic freedom and tolerance. Needless to say, this did not happen. After Dean Marcela Kostihova compared López Prater showing a relevant painting with advance warning and an opt-out to saying the n-word in class and López Prater was fired, the administration decided to escalate their attacks:
Again, this is all about a syllabus that the administration approved in advance.
There’s plenty more here too. Whether or not she has a legal remedy López Prater has established that the conduct of the Hamline admin was deplorable. She’s also made it clear why the increasing reliance on non-tenured faculty is incompatible with academic freedom.
…according to at least one Minnesota employment lawyer, the administration’s pre-approval weakens its legal position:
the MN employment lawyer I talked to about it says that’s a big deal legally – that all her actions were pre-approved, and then she was punished for it.https://t.co/DEEPbeh0Xp— David M. Perry (@Lollardfish) January 19, 2023