Hamline University: Art History Instructor Dismissed for Showing Class Medieval Islamic Artwork Depicting Muhammad
In December 2022, reports circulated that Hamline University nonrenewed art history instructor Erika López Prater for showing medieval artwork of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in class. Hamline reportedly said “respect for the observant Muslim students in that classroom should have superseded academic freedom.” On December 28, FIRE wrote Hamline urging it to reinstate the instructor to comply with its policies committing to respect potentially “unpopular and unsettling” expression and academic freedom. After Hamline doubled down — justifying its actions as addressing student concerns — FIRE filed a complaint with the Higher Learning Commission, Hamline’s accreditor, arguing Hamline failed to live up to the commission’s accreditation standards. On January 11, 2023, the university again defended its decision to dismiss the instructor, arguing that “academic freedom does not operate in a vacuum.” But the tides turned when Hamline’s Board of Trustees on January 13 reaffirmed the university’s commitment to academic freedom and announced it was investigating the university’s actions. On January 18, López Prater filed a lawsuit against Hamline, leading the university to reverse course and publicly claim Hamline had been committed to academic freedom all along.