SAINT PAUL, Minn., Jan. 23, 2023 – Today the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression kicks off a two-day mobile billboard campaign in Saint Paul, Minn., that will circle the campus of Hamline University on the opening days of the spring semester. The mobile billboards read, “Art Censorship: Where Does It Stop?”
The billboards condemn art censorship in the wake of Hamline University’s decision to punish adjunct professor Erika López Prater for showing students a pedagogically relevant painting of the Islamic prophet Muhammad during an art history course. The punishment is a clear violation of Hamline’s academic freedom policy. FIRE has called on the university to reinstate the adjunct professor, whose contract was not renewed for the spring semester as a result of the incident. FIRE also filed a complaint with Hamline’s accreditor, organized a petition signed by more than 400 college faculty members, and helped over 1,500 concerned citizens write to the school’s president.
“It’s hard to get more ridiculous than punishing an art history professor for showing art in an art history course,” said FIRE Program Officer Sabrina Conza. “Professors at Hamline shouldn’t live in fear of losing their jobs for simply doing their job.”
Dr. López Prater took every precaution before proceeding with her lesson plan. No students voiced complaints to her before the class. It wasn’t until after the lesson that one student complained that seeing the Islamic prophet Muhammad was against their religious beliefs. The university went so far as to label the incident “Islamophobic” in an email to students and faculty, and the school is now hiding critical comments on its social media pages. Hamline University President Fayneese S. Miller recently doubled down on the decision to dismiss López Prater in a statement riddled with contradictions, then quickly backtracked as the public pushback grew.
FIRE calls on Hamline to reinstate the instructor and abide by its public commitments to academic freedom.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and sustaining the individual rights of all Americans to free speech and free thought — the most essential qualities of liberty. FIRE recognizes that colleges and universities play a vital role in preserving free thought within a free society. To this end, we place a special emphasis on defending the individual rights of students and faculty members on our nation’s campuses, including freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process, legal equality, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience.
Katie Kortepeter, Communications Campaign Manager, FIRE: 215-717-3473; email@example.com