According to the New York Times, Hamline University adjunct professor Erika López Prater warned students in the course syllabus that the class would contain images of religious figures, including the Buddha and the prophet Mohammad.
Students were informed that they could contact her with any concerns but according to the report, no one did.
The report stated that Prater also warned students repeatedly a few minutes beforehand that the images containing depictions of Mohammad would be displayed so that anyone who might be offended would have time to leave the classroom.
Despite the warnings, Aram Wedatalla, a senior in the class complained to administrators about the imagery the day after the images were shown and gathered support from Muslim students who were not in the class, which resulted in Prater not being welcomed back at the school.
Wedatalla, who is also president of the Muslim Student Association, told the campus outlet the Oracle, "I’m like, 'This can’t be real.' As a Muslim, and a Black person, I don’t feel like I belong, and I don’t think I’ll ever belong in a community where they don’t value me as a member, and they don’t show the same respect that I show them."
Hamline University President Fayneese Miller wrote a letter to students last month that apologized for the incident. "It is not our intent to place blame; rather, it is our intent to note that in the classroom incident—where an image forbidden for Muslims to look upon was projected on a screen and left for many minutes—respect for the observant Muslim students in that classroom should have superseded academic freedom."
Miller said in the letter that "academic freedom is very important," but that "it does not have to come at the expense of care and decency toward others."
Hamline’s associate vice president of inclusive excellence David Everett emailed students describing the incident as "undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful and Islamophobic."
He added, "In lieu of this incident, it was decided it was best that this faculty member was no longer part of the Hamline community," wrote Everett.
According to the campus outlet, Everett’s email also said the university debated if the professor’s conduct was a "hate crime" but that administrators decided it was an "act of intolerance."
Prater told the student newspaper, "my perspective and actions have been lamentably mischaracterized, my opportunities for due process have been thwarted," and that Everett’s accusation of intolerance was "misapplied."
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