Via Hamline University
Hamline president Fayneese Miller announced Monday that she will retire after the 2023-2024 school year.
The announcement comes following a year of controversy surrounding a professor showing an art piece from “A Compendium of Chronicles - one of the world's earliest Islamic histories - of the Prophet Muhammad. A student complained to the administration, stating the image was Islamophobic. Miller sided with the student, and the professor’s contract was not renewed.
“Respect for the observant Muslim students in that classroom should have superseded academic freedom,” Miller wrote in a staff email after the incident happened.
The professor, Dr. Erika López Prater, said she warned the students repeatedly the image would be shown in class.
For a majority of Muslims, depictions of the Prophet Muhammed are prohibited. While the Minnesota branch of CAIR sided with the student, the national office sided with the professor, saying that the depiction was not shown with Islamophobic intent.
In January, Hamline faculty voted in favor of asking Miller to resign, citing her handling of the incident. The University later walked back Miller’s statements, saying “care does not supersede academic freedom - the two co-exist.”
During a media briefing Monday, Miller said that reporters following the case have created a “false narrative.” She said that the incident was not a part of her decision, saying that she intends to spend more time with her family.
“I will acknowledge we’ve had some trying times,’ Miller said. “I got beat up in the media, and so at some point you have to look at that and go, ‘is this right for the institution.’”
Miller is Hamline’s second woman president and first Black president. She helped found an ethnic studies program at Brown University and was dean of the College of Education and Social Services at the University of Vermont.