(NEW YORK)– PEN America has learned that Hamline University reportedly refused to renew the contract of an art history professor, apparently because that professor showed an online class images of medieval and Renaissance art depicting the Prophet Muhammad. According to reports, the professor provided students with a warning about two minutes prior to displaying the art, allowing students to turn off their video feeds in advance if they chose. Hamline University described the lecture as “undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful and Islamophobic.”

“If these reports are accurate, Hamline University has committed one of the most egregious violations of academic freedom in recent memory,” said Jeremy Young, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America “Not only is an art history professor well within their rights to show medieval and Renaissance Islamic artworks in class, but the professor apparently took added care to create a positive pedagogical experience for students – placing the images in historical context, allowing students to opt out of viewing them, and thoughtfully exploring the history and diversity of Islamic art and thought. Non-renewing a professor’s contract under these circumstances is academic malpractice of a type that chills speech among all faculty, particularly contingent faculty who cannot rely on the status of tenure to protect their academic freedom. This professor’s contract should be renewed immediately, and Hamline administrators should take an opportunity to remind themselves what academic freedom means.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057