Dismissed Professor Sues Hamline University for Discrimination and Defamation

This week’s edition covers stories 
from January12th to January 18th, 2023.

Today’s issue is 750 words, a 5.8minute read.

In today’s edition Isabella and Helene talk Dismissed adjunct professor sues Hamline University | Juxtaposition Arts x Red Wing Collab | La Jolla 17-year-old publishes a Spanish coding book.

Continue reading to find out more…

Good morning folks, Isabella here! I am back and better than ever. I spent my last two weeks abroad exploring multiple cities in Europe but I’m excited to return and share more news with you.

Hamline University campus in St. Paul, MN on Dec. 30, 2022 📸 Jenn Ackerman | for The New York Times | Redux

In local to national controversyHamline University dismissed adjunct art-history professor Erika López Prater sues for discrimination and defamation. After she showed students a 14-century Persian painting of the Prophet Muhammad in a remote class in 2022, her supervisor notified her that the class would be cancelled and that her contract wouldn’t be renewed. 

Despite the professor’s efforts to warn students of the day of showing, a senior student, Aram Wedatalla, felt distressed after viewing the image for the first time. Other Muslim students supported Wedatalla “saying the class was an attack on their religion”. Depictions of Muhammad and any other Islamic prophets should be avoided in the Islamic faith to prevent followers from worshiping false gods. 

After describing Dr. López Prater’s actions as “undeniably disrespectful” and “Islamophobic”, the professor sued Hamline University for religious discrimination and defamation. She also sued for emotional distress and punitive damages. On Tuesday, Hamline considered in their new statement the word “Islamophobic”, used in their initial stance, to be flawed and suggested that academic freedom and student support coexist on campus.

The professor also sued Wedatalla for imposing her religious views on López Prater and other students present. Since the incident, free speech supporters began campaigns to defend the art-history professor. 

This is a sensitive matter. Many Muslim scholars and experts don’t believe the incident to be Islamophobic, while others view it as a harmful threat to their community. The matter comes down to the idea of offense. Whether Dr. López Prater should be considered liable for causing harm to Muslim students. Or, if there is an academic freedom to present a historic image as such. At the same time, immediate dismissal of her position and word misuse damaged her reputation nationally and hindered professional prospects.

The larger question I raise is whether sudden actions like these, without further investigation or an outweighing of the ‘pros and cons’, contribute to the popular ‘cancel culture’ around us nowadays. If a professor is taking precautions to avoid harmful situations while maintaining an open conversation on topics of art and historic value, why are we shutting down these conversations? Controversial views are what fuel academics and its freedom. 

To make a mistake that takes a toll on a community is not an easy thing to settle. However, bigotry accusations and dismissing a professor from their job after presenting a topic in an approved syllabus is concerning. Students’ safety should without a doubt be at the center of the University’s utmost importance. But, so should academic freedom. Is there a different approach?

The Juxtaposition and Red Wing team that created the Capsule Collection 📸 Red Wing Website

In local fashionJuxtaposition Arts (JXTA) x Red Wing launched their limited edition boothoodie and apron collaboration yesterday. It’s an awesome customization of the Red Wing Heritage Classic Moc in black prairie leather with red details. JXTA is a North Minneapolis art and design youth-social enterprise. Four apprentices, Essence, Isaiah, Ciojwé and Milo, had the opportunity to help draft, design, support and create the product collection and marketing campaign. Red Wing head of brand and creative Aaron Seymour-Anderson, also a JXTA alumni, decided to collaborate with JXTA chief cultural producer Roger Cummings, co-founder of the organization in 1995 with his wife, DeAnna. The focus on local young artists and creatives in a commercial art space brings this collaboration full circle. The new JXTA three story building will open on North Emerson Ave and West Broadway Ave, in North Minneapolis, on May 5th 2023. Profits made from the sale of both products will go to funding future programming at JXTA. The team also replaced ads on seven billboards with original art inspired by this new collection. Find the route here.

Athena Hernandez holds up her book, “Cómo Codificar para Niños” 📸 San Diego Union Tribune | Athena Hernandez

Helene here! In national positive news, a La Jolla (CA) high school student just published an introductory coding book in Spanish to teach young coders the basics of Python. It’s the first of its kind, and the fact that it’s been published by a young, Latina woman, two descriptors not often used to describe the coding demographic, makes it all the more impressive. Athena Hernandez is behind the impressive book, but this isn’t her first time teaching coding. She founded Codificar Con Coco in March of 2020 to help teach Latiné students how to code for free. The organization now has over 10 tutors and offers services in both Spanish and English. As for her book, it’s a beginner’s guide in Spanish to the Python coding language, which is (as far as coding languages go) one of the more straightforward ones. It’s all in Spanish, and any instructions that are about using English websites have been translated clearly to make sure all of the content is accessible. It’s a great chance for young people to get involved in the world of coding and computer sciences from someone who has a similar background to them. The work Hernandez is doing is already helping so many young people break into a world that for so long has not been accessible to them, and she’s got a long way to go. 

That’s all from us this week! Have a great Thursday. 

Isabella and Helene 

Hi, friend: Isabella and Helene here! 
We’re Communications Specialists by day and surfing the web by night!

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