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Who Will Hold the Administration Accountable?

From the beginning of the #ReinstateDocHawk protests against the unjust treatment of Dr. Hawkins, students were clear that Dr. Hawkins was an absolutely essential part to the Wheaton community. We argued in meetings with the administration, on social media, and through the press that we could not afford to lose Dr. Hawkins because of what she represents as the first black female with tenure at Wheaton, and because of who she is as a member of our community. Dr. Hawkins is not just a token symbol of diversity. Through the talks she gave, panels she sat on, and classes she taught at Wheaton, both students and the administration were confronted with their privilege and began to address the systemic flaws of racism and prejudice that still plague our community. However, due to the witch-hunt perpetuated by Dr. Ryken and Dr. Jones, we have lost this prophetic voice and, in the process, have irreparably damaged Wheaton’s public witness.

And so I ask: who will hold the adminstration accountable?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question will inevitably be themselves. We’ve already seen it begin to play out. In the public forum, Dr. Ryken falsely stated to the student body “I haven’t made any decision or prejudgment about this matter at all.” We know this is not true because Dr. Jones and Dr. Ryken were in close conversation throughout the whole controversy. In addition, are we expected to believe that all this could have happened without Dr. Ryken’s approval? The reason he lied was so that he could set himself up as the “unbiased” adjudicator in this matter. Which is why it is no surprise that when Dr. Jones revoked his recommendation to fire Dr. Hawkins he “turned resolution of the administrative leave over to President Ryken.” It is also why Dr. Ryken said in the press release announcing that the institution and Dr. Hawkins are parting ways, “Wheaton College sincerely appreciates Dr. Hawkins’ contributions to this institution over the last nine years. We are grateful for her passionate teaching, scholarship, community service and mentorship of our students.” This feel-good quote goes to add credibility to Dr. Ryken’s ability to fairly deal with the consequences from this controversy.

Dr. Ryken will not hold himself or his administration accountable.

He has already shown he has no interest in dealing with the systemic issues that this controversy brought up namely the rampant racism, sexism, and general fear of other that pollutes our institutional actions and caused this controversy to begin with. After the Faculty Diversity Committee sent a memo identifying that these actions were indeed sexist and racist, Dr. Ryken and his administration did not apologize, but released a press release stating that the document should not have been made public. This response is indicative of how Dr. Ryken’s administration chooses to deal with serious issues of discrimination. He would rather sweep prejudice under the rug because, in the end, that makes his job easier and makes Wheaton, an institution in which the administration is white and male-dominated, feel better about itself. This type of action disqualifies anyone within the current administration from being able to properly recognize and rectify the fact that we have lost Dr. Hawkins, a vital member of our Wheaton community because of deeply held prejudices from our leaders.

Due to this our leadership needs fundamental change. Dr. Jones is retiring after this year and to replace him with another white reformed male would be a mistake. This controversy proves that despite intentions our leadership is only comfortable with ideas that sound like theirs and people who look like them. Our problem of being too white and too male is not just relegated to the administrative leadership, but also our board of trustees, the president’s advisors, and a host of councils and committees that are instrumental in the operations of Wheaton. This is not just a call for diversity so that we can meet a quota, but because it will fundamentally change how our college is run in a way that looks more like the diverse Kingdom of God.

Greater action must be taken.

To the students, alumni and faculty who are unnerved by this institutional overreach and its blasé response to discrimination, I encourage you to not stop protesting until justice is done. Dr. Hawkins being forced to leave, even if she feels like she has to, does not equal justice.

Justice at Wheaton looks like a recognition of its discrimination and a concrete plan to address its systemic deficiencies. Justice looks like the hiring and retaining of women faculty and faculty of color. Justice looks like an independent review of this controversy free from the biased hands of the administration and the board of trustees. Justice looks like public apologies from Dr. Jones and Dr. Ryken, in which they admit their prejudices. Justice looks like this situation never happening again.

Justice looks like a change in leadership.

Filed under: Articles

About the Author

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Wyatt is a December graduate who studied Political Science with a minor in Spanish. He served as the EVP of College Life his sophomore year and Student Body Vice-President his junior year. Wyatt founded The Tide because he wants to see Wheaton become a more inclusive community.

26 Comments

  1. I love this school, this community, and the members of our administration as brothers and sisters in Christ with all my heart. But you could not be more right, Wyatt. Great piece.

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    • Doug

      You cannot love everyone as you claim and yet say that Wyatt could not be more right? Do you not see the utter and complete hypocrisy of your position?

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      • Loving people doesn’t mean withholding criticism or being disappointed. I said I love them, not that I idolize them or that they can do no wrong. If I didn’t love Wheaton, I would love. I wouldn’t be committed to making it the best place it could be, and I wouldn’t be interested in holding it accountable.

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  2. Pingback: Wheaton “same God” Controversy | Leadingchurch.com

  3. Doug

    The views expressed in your rant are ignorant, off-base, ill-informed and so full of rage it makes you appear as a jilted teenage boy who just got dumped by his first crush. Really Wyatt, did you take any time to step back, take a deep breath, and think about the brutally harsh words you have written? Take a moment to re-read what you have written here. Your views, which I fully support your right to have, could not be more wrong in my eyes. Wheaton has stood in opposition to, is currently fighting against, and Lord-willing will forever repel the wave of liberalism that keeps slapping against it. It is obvious that you don’t agree with much that Wheaton stands for, which is fine. Just don’t pound your fist and demand that Wheaton change to fit your liberal worldview. The majority of we Wheaton alums love the school, pray for and support it (even though it is not perfect), love and support Phil Ryken, and will continue to work fervently to keep worldly (i.e. liberal) worldviews from penetrating the Wheaton campus, faculty and staff.

    Someday when you are older and more mature you will hopefully look back on this specific post, in which you accuse both Wheaton and specific individuals of some pretty horrific things, and you will wish you had not written it. On the other hand, like Dr. Hawkins, your pride probably won’t allow you to admit you were wrong – that’s the typical M.O. for liberals.

    Wyatt, it’s time to repent of your unfounded and hate-filled thoughts, and to ask Jesus to soften your heart, open your eyes, and take the initiative to ask forgiveness from those you have so falsely accused.

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    • Hi Doug,

      I’d like to point out some of the assumptions underlying your statements. Until you prove the validity of these assumptions, I’m going to have a hard time taking your claims seriously. If you do not actually assume any these things, please feel free to disregard my comment.

      1. “Liberalism” is bad. (many think otherwise, right? Are we sure that they are all wrong? When and how did you learn that Liberalism is bad?)
      2. Everyone agrees what “liberalism” is. (what is it, anyways? On whose authority can we know what it is? Are there competing definitions of “liberalism”? If so, what is your definition?)
      3. It makes sense to say that “Wheaton” has resisted the lapping waves of liberalism, because Wheaton is a monolithic entity. (Isn’t it truer to say that “Wheaton” is a complex consortium of various constituencies – faculty, students, alums, admin – each with competing interpretations of the type of community we ought to create, yet still organized under certain unifying faith and governance principles, which occasionally come under fire?)
      4. Pride is the “typical M.O.” for liberals. (Have you surveyed all the liberals and found this to be the case? How exactly did you arrive at this conclusion?)
      5. Loving Wheaton College as an alumni is approximately equivalent to supporting the Wheaton College’s administration’s decision put Larycia Hawkins on administrative leave. (Is it possible to intensely love Phil Ryken and Stan Jones, while also intensely disagreeing with many of their actions and strategies of the previous two months? Or is this impossible to do?)
      6. It’s okay to make ad hominem attacks in defense of one’s position. (I’ve been taught differently… by none other than Wheaton College.)

      Respect,
      – David Robinson ’15

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      • Doug

        David,

        Thank you for your thoughtful response. I’m unsure, however, what about my first paragraph you don’t understand. Your first three points argue mere semantics If you don’t understand liberalism in terms of theology and the attacks made against Wheaton College over the past few years, then more than anything it puts on display what many Wheaton profs I know refer to as their current students’ “utter void of Biblical knowledge.” When I see numerous college kids “protesting” (ha!) and holding signs that read “Protest is my Theology” I understand what those professors mean. Many Wheaton students confuse “protesting for “justice” (some can’t even define the word when asked to do so) with following what the Bible teaches, but that’s what you do I guess when daily (even weekly) Bible studying is not something you partake of (I say “you” here generally, not specifically you). I think of the well known parable and paraphrase it this way: “Lord, Lord, did we not protest, and march for justice, and travel to Ferguson, and eat only locally grown non-GMO food, and take part in a hunger fast, and perform sit-ins in Your name?”….and He will say to them, be gone from Me, I never knew you.

        Let me be more clear in what I mean based on last night’s program at Edman in which my point could not have been more clearly made. On the one had you have Phil Ryken, contrite, humble and speaking Scripture and an entire message bathed in Scripture; on the other hand you have Prof Hawkins, coming across as somewhat prideful and merely giving a political speech. This is the difference between someone who knows and is grounded in theology and the Bible, and someone who knows “protest” language and worldly political verbiage. Phil’s talk was so God-honoring; Prof Hawkins was so very sad, and a reflection of where her heart seems to have been throughout this entire process.

        Regarding #4 David, when you grow older and become more mature, interact with more people, get a job where you work full time, get married (if you do), raise kids, and gain wisdom, you will understand this a bit more.

        Regarding #5 David, you certainly can love Wheaton but not support Ryken and Jones in this – I never said you couldn’t – you inferred that. The hatred dripping from Willard’s keyboard (and from the keyboards of so many on Facebook) makes it evident that he doesn’t love Wheaton as it is, He wants it to become something it has never been and (hopefully) never will be. So I believe there are those who love Wheaton and don’t like Ryken – that’s their freedom. I just don’t support their voices crying out to change Wheaton into something it’s never been. Feel free to return your diploma Willard if you are so embarrassed by Wheaton and so angry at it. The College will move on fine without you.

        Regarding #6 I understand the words in your post but I have no idea in what point you are trying to make.

        Thank you.

        Doug

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    • I rarely comment on blogs–and people’s comments on blogs–but I do want to respond to Doug.

      Doug, you mention you are a Wheaton alum. I am too. I too, like many many other Wheaton alumni, love, support (financially and in other ways), speak well of Wheaton, etc. etc. etc. However, loving Wheaton and the wonderful education it gave me–and I would assume you–does not necessarily mean agreeing with everything the college or the administration does. Someone named Doug also commented some pretty harsh, judgmental and vitriolic statements on another blog I read on the Wheaton piece. Perhaps that was you or someone else.

      However, as a sister in Christ and fellow Wheaton graduate, I would ask you to read your own comment in light of charity, grace, truth-in-love as both our Lord and St. Paul instructed us. Maybe Wyatt is making some incorrect assumptions. however, you too, in Christian humility, should be expected by Wyatt, me, your local body of believers, the church universal, to also respond to others in love and grace. If you are right, then you have nothing to fear. There are many, many committed believers who are Wheaton alums who are deeply saddened by the outcome and have serious questions regarding the fairness and godliness of how this situation was handled by the administration. I do not think we can at all say what the “majority” of Wheaton alums thinks about this situation–if Dr. Hawkins’ theological statement was in fact theologically orthodox (as Dr. Jones said it was), if the College treated her differently because of race, gender, and marital status (as the Diversity Committee memo was confident), or how clear cut the situation is when 78 well respected faculty at Wheaton requested her reinstatement, as did the Faculty Council (unanimously).

      We are all welcome to our own opinions, so please offer the charity to others you would like extended to you. And if “progressive” or “liberal” blogs like this one offend you, probably a good Lenten discipline would be to avoid them COMPLETELY and spend more time praying for those you struggle to love as Christian brothers and sisters. Your comments are hurtful and unhelpful and I am praying for you and myself and everyone in between for the ability to love each other, so that the world will know we are Christians by our love.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t read past the condescending tone, and assumption that Wyatt is wrong, when he is clearly writing an opinion piece. He is a co-founder of the blog which earns him more respect than you are paying him, and his opinions are well supported.

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      • Doug

        Being the co-founder of a blog doesn’t (and shouldn’t) earn anyone respect. It merely presents him a platform to bloviate. I disagree with your last line that his opinions are well-supported.

        The question is not why did Wheaton fire Prof Hawkins; the question is why did Wheaton ever hire her? She should never have even been interviewed knowing what we know about her beliefs now.

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  4. Derek

    It seems like you would want to wait until after your “prophetic voice’s” official statements to write a piece that attempts to be based on fact. However, given that it’s a rant, and premeditated at that, I guess it’s not surprising that you write this now. As it is, the parting is said to be a mutual decision- but oh, silly me, that’s just my blasé indifference in trusting *anything* that comes out of the administration’s mouth- and so maybe you should consider the words of Dr. Hawkins directly: “Recall, I donned the hijab out of solidarity. In the spirit of embodied solidarity, those of you who are inclined to wish ‪#‎WheatonCollege‬ and its associated members ill should shower Wheaton College and its students, staff, faculty, and administration with thoughts and prayers and actions that emanate love, grace, peace, and if necessary, forgiveness.”
    You should consider a re-write.

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  5. Caleb

    Though I’ve disagreed with a lot of your political views in the past, I’ve usually respected them. This however, I can neither agree with nor respect. This issue is already difficult and sensitive enough without people further igniting the issue and projecting their own agendas onto it. If you truly respect Dr. Hawkins, from what part of her life or statements do you justify this response of hatred towards her brothers in Christ, those that she has disagreed with, but spoken of only with respect? From which part of the entire termination process has the #reinstatedochawk movement objectively seen racism and gender discrimination? And finally, what justification do you have to spread outright lies? You state “And so I ask: who will hold the administration accountable? Unfortunately, the answer to this question will inevitably be themselves.” ignoring that fact that because of the vast amount of debate surrounding the subject, President Ryken (the same one that, as a leader you are called to respect and pray for as a follower of Christ (1 Timothy 2:2, Romans 13:1-7)) has asked the trustees to do a thorough investigation of the entire process. I won’t even get into the issue of the reason for her dismissal in this point, because you’ve made it clear in this post that that doesn’t play into your agenda for her.

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  6. Max Sawyer

    Why must there always be conflict? It seems as though very little in this world can be dissolved too black wrong and white right. This case has bred more divisiveness among Christians than anything at Wheaton for a long time. Truly, Christ’s prayer that we all “be one” as He and the Father are one seems forgotten in the midst of all the cascading voices.

    I suppose we as humans love to be in conflict; we are the best animals in the universe at systematically wiping each other out. This political season is perfect example of that. God never used the terms “liberal” to describe evil and “conservative” to describe good. Truly the devil played a cruel trick on us all when he got everyone to believe that there are only two sides to a story.

    When people disagree, their thoughts often come from a totally different foundation or set of assumptions as the other person they disagree with and they wrongly assume that that person holds those same assumptions and rests upon the same foundation. This is rarely the case. Thus, the arguments fly by each other without ever colliding in beneficial dialogue.

    I think it seems totally rash to assume that Dr. Ryken was intentionally lying about what he said in order to appear neutral. I also think that comments assuming that Wyatt is full of “rage” and “hate” are completely unhelpful. This is how people go around and around. This is how the system works. This is how progress stalls.

    I am thankful that the school is hosting a reconciliation service for the students where both parties will come together and love Christ together. I hope those of us on all sides of this issue (as if there were only two) can do the same.

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  7. This article makes me sad, not because of the position it takes but because it leaves out something so key to Christianity that without it, we would all be lost: grace. Since when did being right take precedence over being loving, over being grace-filled? In the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples wanted to hold Jesus’ arresters accountable.
    “Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear.” (John 18:10)
    But Jesus? He had a radically different plan: death on a cross; grace.
    In a world that is already in great need of grace, we should be Christians who forgive, who love, who pour out grace.
    Who is holding me accountable for all the wrong I’ve done? Who is holding you accountable? Who is the one in charge of holding people accountable for their sins? God, and God alone.
    And if we’re in Christ, all the wrong was already put on Jesus Christ when he willingly accepted death on a cross. The amazing thing is that we’re not held accountable. If we were, we would be condemned to death, to eternal separation from God. Instead, we’re given life.
    I agree that greater action must be taken. But not action that leads to “justice”, to holding people accountable. That’s in God’s hands. We need action to be taken that leads to repentance, to forgiveness, to reconciliation, to grace, to love.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Victoria,

      I agree that a helpful dialogue is a grace-filled dialogue. Grace can be tough to define, though, and I’m not convinced that Wyatt’s claims are ungracious. Perhaps he has good reason to be angry, perhaps not. Sure, he doesn’t know the whole story here. But neither do you know his full story, which is both complex and closer than most to the inner workings of the events in question.

      I also agree with your underlying claim that God is the ultimate judge, though how exactly that should come to bear on this specific situation is a foggier question than you imply.

      Pivoting…

      Your last paragraph’s argument is as follows: “We should not take action that leads to *scare-quote* “justice,” because justice is in God’s hands. To hold people accountable is to do what only God should do.”

      This logic leads to some crazy things. Under this logic, we should:
      (1) Never prosecute war crimes. Way too just!
      (2) Never call out a friend when she does something evil. We don’t want action that leads to accountability!
      (3) Avoid independent 3rd party reviews at all costs. They hold people accountable!
      (4) Shut down the criminal justice system. God will take care of wrongdoing!

      I highly doubt that you actually believe any of these things, because in all likelihood you are a rational person and not given to logical absurdities.

      But without further clarification, I’m forced to conclude from your comments that IF it could be reliably demonstrated that Drs. Ryken and Jones’ actions employed racism, sexism, and grievous errors of due process and communication preceding Hawkins’ departure, then we should STILL not do anything about it. “That is in God’s hands.”

      If this comment sounds ungracious, let me know… hold me accountable 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. Alan Jacobs has a penchant for writing helpful, life-giving things.

      Regarding his final paragraph: I do hope that in addition to the BoT review, Dr. Ryken will supplement these efforts with an independent 3rd party review. This would likely go a long way in restoring faculty trust. I say this because the strong fraternal and institutional links b/tw the admin and BoT render this review suspect to bias and home-cooking, like if a basketball team temporarily hired its own executives to referee a game vs. a rival squad.

      This, of course, is not the same thing as saying that the BoT review WILL inevitably be biased. Perhaps they are highly skilled, well-trained researchers, fully willing to risk shaming their own institutional body by revealing tumors beneath the skin.

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  8. Amanda

    I pray your heart is filled with nothing but true Christian love so that you may look back on this issue with wisdom and discerning to see truth, untainted by your pain.

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    • Hey Amanda,
      As a Wheaton alumnus, I’ve stayed out of the debate section that has developed in response to this article, thus far. However, I’m a bit concerned with the apparent assumption to your comment. The idea that pain “taints” our ability to think/act clearly (objectively? Impossible- subjectivity is an inevitable outcome of human thought and subsequent rhetoric) is just incorrect. While we should always be self-aware, willing to hear dissent and appropriately critical in our reflections, to dismiss emotional drives as inevitably illogical or incompatible with “clear” thinking is a dangerous mistake. Please, feel free to correct me if I’m misunderstanding your comment. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. robert

    Wyatt, I really do wish you well. You have much potential, but once you’re out in the real world a bit, you’ll see words do matter. You could have a respectable forum here, but you lose all credibility throwing out barbs like you did.

    I challenge you to get to know people and their heart before employing your scorched earth policy. It will take you far.

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  10. I am also an alum, and I fear only some of the alumni/donor class have an ear to this administration. Others are “heard” but not nearly to the same extent as others. This is of grave concern to me.

    How can the most marginalized alumni be heard? And help keep the administration accountable?

    Like

    • Caleb

      What does “marginalized alumni” mean? I don’t think you can just slap the word “marginalized” on and transform the word that follows into a meaningful phrase.

      Like

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