The University of Akron says an O’Reilly Factor report about liberalism on college campuses mischaracterized a course taught at the university.
On Thursday’s installment of the Fox News program, host Bill O’Reilly said, “As you may know, most college campuses in America are liberal, full of left-wing professors and dopey kids spouting left-wing slogans. But recently college liberalism has gotten out of hand almost. So how bad is it?”
The show then aired a 5½-minute segment with reporter Jesse Watters interviewing swimsuit-clad students during their spring break about the liberalism of their professors. Among the students interviewed was an unnamed young man who said he went to “Akron University” and that in one course “they tried to convert the entire class to Muslim religion. … They said that Islam and Christianity worship the same god.”
Asked if he received a bad grade for challenging the teacher, the student said he received a B-plus instead of an A and “I’m really upset about it.”
In an in-studio follow-up, Watters brought up the conversion-to-Islam claim at “Akron University,” mentioned that it involved a “Professor Wainwright” and “we’re actually going to look into this.” An amused O’Reilly encouraged him, saying that if the course was teaching that Christians and Muslims believe in the same god, “Allah is going to be real offended.”
The claims appeared to involve Christine Lorraine Wainwright, a senior lecturer in history at the university. According to a UA representative, the class is called World Civilization: India, and students learn about the major religions of modern India: Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam.
“My understanding is one of the methodologies in teaching a comparative-religion class like this is to present those religions from the point of view of their believers,” said Eileen Korey, chief communication officer for the university.
After being made aware of the O’Reilly segment, Korey said, “We looked into it. We have every confidence that the class is appropriately taught. … It is unfortunate that this student provided a perspective that clearly is not in line with the teaching methodology in that classroom.”
The university received half a dozen calls and emails, both negative and positive, in reaction to the O’Reilly piece. Wainwright was out of town and it was not known how many calls or emails she directly received. Two university representatives said they had not heard of O’Reilly’s show following up on the segment but, again, it was not clear if the show had tried to contact Wainwright directly.
As for God and Allah, there has been debate over whether Christians and Muslims worship the same god because the Muslim belief in one God, Allah, seems to conflict with the Christian belief in a Holy Trinity. In Christian Century magazine in 2011, Miroslav Volf of the Yale Divinity School cited Muslim and Christian leaders who believe both religions worship the same god.