Boca Raton, Florida — A university professor that recently came under fire having students stomp on a piece of paper that bore the name of Jesus has been put on administrative leave for security reasons.
Florida Atlantic University issued another statement this week pertaining to the “stomp on Jesus” incident, advising that the teacher is being replaced for a time.
“FAU instructor Deandre Poole, Ph.D., as been placed on administrative leave effective immediately for safety reasons,” read a statement released by the university. “As a result of the reaction to a recent exercise in Dr. Poole’s intercultural communications class, the instructor’s personal safety has been compromised.”
“In addition, this decision will prevent further disruption to the day-to-day operations of Florida Atlantic University,” it continued. “Because of this, Dr. Poole will not teach any classes, conduct office hours, or be present at any of FAU’s campuses or sites. Alternate instructors have been assigned to teach Dr. Poole’s classes. Students have been notified and classes will continue as scheduled.”
As previously reported, Ryan Rotela, a Mormon, recently told reporters that he was punished by school officials for not participating in the assignment in his intercultural communications class. The activity was part of a suggested exercise found in the instructor’s manual accompanying the classroom textbook.
“This exercise is a bit sensitive, but really drives home the point that even though symbols are arbitrary, they take on very strong and emotional meanings,” the manual states. “Have the students write the name JESUS in big letters on a piece of paper. Ask the students to stand up and put the paper on the floor in front of them with the name facing up. Ask the students to think about it for a moment.”
“After a brief period of silence, instruct them to step on the paper,” it continues. “Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.”
However, Rotela said that he was suspended for refusing to stomp on the paper, after his teacher, Deandre Poole, the vice-chairman of the Palm Beach Democratic Party, had his class perform the exercise.
“He had us all stand up and he said ‘Stomp on it,’” Rotela explained. “I picked up the paper from the floor and put it right back on the table. I’m not going to be sitting in a class having my religious rights desecrated.”
“Anytime you stomp on something it shows that you believe that something has no value,” he said. “So, if you were to stomp on the word Jesus, it says that the word has no value.”
Initially, after many became outraged both over the classroom assignment and Rotela’s suspension, school officials defended the teacher because he was simply following the instructor’s manual. However, days later, the university released an apology over the matter.
“We sincerely apologize for any offense this has caused,” officials representing Florida Atlantic University wrote. “Florida Atlantic University respects all religions and welcomes people of all faiths, backgrounds and beliefs.”
However, the school denied that students were required to stomp on the paper.
“Contrary to some media reports, no students were forced to take part in the exercise,” it stated. “[T]he instructor told all of the students in the class that they could choose whether or not to participate.”
It also asserted that Rotela was not punished for his refusal to stomp on the name of Jesus.
This week, the university issued a second policy by way of a video from Charles Brown, the school’s senior vice president of student affairs.
“On behalf of all us here at FAU, we are deeply sorry for any hurt this incident might have caused our students, people in the community and beyond,” Brown stated. “As an institution of higher education, we embrace academic freedom. but with that comes a level of responsibility which we did not uphold.”
“Based on the offensive nature of this exercise, we will not use it again,” he continued. “It was insensitive and hurtful, and we are truly sorry.”
However, Florida Governor Rick Scott is still demanding an investigation into the matter. He sent a letter the same day to State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan and demanded a full investigation.
“I am deeply disappointed in the actions of Florida Altantic University (FAU) faculty that raises significant questions over students rights and the lessons being taught in our classrooms,” Scott wrote. “I am requesting a report of the incident, how it was handled and a statement of the university’s policies to ensure this type of ‘lesson’ will not occur again.”
“Whether the student was reprimanded or whether an apology was given is in many ways inconsequential to the larger issue of a professor’s poor judgement,” he continued. “The professor’s lesson was offensive, and even intolerant, to Christians and those of all faiths who deserve to be respected as Americans entitled to religious freedom.”