FAU Professor In â€śJesus Stompingâ€ť Incident Placed On Administrative Leave
BOCA RATON (CBS4) â€“ The professor embroiled in a educational firestorm over his classroom practices has been placed on administrative leave.
Officials at Florida Atlantic University announced the move against Dr. Deandre Poole after receiving a complaint from student Ryan Rotella, who claims he was unfairly suspended from class for not writing the word â€ťJesusâ€ť on a piece of paper and stomping on it as part of a class exercise.
The schools said removing Dr. Poole from the classroom was â€śfor safety reasonsâ€ť after the incident garnered a lot of media attention.
The controversy has even caught the attention of Governor Rick Scott, who called on University System Chancellor Frank Brogan to thoroughly investigate Rotellaâ€™s claims.
â€śAs we enter the week memorializing the events of Christâ€™s passion, this incident gave me great concern over the lessons we are teaching our students,â€ť Scott wrote in the letter.
Rotella, a deeply religious Mormon, told CBS12 that he was offended and refused to participate in the exercise.
â€śAnytime you stomp on something it shows that you believe that something has no value. So if you were to stomp on the word Jesus, it says that the word has no value,â€ť said Rotella.
Rotella said he voiced his concerns to his teacherâ€™s supervisor and later learned he was suspended from the class.
FAU said Dr. Poole was conducting a classroom exercise from a textbook entitled â€śIntercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach, 5th Editionâ€ť and released this statement to CBS12: â€ťFaculty and students at academic institutions pursue knowledge and engage in open discourse. While at times the topics discussed may be sensitive, a university environment is a venue for such dialogue and debate.â€ť
Governor Scott inquired about the allegations because it raised questions about â€śthe lessons being taught in our classrooms.â€ť He said he wanted a report on the incident and how it was handled, as well as a statement of the universityâ€™s policies to ensure such â€ślessonsâ€ť donâ€™t occur again.
State University System spokeswoman Kim Wilmath said officials would work closely with FAU in preparing a response to the governorâ€™s concerns.
â€śThe State University System prides itself not only on its commitment to academic freedom, but at the same time, itâ€™s awesome responsibility to the people it serves,â€ť she said in a written statement. â€śWe are gratified to know that FAU has apologized for any offense the exercise has caused and has pledged never to use this exercise again. Clearly, there were things the university could have done differently by its own acknowledgement.â€ť
The governor didnâ€™t seem satisfied with the apology, saying it was â€śin many ways inconsequential to the larger issue of a professorâ€™s poor judgment.â€ť
â€śThe professorâ€™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,â€ť Scott said in his letter. â€śOur public higher educational institutions are designed to shape the minds of Floridaâ€™s future leaders. We should provide educational leadership that is respectful of religious freedom of all people.â€ť