Who really deserves to be stomped on?

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Across the state from Florida Gulf Coast University—so far, this year’s “March Madness” Cinderella team—a student at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), Ryan Rotella, claims to have been suspended from his Intercultural Communications class.

The problem?

According to CBS12 News, Rotella is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  His professor, Dr. Deandre Poole, asked students to write the word “Jesus” on a piece of paper and step on it.  Rotella refused, saying the act was insulting to his faith.

Surely, if Dr. Poole had students write “liberal activists,” “gays,” illegal immigrants,” “maggot-infested dopers,” “Obama,” or any other number of names or phrases on a piece of paper and step on it, and the students refused, they would be commended and Dr. Poole would be put on notice, no?

Rotella should be commended and the professor “put on notice,” no?

Let’s not forget, however, this is contemporary American higher education and not just as it being enacted in classrooms in the sunny State of Florida.

Conservative news outlets and websites jumped on the story, festooning their headlines with eye-catching statements including “Professor Makes Students ‘Stomp on Jesus.'”

To protect the institution’s “brand” from these right-wing media assaults, FAU’s administration issued the following statement:

A recent classroom exercise in an Intercultural Communication course at Florida Atlantic University has attracted public attention and has aroused concern on the part of some individuals and groups. The exercise was based on an example presented in a study guide to the textbook Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach5th Edition, written by a college professor who is unaffiliated with FAU. The course is taught by a non-tenured instructor on an annual appointment.

Contrary to some media reports, no students were forced to take part in the exercise; the instructor told all of the students in the class that they could choose whether or not to participate.

While we do not comment on personnel matters, and while student privacy laws prevent us from commenting on any specific student at the University, we can confirm that no student has been expelled, suspended or disciplined by the University as a result of any activity that took place during this class.

What is intriguing about this story is not that  FAU’s statement doesn’t contest the fact that Dr. Poole did invite the class to participate in this activity.  Nor is it intriguing that FAU’s statement contradicts Rotella’s, in that “no student has been…suspended.”  No, that’s all a sideshow, as those two items deflect from what really is interesting, namely, what must be going on in the minds of professors, like Dr. Poole, who believe they must introduce an activity like stomping on the name of Jesus into their classrooms.

Yes, they surely will argue, academic freedom guarantees their right to “push the boundaries” to get students “to think for themselves.”  In light of this lofty ideal, who should give one hoot about offending Christians?

Yet, this is to overlook what is intriguing about this story: The fact that professors don’t need to engage students’ feet in the activity of stomping on pieces of paper containing the name “Jesus” to learn to think for themselves.  After all, isn’t that  organ located at the opposite end of the human anatomy?

Then, too, there’s the administration’s “apology.”  FAU’s administration wrote:

This exercise will not be used again. The University holds dear its core values. We sincerely apologize for any offense this caused. Florida Atlantic University respects all religions and welcomes people of all faiths, backgrounds and beliefs.

Now, this  apology is very interesting.  Note how, as with so many so-called “apologies” today, the activity that’s being apologized for is “any offense this caused.”  The act itself—stomping on the name of Jesus in an FAU  classroom—doesn’t merit an apology.  No, what requires an apology is that some close-minded or perhaps even bigoted party or parties, like Ryan Rotella, took offense.  Apparently, Dr. Poole and others like Dr. Poole never “intend” to cause offense by introducing two-footed activities into their classrooms to get their students to think for themselves.

Perhaps students like Ryan Rotella should stomp on Dr. Poole and FAU administration as well.

 

 

To read the CBS12 article, click on the following link:
http://cbs12.com/news/top-stories/stories/fau-student-says-he-suspended-not-stepping-jesus-6034.shtml

To read the FoxNews Radio story, click on the following link:
http://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/professor-makes-students-stomp-on-jesus.html

To read the FAU administration’s statement, click on the following link:
http://www.fau.edu/explore/homepage-stories/2013_03message.php

To access The Motley Monk’s webpage, click on the following link:
http://www.richard-jacobs-blog.com/index.html

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17 Comments

  1. This story isn’t passing the smell test for me. The student says he was “suspended from the class”. What does that mean? I don’t think “suspended” is the right word. As for the act itself, it makes sense in an Intercultural Communications class. I know that the whole radical professor challenging students assumptions thing is trite, actually laughable, but presumably that’s going to be an important part of intercultural communications. If you want to appreciate why Muslims get offended by acts against the Koran, you can probably stir up the same feelings by stomping on the name of Jesus. Am I saying that becaue I want to stomp on the name of Jesus? Of course not. Am I equating all religions? No. I’m saying that intercultural communication requires you to empathize with the other person, and examining your own assumptions is an important part of that.

  2. Why not just explain the act and engage the students by writing how other individuals and groups might respond? That would be a “two-fer”: encouraging thought and writing. Perhaps that’s what’s laughable: stomping on pieces of paper is viewed as more educational than thinking and writing are!

  3. Pinky, it is no part of any class to have students engage in acts against their religion. Presumably the Professor would understand that if one of his students wrote “Obama” on a piece of paper and requested that he stamp on it.

  4. Thanks for reminding me about the Japanese practice with the icons… I had read about it years and years ago, but had forgotten. Have to say it would be pretty effective with true Catholics.

    Pinky… Did you watch the videos that go with the story, read the story. It was all over the news down there in FL. Apparently he was suspended from the class after complaining to the professor’s supervisor. Not until after following up on the complaint did the school issue the so-called apology.

  5. I would show up at the administrator’s office with an ax handle and go Buford Pusser on the place.

  6. I would show up at the administrator’s office with an ax handle and go Buford Pusser on the place.

    We can have some stylistic variation on that point.

  7. People are always pushing the boundaries. It seems we’re reaching a dead end academically. When people resort to blasphemy like that it demonstrates we haven’t got anthing worthwhile left to do.

  8. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but our Holy Church is graced by courageous men and women that stood up to the demands of tyrants that threatened certain death if they didn’t renounce the One True God.
    O.T. and throughout the centuries.
    The context is different ofcourse, however in an ever growing anti-Christian landscape what Ryan decided to do is commendable.
    As mentioned by Monk, engage the topic in speech and writing. This physical “step” has painful history associated with it.

  9. Why not stomp on Mohamed or Martin Luther King? Jesus is easy pickings for left wing professors, because Christians let it be that way. Too many believe that being Christian simply means being nice and remaining neutral and faceless on all things. Jesus’ Crucifixion and the the countless Christians martyred for their faith even to this day, stand in testimony to the folly of such a notion. Far too many choose to ignore the wisdom of Saint Paul when he said, ‘Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect’.

  10. Jesus will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

    He will justly forsake rascals that cast slurs on, and brawled against, His religion.

  11. John-
    I feel the angst.
    We are Trusting in God by standing up publicly when assaulted,( HHS mandate, abortion…) however tit for tat won’t advance the cause for Christ.
    Having the courage of St. M. Kolbe, St. Peter, St. Joan of Arc and the list goes on, is the way proven.
    Yes, like a lamb led to the slaughter.
    This apparent weakness however, is the Power of Almighty God working on the conversions of countless pagans.
    Trust in this method is holiness.

  12. To the YouTube post.
    Standing Up is expected from all Christians when Our Lord is blasphemed.
    Thank you for your time and talent to stand at the foot of the Cross.
    The majority of Christians run and hide.
    Sound familiar?

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