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.
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 Approach, 5th 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:
To read the FoxNews Radio story, click on the following link:
To read the FAU administration’s statement, click on the following link:
To access The Motley Monk’s webpage, click on the following link: