On February 25, 2013, Deandre Poole—an adjunct instructor of communications at Florida Atlantic University (FAU)—engaged his class in an exercise to teach them about the power of certain words and the way that power is based on cultural values. Following the textbook’s instructions, Poole had students write the name “Jesus” on a piece of paper, place the paper on the floor, and step on it.
The exercise offended one student, who exchanged words with Poole. In turn, Poole reported the student to FAU academic administrators not for his reaction, but the way he treated Poole. When this student went public with his grievances, some media outlets sympathetically portrayed him as facing FAU charges for refusing to “stomp on Jesus.”
The protest sparked interest in the story.
Florida’s Governor, Rick Scott, weighed in. He wrote FAU’s President calling the lesson “offensive, even intolerant” and requested a report concerning policies “to ensure this type of ‘lesson’ will never occur again.” U.S. Senator Marco Rubio also weighed in, asking why the student was suspended for “respectfully expressing his religious and conscientious objections” to the classroom exercise. The Motley Monk posted about the matter here at “The American Catholic.”
Poole denied using the word “stomp” and FAU academic administrators denied punishing any student. Yet, Poole was placed on leave and barred from campus, FAU citing threats against him, presumably from all of those right-wingnut, gun-toting Christian zealots.
As it’s said, “the rest is history.”
“Really, what does it matter now?” Hillary Clinton would ask.
According to Inside Higher Ed, FAU academic administrators have rehired Poole. Furthermore, they stated that Poole had done nothing wrong and any decision about the future use of the exercise would be based upon a FAU Faculty Senate investigation.
What’s that mean?
Those administrators have reneged on their previous statement that the exercise would not be used again:
Based on the offensive nature of the exercise, we will not use it again and have issued an apology to the community. It was insensitive and unacceptable. We continue to apologize to all the people who were offended and deeply regret this situation has occurred.
Why did FAU’s academic administrators back down?
Perhaps it’s for the reason that the FAU Faculty Senate report finds Poole’s classroom exercise entirely appropriate. The report then took aim at senior FAU administrators, writing how—by not defending Poole—they “dismally failed” to protect academic freedom. What irked members of the Faculty Senate, in particular, is the extent to which external political pressure (read: Republican conservatives) influenced decisions that were based upon early media reports concerning what transpired but did not happen as reported.
Poole says “I’m ecstatic,” adding:
I regret the misinformation that was out there and the way the story was characterized. I wish everyone had all the information to form a more reasonable conclusion…. Members of the public need to be reminded that a university is an institution of higher learning, and is supposed to be a safe place for engaging in controversial issues. If we can’t have these conversations at the university, where else are we going to have them?
In the name of protecting academic freedom, then, “stomping” on Jesus’ name is absolutely “out” at FAU. “Stepping” on Jesus’ name is definitely “in.”
For students to understand better the power of certain words and the way that power is based on cultural values.
Believe it or not, people are going to pay tuition for this communications lesson, one that can be learned for free. Just state in public something that’s not politically correct.
Today, this is what passes for “higher education.”
Others might call it a denying “freedom of speech.” Or, better yet, a “racket.”
To read The Motley Monk’s previous post about the FAU incident, click on the following link:
To read the Inside Higher Ed article, click on the following link: