Florida Atlantic University has issued a formal apology to a student that was facing academic charges after he complained about a professor who ordered the class to write the name “Jesus” on pieces of paper and then stomp on the paper.
Ryan Rotela, a student at FAU, was accused of violating the student code of conduct after he reported his instructor to university administrators. He was removed from the class, ordered not to contact fellow students, and was facing possible suspension or expulsion – pending the outcome of a student hearing.
But after a massive national outcry, the university reversed course Monday afternoon and cleared the devout Mormon student of all accusations.
“There will be no punishment,” said Hiram Sasser, Rotela’s attorney. “They are wiping the record clean for Ryan. They are reinstating him for a plan to complete the course without that professor.”
Sasser, the director of litigation for the Liberty Institute, told Fox News that the university was deeply apologetic.
“The university apologized profusely,” Sasser said. “One of the university officials told us lots of people were offended by the assignment and they were very sorry about that.”
Corey King, the university’s dean of students, told Fox News they could not comment on the specifics of the Rotela incident – but reiterated their remorse for the offensive class assignment.
“First and foremost, we are deeply sorry for any hurt regarding this incident, any insensitivity that may have been seen by the community and the greater community at large,” King said. “We are deeply sorry.”
While King could not speak directly to Rotela’s standing at the university he did say that “upon reflection, the university has decided not to move forward with any disciplinary action against any student regarding this matter.”
The class in question was taught by Deandre Poole, who also happens to be vice chair of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party.
“Have the students write the name JESUS in big letters on a piece of paper,” the lesson reads. “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. Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.”
King said it was obvious the lesson caused “hurt and pain” within the community and within the university’s population.
“As a result, we feel it’s necessary to no longer offer this assignment or activity,” he said. “We did not anticipate the hurt and pain it would cause in the community.
As for Poole’s future at the university – King said he could not comment on employment matters.
“We embrace academic freedom – but that comes with responsibility and we recognize that the activity at that time was insensitive,” he said.
Sasser said university officials emphasized that Poole is an untenured professor.
“Someone at Florida Atlantic University was able to look at the issues and realize the professor had done a great offense – not only to Ryan – but to many people across the country,” Sasser said.
Rotela told Fox News he was satisfied with the university’s handling of the incident.
“It was good that they apologized and realized what they did was wrong,” he said.
He was also thankful for the outpouring of support from the nations’ Christian community.
“I have two words – thank you,” he said. “If it wasn’t for all the Christians and the open-minded people who decided to call the university – I would be sitting in a room getting punished, getting sanctioned from the school and getting expelled from the university.”
Sasser said the outcome of Rotela’s case should serve as a lesson for other Americans facing religious persecution.
“It just takes one person to stand up against this type of aggressive nonsense,” he told Fox News. “It also takes like-minded people standing together to say we are not going to tolerate this type of religious bigotry.”
“When we all stand together – we win,” Sasser added.