A Florida Atlantic University professor who ordered his class to write the name ‘Jesus’ on pieces of paper and then stomp on it – will return to the classroom.
Deandre Poole had been placed on leave in March — not because of the assignment – but because of his personal safety. The university said he will only teach online courses for the time being due to security concerns. And the controversial course will no longer be taught.
FAU released a statement to Fox News noting the decision “was made after careful thought, due diligence and input from students, faculty and administration.”
“I understand this decision may not be popular with all members of the community,” FAU interim dean Heather Coltman said in a written statement. “But it was based on months of thorough research and consideration.”
The university’s administration also said it “will have an ongoing dialogue with the faculty to address issues of academic freedom and responsibility within the FAU community.”
The president of the university’s faculty union told the Palm Beach Post they were thrilled with the school’s decision.
“It’s a good sign that the university’s turning around, that they’re not only upholding his job but academic freedom,” said Christopher Robe, president of FAU’s United Faculty of Florida chapter. We’re pleasantly surprised.”
Poole, who also serves as vice chair of the Palm Beach County Democratic party, created a national firestorm after he ordered his class to stomp on ‘Jesus’.
Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon was in the classroom and refused to obey the instructor’s directions. When he complained, Rotela was banned from the classroom and charged with violating the student code of conduct.
After Rotela retained the legal services of the Liberty Institute, the university had a change of heart – profusely apologizing and promising to clear his record.
Hiram Sasser, director of litigation at Liberty Institute, was magnanimous in the university’s decision.
“The only statement we have is: we believe in grace, mercy and second chances,” he told Fox News.
The controversial incident led Fla. Gov. Rick Scott to investigate the classroom assignment, saying he was “deeply disappointed.”
“As we enter the week memorializing the events of Christ’s passion, this incident gave me great concern over the lessons we are teaching our students,” Scott wrote in the letter to Chancellor Frank Brogan. “The professor’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.”
After the story went viral, the university released a video statement from Charles Brown, the school’s senior vice president of student affairs.
“On behalf of all us here at FAU, we are deeply sorry for any hurt this incident might have caused our students, people in the community and beyond,” Brown said. “As an institution of higher education, we embrace academic freedom. but with that comes a level of responsibility which we did not uphold.”
Brown said the lesson would no longer be used at FAU.
“It was insensitive and deeply hurtful and we are deeply sorry,” he said.
The university’s faculty senate appointed their own committee t0 investigate whether officials had violated academic freedom by banning the lesson without consulting with them.