Society

Florida Atlantic University Professor Has Students Stomp on Paper with Word 'Jesus'

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A college in Florida is under scrutiny after a professor conducted a class lesson where students had to write the word "Jesus" on a piece of paper, throw it on the floor and stomp on it.

Gov. Rick Scott is now asking for an investigation into the assignment at a class in Florida Atlantic University. 

Things started to take a turn for the worst when the professor threw out a student for refusing to participate in it. 

Ryan Rotela, a union at the school, said he is a devout Mormon. He said his refusal to participate in it led to him being suspended.

"Anytime you stomp on something it shows that you believe the something has no value. So if you were to stomp on the word Jesus, it says that the word has no value," Rotela said. 

He said the assignment, which was taught in Dr. Deandre Poole's intercultural communication class, was supposed to demonstrate how powerful words and symbols are.

"This exercise is a bit sensitive, but really drives home the point that even though symbols are arbitrary, they take on very strong and emotional meanings," the exercise reads.

"Most will hesitate. Ask why they can't step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture."

Rotela said two days after he was kicked out he went to speak with the head of the department about the incident. He expected to receive sympathy, but instead was suspended.

"While at times the topics discussed may be sensitive," Communications Department Director Noemi Marin said, "a university environment is a venue for such dialogue and debate."

Only after Rotela returned with an attorney was he able to convince the school to take back the disciplinary charge.

"He apologized in person for what happened and how everything went out of control," Rotela said. 

Soon, the school released a statement on their website, calling the lesson "insensitive an unacceptable," but nothing has been written by the professor.

"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."

"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. No students will be disciplined in any way related to this exercise, either inside or outside the classroom."

But Governor Scott said Tuesday that an apology from the school might not be enough.

"I am requesting a report of the incident, how it was handled and a statement of the university's policies to ensure this type of 'lesson' will not occur again," he wrote to State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan.

The governor later called Rotela to talk about the incident.

"I told him that it took great conviction and bravery to stand up and say what he was asked to do was wrong, and went against what he believed in."

Sources: UPI, Sun Sentinel