Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, suspended student Marshall Polston on March 24 for the remainder of the 2016-2017 academic year.
Polston, a self-identified Christian, had some conflict with Professor Areej Zufari, who teaches Muslim Humanities at the college, notes the Central Florida Post.
Polston told the news site that the Muslim professor said Jesus' crucifixion was a hoax, and that Jesus' disciples did not believe that he (Jesus) was God:
It was very off-putting and flat out odd. I’ve traveled the Middle East, lectured at the Salahaddin University, and immersed myself in Muslim culture for many years. Honestly, it reminded me of some of the more radical groups I researched when abroad.
Whether religious or not, I believe even those with limited knowledge of Christianity can agree that according to the text, Jesus was crucified and his followers did believe he was divine… that he was "God." Regardless, to assert the contrary as academic fact is not supported by the evidence.
According to Polston, he challenged Zufari in class over the points mentioned above, and subsequently got a 52 percent essay grade from Zufari.
"I was upset, understandably," Polston said. "I’ve never gotten anything less than straight A’s, so I was really interested in figuring out how to possibly improve or at least understand the grade."
An unidentified Muslim student in the class, according to Polston, voiced support for Sharia Law:
He stated that a good punishment for gays, adulterers, and thieves was the removal of a certain body part, as determined by Sharia Law. It took a few seconds for me to realize that he actually said that, especially after what this community has faced with the tragic loss of life at Pulse.
Polston said Zufari jokingly told the Muslim student how he was "in time-out" or something similar.
An unidentified student reported the incident and the Muslim student to the FBI.
Polston recalled that he was subsequently called to the Dean of Safety’s office regarding his possible suspension for making the college "unsafe:"
They made it clear that they had not gotten a report about what the student said, and were more concerned about the danger I was causing to the campus. What danger? A difference of opinion in a college classroom is nothing out of the ordinary and certainly not dangerous.
It was surreal and degrading. The bad grade was upsetting, but they were literally refusing to acknowledge the dangers posed by someone who advocated chopping off body parts on campus.
The Central Florida Post reached out to Rollins College and Zufari for comment, but did not receive a response.
The college later suspended Polston and told him not to set foot on campus or have any direct or indirect contact with Zufari.
The suspension letter said that Polston's "actions have constituted a threat of disruption within the operations of the College and jeopardize the safety and well-being of members of the College community" and himself.
Zufari filed a police report accusing Polston of violating the suspension by showing up on campus, notes The College Fix:
Student ______ stated to me that she looked out the back glass door of the classroom and saw Mr. Polston staring into the room. He briefly stopped then proceeded on his way. Campus safety was immediately notified and responded at 19:36 hours.
A search was conducted but Mr. Polston was not found. Ms. Zufari’s students were upset and did not feel comfortable being in the class. Ms. Zufari dismissed her class early at 20:07 hours.
Polston told the Central Florida Post that he and his grandfather were traveling to Daytona Beach at the time. He gave the news site a receipt from a restaurant, and video stills from a restaurant surveillance camera that reportedly show him at the eatery during class time.
On March 13, a Facebook user with the handle Areej Zufari, who works at Rollins College, asked for advice on the ACLU of Florida's Facebook page:
I need help and advice, pretty please. I have ANOTHER students making my life hell this semester. This one is spewing hatred at me, de-railing class, and just sent me a hateful email threatening me. (I am an Arab-Armerican, Muslim female who teaches at the college level.)
The hate speech in the email would not be tolerated if it was targeting other minorities. So, what are my rights? This guy is making my life hell (I am very afraid of this guy.) And this situation is directly interfering with my ability to do my job. I want to know if there is a way to hold the individual responsible for his harassment and hate speech. Any ideas? Thank you!! : )