A small liberal arts college in Florida has gained some unwanted attention from conservative news outlets after a dispute arose between a self-proclaimed conservative Christian student and his Middle Eastern Humanities professor.
Marshall Polston, 20, studies at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, and claims the school suspended him unfairly after challenging his professor, Dr. Areeje Zufari, over statements about Christianity. Heat Street reports that in addition to the suspension, the professor also reported Polston to campus safety and canceled class because she claimed he was making her feel "unsafe."
According to Polston, the professor harbored anti-Christian views and made them known very early in the class, going so far as to assert that Jesus was never crucified and his disciples didn't believe in his divinity.
After challenging Zufari's statements, Polston alleges he was punished with a failing grade on an essay which the professor refused to explain. Polston said it was after he tried to find out why he was failed that he was reported to the college's Dean of Safety.
When the Middle Eastern Humanities class resumed, Polston and an unnamed Muslim student reportedly got into an argument over the role of Sharia law. Polston claims the student made comments that could be construed as supporting inhumane treatment of non-Muslims. The Central Florida Post also reports that an anonymous student reported the unnamed Muslim student to the FBI for his comment.
Following the class session on Sharia law, Polston says he was summoned to the Dean of Safety's office because his actions were making Rollins feel unsafe. Polston alleges he was told he would face a possible suspension if he continued.
According to the Central Florida Post, Polston was disturbed by this turn of events:
[The Dean's office] made it clear 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.
Rollins has not responded to requests for comments, but Polston's suspension did come through, and the letter he received suspending him has been published online.
Slate writer Jacob Brogan, in a roundup of conservative news stories, notices a couple of key facts missing from the conservative media. There is little information about what the unnamed Muslim student actually said or the context around the statement. Nor has a single conservative news outlet reached out to Zubari for comment.
According to the Dean of Student's letter of suspension to Polston, his "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]."
Polston was suspended and blocked from any contact with Zufari for the rest of the academic year.