Professor Poole, you may recall, found himself at the center of a national controversy after he instructed his class to write the name JESUS on a sheet of paper and step on it back in March. One student complained, the story caught fire, and Poole was eventually placed on paid leave.
After following the story as it unfolded earlier this year, I thought it would be fitting to now post the Sun Sentinel report on the contract renewal, proving once again that we live in truly strange times. My favorite parts of this story are in bold:
Poole, a non-tenured communications instructor, was placed on paid leave in late March after receiving death threats for an assignment that got dubbed “stomp on Jesus” in the national media.
But FAU officials said Friday his annual contract will be renewed. He will teach this summer and fall online only while the university assesses whether his safety is in jeopardy, said Heather Coltman, interim dean of the College of Arts and Letters.
She said the university made the decision after talking with students in his class, faculty members and a security consultant.
“We thought it was in the university’s best interest,” Coltman said. Coltman added, “I understand this decision may not be popular with all members of the community, but it was based on months of thorough research and consideration.”
Poole said he’s ecstatic to have his job back. He said people mistakenly believed the assignment was anti-Christian. He said he never used the word “stomp” and followed verbatim an assignment in a textbook written by a professor at a Christian college. ”I was extremely alarmed by all the misinformation that was out there,” he said. “So many individuals rushed to judgment without having all the facts.”
During a class assignment on symbolism, Poole asked students to write “J-E-S-U-S” on a piece of paper, place it on the floor and them step on it. The assignment angered one student who complained to administrators and the media.
FAU initially defended the assignment but once it started receiving criticism in the national media, the school reversed course and apologized. It promised never to use the assignment again.
That pledge alarmed faculty, who say administrators don’t make decisions about what course work is taught.
“My intent was not to tell faculty what they could or couldn’t do but to defuse the situation,” former President Mary Jane Saunders said.
Saunders resigned as FAU president in May, citing negative media attention of this incident and several other controversies.
It’s unclear whether the Jesus assignment will be used again. Coltman said the university will have a series of meetings on academic freedom and how to best deal with subject matter that might be controversial.
Doesn’t this report just provide a lovely little window into the state of education as it exists today?
Personally speaking, I hope this assignment will be used again for several classes but that this time the names MOSES, MARTIN LUTHER KING, OBAMA and MOHAMMED will be used as the stomp material. Then the university will again be forced to determine just how “valuable an asset” is Professor Poole.
Furthermore, there is one itty-bitty fact that the Sun Sentinel piece omitted that might have bern of interest to its readers: Professor Poole is the vice-chairman of the Palm Beach County Democrat Party.
But that fact is of such low importance you can understand why it was not reported. In all my earlier postings on this incident, I mentioned that fact ALWAYS seemed to be omitted whenever mainstream national or local media reported on what became known as the “Jesus stomping” incident.
However, there was one exception. There is a Palm Beach County-based web site called the BizPacReview, which has what these days is called “a conservative slant” in its reporting. And once again, BizPacReview did report Poole’s party connection n in its latest report on the new contract.
One has to ask whether that detail would have been systematically omitted from mainstream media coverage if Poole had been a Republican Party vice-chairman. For that matter, would his contract even have been renewed.
These are just two silly questions that come to mind in a Bizarro World gone mad. And questions to which readers of this site already know the answers.