Finally, Ryan Rotela, the student hero of the “Jesus stomping” incident at Florida Atlantic University, has been vindicated. Fox News reports that FAU issued a formal apology to Rotela, who was facing academic charges after he complained about an assignment in which students were instructed to stomp on a sheet of paper bearing the name ‘Jesus.’
Corey King, the university’s dean of students, told reporters:
As a result, we feel it’s necessary to no longer offer this assignment or activity. We did not anticipate the hurt and pain it would cause in the community. [Emphasis added]
Well now it appears that FAU itself will continue to feel more “hurt and pain” as Florida Governor Rick Scott has reprimanded the university and is requesting an incident report on the entire “Jesus stomping” incident from Frank Brogan, Chancellor of the Florida University System.
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Governor Scott also had this to say about Rotela:
I just spoke to Ryan Rotela and applauded him for having the courage to stand up for his faith. 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.
The blazing fire from this incident may be extinguished but the smoke will continue. This is because, as of this writing, Professor Poole, the teacher responsible for the assignment, still has his job teaching “Cultural Communications” at FAU.
So with that in mind, I recommend Professor Poole trash his existing “Cultural Communications” class lesson plans and instead have his students study the dynamics of how this entire saga played out. They might then learn how “cultural communications” work in the real world, where just a few people have strongly held beliefs that they hold dear and are willing to stand up for, even fight and die for, if necessary.
The students would study the timeline of “hurt and pain” caused in the community by cultural insensitivity from an activist professor. They would learn how the local and national community rose up to defend a brave student who was wronged, first by the professor and then by the university.
Those would-be cultural communications lessons might be worth thousands of dollars in student loans. But wait, the most meaningful and important class lessons are still to come.
In my first Tatler post on this story, I asked readers to imagine Professor Poole had requested his students stomp on the name Mohammed instead of Jesus’ name. My new suggestion is for Poole’s students to write essays about what they think might have happened if they had been asked to do just that. Would the saga have taken a different turn? Would their classroom have been torched?
Students must use some “cultural communications” imagination to complete this exercise. They could also discuss the outcome if Professor Poole had asked them to stomp on the word “gay” or the name “Obama.” Most likely, either of those terms would have prompted a minor uprising at least. Then Professor Poole would have been fired immediately and that would have been the end of the story.
Finally, we have arrived at the most important lesson of all, the one taught so eloquently by Martin Niemoller, referenced in my second post. Let Ryan Rotela’s courage by a reminder of the importance of standing up for what is right and true, even when everyone else in the class remains seated.