Florida Atlantic University has recently come under fire due to a class activity in which students were asked to write “Jesus” on a piece of paper, put it on the floor in front of them, and stomp on it. It was supposed to teach something about culture and symbolism, and came from an official instructor’s manual.
Apparently this made several students uncomfortable, but one actually spoke out about the insulting and offensive nature of the assignment. Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon, says he picked up the paper and put it back on his desk. “I’m not going to be sitting in a class having my religious rights desecrated,” he told a local news station.
Rotela complained to the instructor’s supervisor -- and was subsequently suspended from class!
The University issued an apology last Friday night, and stated that no students were forced to participate in the stomping. They also denied that anyone was punished. The prepared statement read:
“We can confirm that no student has been expelled, suspended, or disciplined by the University as a result of any activity that took place during this class.”
Except that according to a letter written by Associate Dean Rozalia Williams, Rotela has been charged with several violations of the student code of conduct, and has been barred from attending the class or even communicating with other involved with the situation. According to the letter, Rotela engaged in “acts of verbal, written or physical abuse, threats, intimidation, harassment, coercion, or other conduct which threatens the health, safety, or welfare of any person.”
“In the interim, you may not attend class or contact any of the students involved in this matter -- verbally or electronically -- or by any other means,” Williams wrote to Rotela. “Please be advised that a Student Affairs hold may be placed on your records until final disposition of the complaint.”
That seems in direct conflict with the official statement from the school saying that no one had been disciplined as a result of this incident. I’m pretty sure that being told you’ve engaged in acts of violence for refusing to stomp on Jesus is some sort of reprimand or punishment.
Rotela claims the “threatening language” referred to in the letter occurred when he told the professor, “Don’t do that again,” and said, “You’ll be hearing from me.”
The school could not be reached for further comment or clarification.
Do you think this is an appropriate assignment for college students?