(Photo: Facebook/Florida Atlantic University)
A Florida academic institution has put a professor who told his students to write "Jesus" on a piece of paper and stomp on it on administrative leave.
Florida Atlantic University announced Friday that Dr. Deandre Poole, the professor at the center of the controversy, was placed on leave for safety reasons.
"As a result of the reaction to a recent exercise in Dr. Poole's intercultural communications class, the instructor's personal safety has been compromised," said the university in a statement.
"Because of this, Dr. Poole will not teach any classes, conduct office hours, or be present at any of FAU's campuses or sites. Alternate instructors have been assigned to teach Dr. Poole's classes. Students have been notified and classes will continue as scheduled."
Last month, it was reported at various online outlets that Ryan Rotela, a junior at FAU, was suspended for refusing to participate in a class assignment from a textbook for an Intercultural Communications class titled Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach, 5th Edition.
The assignment called for students to write the name "Jesus" on a piece of paper, put the paper on the ground, and stomp on it. Rotela told local media that he went to school officials to protest the assignment.
"Anytime you stomp on something it shows that you believe that something has no value … So if you were to stomp on the word Jesus, it says that the word has no value," said Rotela.
Last week, FAU released a statement apologizing for the incident and promising that such a class exercise would never be performed again.
They also stated that Poole was not affiliated with the university and that contrary to numerous reports, no student was ever suspended for refusing to participate in the class exercise.
In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Poole stated that he never wanted any student to "stomp on Jesus" and that he was simply "doing my job" by following the course material. He also said he received many death threats.
"One of the threats said that I might find myself hanging from a tree … My safety has been in question. There are churches that want to march against me. There are people calling on the university to fire me," said Poole.
"I see how the name Jesus is symbolic. For people like myself, Jesus is my lord and savior. It's how I identify myself as a Christian."
Poole is a member of Lighthouse Worship Center Church of God in Christ, Fort Lauderdale, where he belongs to the congregation's usher board.
While Poole is part of the leadership of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party, the organization's website has apparently recently removed his profile from their officers page.