Remain Calm, Etc: The Stomp On Jesus Kerfuffle
Posted May 2, 2013on:
Greetings from South Florida, where the fun simply never stops.
Back in March, a professor at Florida Atlantic University held a classroom exercise which was taken from a textbook entitled Intercultural Communication, A Contextual Approach. The textbook and accompanying instructor’s manual were written by a man named Jim Neuliep, a professor at Saint Norbert’s College. Sr. Norbert’s is a private, Catholic liberal arts college located in DePere, Wisconsin. Mr/ Neuliep has used the exercise with his students in the above referenced Catholic college without incident or controversy. Apparently, no one else has had a problem with the exercise in the other institutes of higher learning that have used the book, either. Here it is, straight from the instructor’s manual:
“This exercise is a bit sensitive, but really drives home the point that even though symbols are arbitrary, they take on very strong and emotional meanings. Have the students write the name JESUS in big letters on a piece of paper. Ask the students to stand up and put the paper on the floor in front of them with the name facing up. Ask the students to think about it for a moment. After a brief period of silence, instruct them to step on the paper. Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.
The point of the exercise is to engender discussion of the importance of symbols, and our emotional attachments. The author states that most students are hesitant to step (not stomp) on the paper, and that asking them about the reluctance leads to a healthy class discussion.
Earlier this year, FAU professor DeAndre Poole offered the exercise to his class on a voluntary basis. No one was forced to participate. In one sense, the exercise worked like a charm, as there has been no end of conversation subsequent to this event. It seems, however, that the voluntary nature was unsatisfactory to at least one student. Junior Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon, not only declined to participate, but also punched a fist into his open hand and stated that he wished that he could punch the professor. Unsurprisingly, that bought him a suspension from the university. Mr. Rotela handled the news of his suspension by shrieking that he had been punished for his steadfast refusal to stomp on Jesus. At that point, all hell broke loose.
Needless to say, all of the fundie churches, aided and abetted by the Tea Party, rallied to Ryan’s defense. Rev. Mark Boykin, (The Church of All Nations), Ren. Nesl Dozier (Worldwide Christian Church), and Danita Kilkullin (Ft. Lauderdale Tea Party) held a rally of a whopping 175 people on campus in support of Neal. Local conservatives (and there are not millions of them), gleefully pointed out that Poole is the vice-chairman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party, which of course proves that all Democrats are heathens. Even our beloved governor got into the act, labeling the event as intolerant, and demanded a complete report. (Take that, heathens! The Governor wants a report.)
Despite the fact that Rotela was actually suspended for threatening a professor, FAU caved under the ranting, raving, and ongoing media circus. Rotela was reinstated, and the university actually issued an apology to him. Next, the administration removed the offending exercise from the course. As for Professor Poole, he in on leave of absence because of the ongoing threats being made to him.
Anyone with such utterly delicate sensibilities is ill-served in a public university. No state university should ever bend itself to the will of religious zealots of any stripe, nor should they compromise the First Amendment. There are plenty of non-secular colleges and university out there that would welcome such scholars, but avoid St. Norbert’s, where they actually ask you to think.
This is an open thread.
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