Updated: FAU instructor in controversial Jesus assignment defends himself on website

Sun Sentinel

Deandre Poole, the instructor in the controversial Jesus exercise at Florida Atlantic University, said he is being vilified for merely doing his job.

While a student reported to the media that he instructed the class to “stomp on Jesus,” Poole said in an interview with the Inside Higher Ed website that portrayal is inaccurate. He said he asked students to “step” on a piece of paper that had Jesus written on it, using an exercise from a guide in the instructor’s manual for the textbook.

Poole told Inside Higher Ed he had used the exercise before without problems.

But when he conducted the exercise about a month ago, one student expressed strong objection.  Poole told the website that after class, the student came up to him, hit his balled fist into his other hand and said “he wanted to hit me,” the instructor said. The student didn’t hit him, but Poole said he was alarmed and notified campus security and filed a report on the student.

Some media reports have mischaracterized that incident, Poole said, by reporting that Rotela was suspended because he refused to participate in the exercise. Most students in the class refused to participate, he said.

The student who voice objection, Ryan Rotela, told the Sun Sentinel that he received the discipline because he voiced his concern to Poole after class. Rotela said he threatened to contact Poole’s supervisor and the media if the instructor didn’t apologize, but made no threats to the his safety.

While conservative blogs and social media postings have suggested that Poole is anti-Christian, Poole said that’s far from the truth.

 “I am very religious,” he told Inside Higher Ed. "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."

FAU initially defended the exercise but apologized after it attracted national attention. Gov. Rick Scott has asked the State University System to investigate what happened. Officials couldn't be immediately reached Monday morning for comment. Poole has been placed on administrative leave Friday due to threats to his safety.

"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,” Poole told the website. "And it's all for doing my job. I was doing my job."

You can read more on the Inside Higher Ed website.

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