Communications Professor Deandre Poole’s status at FAU is still unknown

Chastity Pascoe

After being placed on administrative leave as a result of a controversial classroom exercise, Communications Professor Deandre Poole is awaiting a recommendation by the Provost to renew his contract. Photo courtesy of FAU.
After being placed on administrative leave as a result of a controversial classroom exercise, Communications Professor Deandre Poole is awaiting a recommendation by the Provost to renew his contract. Photo courtesy of FAU.

What started out as a routine exercise gave Communications Professor Deandre Poole an uncertain future.

It’s been four months since the “Jesus Stomping” exercise and Poole’s career status is still unknown. Poole is awaiting a recommendation by the provost that will enable him to teach at the university once again.

The classroom exercise that involved writing “Jesus” on a  piece of paper and stepping on it received nationwide coverage when a Mormon FAU student in Poole’s class, Ryan Rotela, refused to participate.

The current progress being made toward that decision is unclear.

“No decisions have been made and there are no deadlines in the process,” Scott Silversten, assistant vice president of university communications, said through email.

The UP previously reported that Rotela allegedly didn’t participate in the exercise along with other students, but he later harassed Poole saying he “wanted to hit him” and was reprimanded.

Davie Student Affairs Administrator Rozalia Williams charged Rotela with violating Regulation 4.007 of the Student Code of Conduct –– specifically Section 5 Letter N, which cites forms of abuse, threats, or intimidation as violating the code.

Although FAU originally backed Poole, the university put him on paid leave for safety reasons,  banned the exercise, and replaced Williams.

The UP asked about Williams’ current job status, but according to Silversten, “the University does not comment on individual personnel situations.”

FAU’s chapter of the United Faculty of Florida –– a group that represents Florida’s higher education faculty –– expressed their discontent toward the university for making the decision to ban the exercise without their input. The faculty union and other protesters publicly stood by Poole and the right to academic freedom after previous protesters opposed Poole.

Protestors in support of communications instructor Deandre Poole demonstrate on the steps of the Administration Building Tuesday, April 9. The controversial "Jesus stomping" exercise and subsequent suspension of Poole brought protestors condemning and supporting the instructor to the campus. Photo by Ryan Murphy.
Protestors in support of communications instructor Deandre Poole demonstrate on the steps of the Administration Building Tuesday, April 9. The controversial “Jesus stomping” exercise and subsequent suspension of Poole brought protestors condemning and supporting the instructor to the campus. Photo by Ryan Murphy.

Months later, the faculty continue to stand by Poole.

“All faculty [support Poole] because it could be them,” Chris Robe, the president of FAU’s faculty union, said when asked if Poole has the union’s support.

Poole also has the support of 20 of the 23 students that were present in the class when the exercise took place. These 20 students all signed a letter of support for Poole stating that he is a man of “high moral values” and that the exercise followed suit with university classes whose goals are to teach students “how to think, not what to think.”

“I have a passion for cultures and journalism and I know he did too,” Alejandra Parada, one of the students that signed the letter and a senior intercultural communications major who took three of his classes, said. ”It was exciting to work with him for three classes.”

Olivia Guerrero, another student who signed the letter, commented on a web article by The Conservative Tree House that was critical of Poole and the exercise.

”I am actually a student in the class and was present during the lesson. The assignment was not meant to bash religion in anyway as Dr. Poole is himself a Christian,” she said. “The intended lesson of the assignment was to signify the importance of symbols and how they are viewed across cultures (some would not consider stepping on a name to be offensive).”