An Adjunct’s Vindication

Posted on: June 24th, 2013 by Taylor Fontes No Comments

Inside HigherEd reports that Florida Atlantic University has rehired the adjunct instructor that was fired over the controversy of a lesson he utilized in his intercultural communications course.   The instructor, Deandre Poole, pulled a lesson from a widely used textbook, which instructs the students to write “Jesus” on a piece of paper and then proceed to stomp on it.

Intended to spark discussion of the “cultural power of words,” the exercise offended some students and prompted one to make a false claim against the instructor that he was forced to commit the act as instructed by the exercise and that he was subsequently suspended for not complying.

This was found not to be the case, but after fomentation and threats and foment by political and religious leaders calling for the instructor’s dismissal, university administration, with backing by Governor Rick Scott and Senator Marco Rubio, declared that it will discontinue the use of the exercise.

Based on a report compiled by the Faculty Senate and with the support of the faculty union and interim dean of arts and letters all agreed that the firing of Dr. Poole constituted a violation of academic freedom and he has since been rehired.

Editorial Comment:

Ok, so there was a “miscommunication” – (ironically enough as it occurred following a lesson in communications course) – that the offended student was reported by the instructor to the university for refusing to partake in the “Jesus stomping” exercise.  The real story, as it turns out, is that the student was reported because of the way he treated the professor, not because he was forced to do anything against his will.  In fact, as the Dr. Poole and the Faculty Senate assert, the purpose of the exercise is to provoke discomfort and resistance.

Miscommunication or no miscommunication, hose who called for the immediate dismissal of Dr. Poole, among them religious and political leader, did so based entirely on the content of the exercise and their own personal feelings about it rather than based on some sort of policy violation.

Students who support Dr. Poole, and they overwhelmingly do, wrote in a letter, “”When pursuing higher education, students are encouraged to learn how to think, not what to think.”  But these days there are many radically extreme, yet hugely powerful ideologues that believe that they have the right to encourage people what to think, and they are working tirelessly to infiltrate higher education to proselytize such an agenda.

Once considered the bastion of inquiry, the university is now just another target for exploitation, co-optation and subjugation.  Academic freedom, which is the constitutional first amendment equivalent in higher education, is under threat and many university administrations, including that of FAU, seem less concerned with its protection than that of their own image and public relations.

In his own defense, and in defense of his right to engage in controversial and provocative instructional lessons, Dr. Poole said,  “Members of the public need to be reminded that a university is an institution of higher learning, and is supposed to be a safe place for engaging in controversial issues. If we can’t have these conversations at the university, where else are we going to have them?”

Fortunately, academic justice was served in this case.  The Faculty Senate objectively concluded that the exercise was within a pedagogical purview and was not perverted for personal purposes.  Too bad the same cannot be said about the actions of this instructor’s critics.

To read the full article by Scott Jacshik go to:

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/06/24/florida-atlantic-rehires-adjunct-center-controversy-over-class-exercise

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