The ‘Jesus’ stomp

Telling Intercultural Communications students to stomp on a piece of paper with “Jesus” written on it was supposed to illustrate the power of symbols. (Why not an “Allah” stomp? That’s a really powerful symbol!)  Now Florida Atlantic University has apologized for the “Jesus” stomp exercise, but denied suspending the student who complained about it.

“This exercise will not be used again,” FAU officials said in a statement. “We sincerely apologize for any offense this caused. Florida Atlantic University respects all religions and welcomes people of all faiths, backgrounds and beliefs.”

The exercise came from a book by a St. Norbert College communications professor, Jim Neuliep.

“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,” the exercise states. “Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.”

“We can confirm that no student has been expelled, suspended or disciplined by the university as a result of any activity that took place during this class,” the university statement claimed, adding that students weren’t required to step on the paper.

Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon, was charged with violating the student code of conduct and ordered not to attend class, according to Fox News. He’d told instructor Deandre Poole that he objected to the exercise, saying “don’t do that again” and “you’ll be hearing from me.”

. . . according to a letter written by Associate Dean Rozalia Williams, Rotela is facing a litany of charges – including an alleged violation of the student code of conduct, acts of verbal, written or physical abuse, threats, intimidation, harassment, coercion or other conduct which threaten the health, safety or welfare of any person.”

“In the interim, you may not attend class or contact any of the students involved in this matter – verbally or electronically – or by any other means,” Williams wrote to Rotela. “Please be advised that a Student Affairs hold may be placed on your records until final disposition of the complaint.”

Presumably, the charges have been dropped, but FAU, a state university, didn’t admit Rotela had been threatened and didn’t apologize to him.

The professor had a right to ask students to stomp on “Jesus,” but can’t require them to violate their religious beliefs, argues FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff, citing a 1943 U.S. Supreme Court case. Protesting the exercise was a classic exercise of free speech rights.

Another FAU communications professor, James Tracy, has questioned “whether the Sandy Hook shooting ever took place —at least in the way law enforcement authorities and the nation’s news media have described.”

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  1. Stacy in NJ says:

    “…symbols are arbitrary…”

    Yeah. No. symbols aren’t arbitrary. They’re very specific and well defined.

    It’s hard to take this kind of controversy too seriously when everyone involved seems dimwitted.

  2. Roger Sweeny says:

    If the professor really wanted to show the power of symbols, he could have told the students to yell, “Nigger Nigger Nigger Nigger!”

    If a student refused and complained, would the student be “facing a litany of charges”? Would the teacher? Does anyone doubt that the answers are “no” and “yes”?

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      Now, Roger, using that word even in that context is forbidden. You could serious damage your future political career with that post. 🙂 Please retract and apologize immediately. But, perhaps you’ve got nothing to lose, in that case, proceed.

  3. Foobarista says:

    Only symbols of stuff I don’t like are arbitrary.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    Been said elsewhere that only Christianity is going to be stomped, figuratively or otherwise, in college. Everything else is diverse, authentic, and wonderful.
    Stomp on Mohammed? Stomp on Gaia? Stomp on Obama? Stomp on MLK, Jr.? Stomp on gay marriage? Stomp on The Vagina Monologues? Hey! How about stomp on the prof? The dean?
    No, no, and no….
    Just Christianity.

  5. Symbols are what seperates us from the other animals! Literally! Whether you’re talking about alphabet letters, numbers and math symobls, or the flag of a political unit, or the logo of a business or sports team… Those symbols are what seperates us from everyone else in the Animal Kingdom.