Deandre Poole: Will FAU Support Academic Freedom and Renew the Contract of "J-E-S-U-S Prof"?

An important early test of FAU's leaders in the post-Saunders era will be the decision whether to renew the teaching contract of Dr. Deandre Poole.

Dr. Poole was placed on leave in March after a dispute arose over his use of a communications class exercise in which students were asked to step on a piece of paper with "J-E-S-U-S" written on it. The exercise, according to its text, "really drives home the point that even though symbols are arbitrary, they take on very strong and emotional meanings."

See also: - In Defense of FAU Instructor Deandre Poole

Take them on they did: One student complained to the media; the political and cultural right exploded in outrage; Dr. Poole was threatened with violence.

The anger abated when the school bowed to the pressure (and Gov. Rick Scott) and apologized. It banned the exercise and placed Dr. Poole on leave. It was one of a number of scandals that troubled the last days of the administration of FAU President Mary Jane Saunders, who resigned May 14. But even a body clueless as the school's board of trustees must know the dragon of right-wing fury is only dormant, and will surely be roused if Dr. Poole is re-hired.

Class schedules for summer and fall have already been posted and Dr. Poole's name appears nowhere. In a phone conversation last week, Dr. Poole told New Times he "hopes" to teach his normal summer class beginning June 24 but as to his status, he said, "I don't have a clue."

"Dean Coltman told me a week ago she was 'waiting to hear back,'" Dr. Poole said. "Prior to being put on leave I had been listed for the summer. I don't know who at the university actually makes these decisions."

"I know I have the support of my department colleagues, the faculty union and other departments at the school," he added. "In the meantime, I'm keeping busy with community projects." (Dr. Poole continues to serve as an usher and Sunday school teacher at Lighthouse Worship Center Church of God in Christ, in Fort Lauderdale.)

FAU Faculty Union President Chris Robe also described FAU's administration as opaque. "You'd like to know who to talk to," he said. "Everyone's passing the buck." As to the union's role in the Poole affair, he said "We're representing academic freedom. He's the face of it."

Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.

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