President Saunders speaks publicly for first time about controversies at FAU

FAU leaders concerned about Deandre Poole's safety

BOCA RATON, Fla.FAU I - FAU instructor Deandre Poole has been silent since the controversial class assignment that made headlines nationwide. Now he will be absent from the classroom.

"Sometimes things get controversial, we've got to get past the controversy and focus on the positive," says University President Mary Jane Saunders.

During a class lesson about symbolism, student Ryan Rotela refused to step on a piece of paper with the name of Jesus on it. Rotela says he was suspended.

Community outcry prompted the university not to punish him, and instead issue an apology. Friday, resident Saunders remarked on that change of heart.

"When you see it caused hurt to people and it was insensitive, it wasn't a hard call to say this isn't who we are and we won't do it again," says President Saunders.

Earlier this week students argued Poole shouldn't be fired over the issue.

"He shouldn't lose his job over it, it was just bad teaching on his part," says Boca Raton student Sergei Ianachi.

For the time being, Poole won't be teaching class or be on any of FAU's campuses. The school placed him on administrative leave saying his personal safety has been compromised.

Governor Rick Scott requested a report on how school leaders handled the incident. Frank Brogan, who runs the State University System, is working on an answer.

"He and I are working closely on a response. I think there will be no question the Governor is satisfied with the actions that were taken," says President Saunders.

This is just the latest incident in a string of controversial moves at FAU receiving harsh publicity. Last month students and staff protested the naming of the new football stadium to GEO Group, a company that operates private prisons.

"The reality is a faculty member votes on the Board of Trustees and so does a student, and they both voted in favor of the naming," says President Saunders.

Earlier this month, President Saunders allegedly hit a protestor with her car side mirror and she tried to leave the Jupiter campus. No charges have been filed.

"Students have written harassing letters and going to Board members officers. I did fear for my safety, it was a difficult day for me," says President Saunders.

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