President of 'Jesus Stomping' Florida University Quits

Wednesday, 15 May 2013 01:31 PM

By Lisa Barron

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Florida Atlantic University President Mary Jane Saunders has resigned in the wake of students being asked to stomp on Jesus' name.

The school announced that she resigned late Tuesday and that FAU Board of Trustees Chairman Anthony Barbar had accepted the resignation. Saunders will remain at FAU to take a faculty position, where she will be assigned a special research project to assess the feasibility of developing a physician's assistant program at the university.

During the course of the past year, Saunders defended a professor who asked students to stomp on a paper after writing the name "Jesus" on it and a failed attempt to name the football stadium after jail contractor Geo Group. Another professor made news when he suggested the Newtown, Conn., shooting in which 20 schoolchildren were killed never took place.

"There is no doubt the recent controversies have been significant and distracting to all members of the University community," Saunders wrote in her resignation letter, according to an excerpt posted on the school's website.

"The issues and the fiercely negative media coverage have forced me to reassess my position as the president of FAU. I must make choices that are the best for the University, me and my family," she said.

In March, Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott asked the State University System to investigate the Jesus-stomping assignment handed out by Professor Deandre Poole, calling it "intolerant to Christians and those of all faiths who deserve to be respected as Americans entitled to religious freedom."

Poole was placed on administrative leave last month.

FAU also made the news when it entered a $6 million naming rights deal for its football stadium with controversial private prison company Geo Group. The university nixed the deal after students protested.

Also, communications professor James Tracy suggested that trained "crisis actors" were used at Sandy Hook Elementary School in a staged event as an effort to sway the gun control debate. In a statement, FAU said Tracy did "not speak for the university."

Barbar praised Saunders on the school's website, saying “The list of accomplishments you made during your three-year tenure is long." Saunders is appointing FAU's senior vice president for finance and administration, Dennis Crudele, as acting president, effective immediately.

Barbar said he expects to have an interim president in place by the fall, when a search committee for a new president will be formed.

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