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Florida Christian College Professor Says He Was Fired For Racial Justice Classes: NPR

Sam Joeckel, a longtime English professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University, said his contract was terminated early after he was accused that his racial justice classes were “indoctrinating” students.

For years, Joeckel’s class included a unit on the Black experience in the United States, where he touched on the work of historical figures such as WEB Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, as well as long-standing racial disparities. in mass incarceration and educational attainment. , as WLRN previously reported.

But recently administrators challenged Joeckel’s program, saying they had received a complaint from a student’s parent about his race-related classes, the professor said. Joeckel’s contract was subsequently reviewed last month. A few days ago, the instructor learned that his contract would be terminated prematurely.

“They did this for a clear reason: my decision to teach and speak about racial justice,” he wrote in a statement on Instagram Thursday.

Palm Beach Atlantic University is a Christian college in West Palm Beach, Florida. In 2021, nearly 3,700 students were attending the school, either in person or online. White students make up just over half of the student population, while 10% identify as black and 17% as Hispanic.

The college fallout comes during a campaign by Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis against what he calls “woke indoctrination” in education.

During her tenure, DeSantis has worked to set limits on how race and gender topics are addressed in K-12 education, as well as to ban programs that promote diversity. , equity and inclusion in state colleges. Although Palm Beach Atlantic University is a private institution, Joeckel believes the school has been affected by the political climate in the state.

“The timing of this is no coincidence as we are dealing with an ‘anti-revival’ crusade by Governor DeSantis and other far-right politicians and activists,” he wrote on social media. “I believe this goes against the Christian beliefs that I hold closely and that PBA claims to hold closely.”

“I most definitely think what’s happening here is that this ‘anti-revival ideology’ is now seeping into even a Christian university like Palm Beach Atlantic University,” he told WLRN earlier. this month.

The school did not immediately respond to NPR’s request for comment on Joeckel’s contract. But in an internal memo written last month and obtained by Palm Beach PostProvost Chelly Templeton said the school is investigating Joeckel’s program to “better understand the educational rationale for including these in-depth lectures in a Composition II class.”

She added, “It’s important that the objectives of Composition II remain central to the course.”

Students and alumni have condemned the disciplinary measure, arguing that the school goes against its own values ​​of unity and academic freedom. A petition calling for Joeckel’s contract renewal received more than 2,000 signatures Saturday afternoon.

In an accompanied open letter to university president Debra Schwinn, the supporters wrote: “Restricting much-needed conversations about race is – at its core – racism and discrimination itself.”

Joeckel said racial justice has been part of his lesson for 12 years, calling it “the perfect topic” to teach in a Christian school.

“The pursuit of racial justice goes hand in hand with the overriding message of the gospel,” he told WLRN earlier this month.

Joeckel, who taught at the school for more than 20 years, said he plans to take legal action against the school.

NPR News

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