UPDATE: A spokeswoman says the State University System has been paying close attention to the events at Florida Atlantic University but isn't ready to address the governor's letter.
"The State University System prides itself not only on its commitment to academic freedom, but at the same time, its awesome responsibility to the people it serves," wrote spokeswoman Kim Wilmath. "We are gratified to know that FAU has apologized for any offense the exercise has caused and has pledged never to use this exercise again. Clearly, there were things the university could have done differently by its own acknowledgement."
ORIGINAL POST: Florida Atlantic University has apologized for a controversial classroom lesson that led critics to accuse the school of religious intolerance. But that didn't stop Gov. Rick Scott for stepping into the fray today.
Scott penned a letter to State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan demanding an investigation. "I am requesting a report of the incident, how it was handled and a statement of the university's policies to ensure this type of 'lesson' will not occur again," Scott wrote.
Earlier this month, a FAU instructor told students in an intercultural communications class to write the word "Jesus" on a piece of paper, throw it on the floor and stomp on it. A student later complained he was thrown out of class when he refused to participate.
The university initially defended the assignment, saying it was supposed to make students uncomfortable as they dealt with the power of words. Students were expected to hesitate and the lesson was intended to expose the emotional connection to cultural symbols, according to the Sun-Sentinel's overview of the lesson plan written by a professor in Wisconsin.
The incident became fodder on blogs and among conservatives who questioned whether such liberties would have been taken with other religions.
This week, FAU released a statement apologizing for the lesson. "This exercise will not be used again," the school said, according to the Sun-Sentinel report. "…We sincerely apologize for any offense this caused. Florida Atlantic University respects all religions and welcomes people of all faiths, backgrounds and beliefs."
That didn't stop Scott from weighing in. He acknowledged that the students' report of being suspended by the instructor had been disputed, and that the school issued a apology. He wants more.
"Whether the student was reprimanded or whether an apology was given is in many ways inconsequential to the larger issue of a professor's poor judgement," Scott wrote. "The professor's lesson was offensive, and even intolerant, to Christians and those of all faiths who deserve to be respected as Americans entitled to religious freedom."