A Florida college has reinstated a Christian student that it previously suspended for disagreeing with a Muslim professor about the crucifixion of Jesus.
Rollins College suspended sophomore Marshall Polston on March 24 after Polston had voiced his strong disagreement with his Muslim Middle Eastern humanities professor Areej Zufari, when she allegedly said the crucifixion of Christ was a hoax. Zufari had also filed a report with the school's dean of safety, saying Polston had violated an order to stay away from class.
The Central Florida Post, who originally broke the news, reported on Friday that the school has now lifted its suspension, and judged Polston 'not responsible' for the activity of which he had been accused.
'A student's freedom of speech and expression are the cornerstones of liberty in a free society,' said Polston's attorney, Kenneth Lewis.
Polston and Zufari have had a tumultuous relationship since early February. Polston, a Christian, said he found Zufari's teaching unsettling, as she allegedly suggested the crucifixion of Christ was a hoax and that his followers did not believe he was divine.
In a February email, Zufari accused Polston of 'antagonizing interjections, contradicting me and monopolizing class time', and said his attitude was 'contemptuous'. Polston, who described himself as straight-A student, reacted strongly after receiving a 52 per cent on his first essay on March 8, and emailed Zufari the following day.
He said: 'Since you've decided to carry a blitzkrieg out against me, I may have to speak up in regards to your extreme bias and not necessarily to the class but to the dean,' Polston said.
'Quite frankly the grade you assigned to me exposes your true agenda which is to silence me in class. You're one of the most incompetent professors I have ever seen in my life.' He added that in response he could contact 'national media personalities that I'm good friends with' or take legal action against her. Polston insisted however that he made no threats to Zufari.
A few days later, Zufari reached out on Facebook about a student who was 'making my life hell this semester'. She posted on the ACLU of Florida group that her student was 'spewing hatred at me, de-railing class, and just sent me a hateful email threatening me.'
She added: 'The hate speech in the email would not be tolerated if it was targeting other minorities.'
When Polston later vocalised his upset about another member of class, he says he was banned from the class. On March 23, Zufari said Polston tried to intimidate her by walking past the classroom, a claim he disputed with evidence that he was miles away from the school at the time.
Zufari filed a 'protection against stalking' request with the school on March 23, and he was suspended by the school the following day. Now though, he has been exonerated.
Rollins College wrote to Polston on Thursday. They said: 'Having considered the evidence, including your response to the charges, the following conclusions were reached: Abuse (Physical, Mental, or Verbal) — Not Responsible, Disruptive Behavior — Not Responsible, Request or Orders — Not Responsible.
'Community Standards has found that you have not crossed the threshold of violating our Code of Community Standards, however, your behavior has not always been consistent with the values we abide by at the college.' The letter added: 'Please use this occasion to reflect on how best to express your opinion and treat others in a respectful manner.'
In a statement, Polston's attorney added: 'Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, and to gain maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die.' It lamented the damage done to Polston's reputation and called for a full inquiry into Zufari and her fitness to serve at the school.