Christian university fires leftist English professor who taught ‘racial justice’

News & Politics

A Christian university in Florida has decided not to renew the contract of a left-leaning English professor who taught “racial justice” and “gender equality” in a composition class.

Last month, Palm Beach Atlantic University, a self-described “Christian university offering whole-person education,” opted to delay renewing the contract of Samuel Joeckel, an English professor who had taught composition courses at the university for decades. PBA officials told Joeckel that they wanted to review materials he had shared with students during a “racial justice” unit before they re-signed him, but Joeckel claimed that the investigation into his curriculum was politically motivated.

“I had to laugh when the Dean cut short the meeting so that he could prepare for the arrival of Ron DeSantis and his speaking engagement on campus,” Joeckel said in an Instagram post.

In the post, which included a hashtag for “white Christian nationalism,” Joeckel doubted the sincerity of concerns about possible indoctrination. He claimed that he had taught racial justice for a decade and had come under suspicion from administrators only recently, as Gov. DeSantis (R) has attempted to eliminate critical race theory from Florida schools.

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On Wednesday, the school announced that Joeckel’s contract had not been renewed. Joeckel shared the news on Instagram, claiming that he had become the target of a “far-right” smear campaign.

“The timing of this is not a coincidence as we are dealing with an ‘anti-woke’ crusade from Governor DeSantis and other far-right politicians and activists,” Joeckel claimed. “PBA was clearly influenced by this toxic political ideology.”

CNN has reported that the investigation into Joeckel was prompted by a complaint from a parent. Joeckel has already hired an attorney to help him explore his “legal options,” though the university does not offer tenure to faculty members and, according to its handbook, “discontinuance of employment may occur at any time, without cause, at the discretion of PBA.”

The school declined to comment on Joeckel’s status. However, an internal memo from February seems to confirm that administrators were concerned about the “focus” of Joeckel’s composition course. “Faculty are free to choose a theme that unifies their Composition II course,” wrote Provost Chelly Templeton. “However, it is important that the Composition II objectives remain the focus of the course.”

A copy of a syllabus has become available and shows that Joeckel dedicated three class meetings to racial justice that semester. He also teaches a unit on “gender equality,” which includes a text by Virginia Woolf.

Many students have rallied to Joeckel’s defense as well. More than 300 current and former PBA students signed an open letter to administrators to condemn the decision not to renew Joeckel’s contract and to speak out about “academic freedom.”

By firing Joeckel, the university is “inciting fear, sparking division, and encouraging political tribalism dismantles efforts to create a campus that embraces unity in its diversity,” the letter said. It is unclear how many of the signees had ever taken one of Joeckel’s classes.

In all his years at PBAU, Joeckel claimed he had never “indoctrinated” students into adopting a particular viewpoint. “Indoctrinating students goes against every educational bone in my body,” he stated unequivocally.

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