Florida’s Rollins College has lifted the suspension of a student who rhetorically clashed with a Muslim professor over the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Sophomore Marshall Polston was suspended March 24 by Rollins College in Winter Park after arguments over the historical accuracy of Jesus’ execution at Calvary. Professor Areej Zufari also filed a report with the Dean of Safety, which claimed Mr. Polston violated an order to stay away from class. An investigation by the school — buttressed by video surveillance and a receipt — vindicated the student’s claims that he was innocent.
“A student’s freedom of speech and expression are the cornerstones of liberty in a free society,” Mr. Polston’s attorney, Kenneth Lewis, said in a statement after the suspension was lifted, The Orlando Sentinel reported Friday.
Rollins College President Grant Cornwell told the newspaper that he could not go into specifics for privacy reasons, but condemned “hatred and violent imagery” that was emailed to the school during this week’s media coverage.
The Central Florida Post, which first broke the story, uploaded school documents the cleared Mr. Polston on Friday.
“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,” the school wrote on Thursday. “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. […] Please use this occasion to reflect on how best to express your opinion and treat others in a respectful manner.”
The website chastised competitors for framing its initial reporting as “fake news.”
“The Orlando Sentinel should look hard in the mirror to see who is the real Fake News,” CFL Post wrote. “They reviewed some court documents and came to a conclusion Polston was a threat. […] Now that Rollins has found Polston not guilty, isn’t he the true victim?”
Noor Zufari, the professor’s sister, released a statement to the Orlando Sentinel on Friday that echoed concerns over “fake news.”
“With the rise of fake news, it’s an unfortunately sensationalized situation that spiraled out of control,” the Tampa resident said. “The silver lining is Areej can continue her passion of education … She is looking forward to getting back to her regular class schedule and being able to teach again.”
Mr. Polston told CFL Post that he was grateful for his mother’s support and would now work to “rebuild” his reputation.