TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — After working for Palm Beach Atlantic University for more than 20 years, Dr. Samuel Joeckel of West Palm Beach has been fired over the teaching of a racial justice unit.
The professor, who first announced he was under investigation for teaching the course in February, revealed his termination over social media on Wednesday.
When the investigation by university officials first opened, he said it was due to toxic state politics. Joeckel taught English at PBA since 2002. Speaking with multiple news outlets, he said he’s taught a unit on racial justice at the private, Christian university for 12 years, and that it had never before been a “cause for concern” to university administration.
On Feb. 15, Joeckel said the university provost and dean of the school of liberal arts told him the process for renewing his contract was delayed as they reviewed the material of the racial justice course.
According to Joeckel, a student’s parent had called the unviersity president to complain he was indoctrinating students. In an Instagram post, Joeckel described the encounter with his administrators further, saying that his discussion with them was ” “cut short” so the administrator could “prepare for the arrival of [Gov.] Ron DeSantis and his speaking engagement on campus,” that same day.
DeSantis was on campus at the time to announce plans for a “Digital Bill of Rights,” aimed at protecting Florida residents from being censored.
“They told me they had concerns that I was indoctrinating students. That was the exact word they used: indoctrinating,” Joeckel said at the time. “I had no idea this was coming.”
The university said they decide whether to retain Joeckel by March 15. Faculty at PBA do not have options for tenure, according to the institution’s handbook.
Discussing his termination on Wednesday, Joeckel directly blamed it on an “anti-woke” crusade by DeSantis and other political figures.
“Unfortunately, I already learned last week that PBA made the disappointing decision to terminate my contract early,” Joeckel wrote on Instagram. “They did this for a clear reason: my decision to teach and speak about racial justice. 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. PBA was clearly influenced by this toxic political ideology.”
In disclosing the termination, Joeckel said he believes it goes “against the Christian beliefs” that he “holds closely,” and that he intended to pursue legal action against the university.
“Because PBA took these actions, I will have no choice but to pursue my legal options to fight back and show PBA, and other institutions, that they cannot get away with this,” Joeckel wrote.
As previously reported, comments on Joeckel’s Instagram first Instagram post were mainly supportive of the professor. Some comments said Joeckel’s classes were inclusive and described the racial justice unit fit the honors program’s mission of “challenging our worldview with different perspectives.”
Comments on his newest online message, regarding the termination, echo the sentiment, with one user describing it as “infuriating.” Another said, “PBA claims they want diversity, but what student of color is going to willfully attend a university knowing that they won’t tolerate basic conversations about race?”
In response to Joeckel’s removal, PEN America, an education nonprofit, released a statement critical of the decision. The organization described his firing as a “direct consequence of the censorious legislation that has been inundating the state.”
“The dismissal of Samuel Joeckel is as outrageous as the investigation was preposterous. It is a dark day for academic freedom when parents of adult students can cause the intimidation of a professor over a single complaint, and when a professor can be fired simply for mentioning that intimidation on social media,” Jeremy Young, senior manager for free expression and education at PEN America said.
WFLA.com has reached out to the governor’s office and Palm Beach Atlantic University representatives for a response to Joeckel’s comments.