Of course the student should not have been disciplined.
Intercultural Communication is the verbal and nonverbal communication among people of different cultures. The professor should ave used the exercise as a way to begin a discussion, as his teachers manual states. It does NOT suggest that a student should be forced to step on the paper.
Michael Counter, Director of Media Relations for St. Norbert College, where the aforementioned textbook's author teaches, responded to our inquiry. Mr. Counter stated that the following exercise, while not included in the textbook (as Florida Atlantic University's statement noted), is included in the teacher's manual that accompanies the textbook. The manual reads:
"This exercise is a bit sensitive, but really drives home the point that even though symbols are arbitrary, they take on very strong and emotional meanings. Have the students write the name JESUS in big letters on a piece of paper. Ask the students to stand up and put the paper on the floor in front of them with the name facing up. Ask the students to think about it for a moment. After a brief period of silence, instruct them to step on the paper. Most will hesitate. Ask why they can't step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture."
I've been placed in similar situations. Most recently was a few years ago in some kind of class at work. We were forced to do an exercise whereby we had to choose which person got an organ for transplant. The age, gender, and life's work of each transplant candidate was presented. one was an elderly priest. Another was a young mother. Another was a high level executive, and one a famouse athlete.
I refused to do if because as a nurse it would never be my decision to make. I was told I could be terminated for insubordination for refusing an excercise by an outside consultant. (This was before we joined the union).
As a second grader in public school the teacher had the class pray that the devil would leave me. Her "evidence" that I was possessed by the devil was that I bit my fingernails. After I went home and told my Mommy she went to the school. The teacher never did that again. But almost daily, and every Friday when I got 100% on the spelling test she told me not to think I was special just because my father was a teacher at the high school.
I'm glad the student spoke up. His professor needs to know he was wrong.