Jose Lambiet

She lost her associate dean job for a controversial move against a student. Now she wants back in

Rozalia Williams
Rozalia Williams

While the name Rozalia Williams might no longer be familiar to news junkies, the former associate dean made national news in 2013 by disciplining a Florida Atlantic University student who refused, as part of a class exercise, to stomp on a piece of paper with the word JESUS written on it.

When alt-right media picked up the story of Mormon student Ryan Rotela’s refusal to complete the multicultural studies exercise on religious grounds and his subsequent suspension, FAU took it on the chin.

Suddenly, the quiet Boca Raton school was a symbol of an alleged leftist, anti-religion conspiracy in higher education.

Even Gov. Rick Scott, a staunch conservative, got into the fray and requested a report about the incident from the state-supported institution.

Four years later, the incident’s ripple effects are still being felt. Just ask former Associate Dean of Students Williams.

Williams, who was just five years from retirement at the time, was fired within weeks.

The official reason was her handling of the Jesus freakout and the embarrassment it brought the school.

So in 2015, Williams sued the FAU Board of Trustees in a federal court in Fort Lauderdale.

In her complaint, she alleged her firing was the result of gender, age and race discrimination as well as retaliation. A part of her argument was that Williams, who is black, was replaced by a white man five years younger.

In early May, U.S. District Darrin Gayles agreed with the school’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the lawsuit.

Gayles wrote that “her poor handling” of the Rotela incident, and nothing else, caused Williams' dismissal.

The end of the incident? Not quite.

Last week, Hollywood resident Williams, 63, filed an appeal to the judgment, claiming Gayles should not have dismissed the case. An appeals court is set to take a look at the case later this year.

Williams’ lawyer didn’t reply to requests for comment and has yet to detail her argument.

An FAU spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment. By policy, university staffers don’t comment on pending legal actions.

As for Rotela, who was eventually reinstated, he has since moved on ... to Colorado, according to records.

  Comments