Justin Hartfield, a freshman English major, sparked controversy on Monday when he entered his Old Testament class carrying a backpack and a small kitchen table.
“Last week in class, something was just off,” said Hartfield, who is beginning his first semester. “When I went home over the weekend, I finally realized why learning had been so hard.”
Hartfield’s classmates report that he set the table in the back of the class, moved his chair to sit at the table, and waited quietly for class to begin. Dr. Michael Fuller, however, expressed reservations regarding the “unorthodox seating arrangement,” igniting outrage among the 53 students in the class.
Though the professor later admitted that it was “probably a poor choice of words in an Old Testament class” and says he “didn’t mean to accuse anyone,” several students defended Hartfield’s actions, expressing beliefs that Hartfield has the right to sit where he wants.
“As long as he isn’t disruptive and provides his own table, I don’t see how it’s a problem,” freshman Julie Land said later. “He certainly didn’t deserve to be called a heretic.”
At the height of the discussion, a few members of the class declared themselves “homeschoolers at heart” and moved their own chairs to join Hartfield at the table, noting Jesus’ own propensity for teaching at meals; several also report that Fuller’s classroom rules were compared to the Nazi regime and SOPA.
Fuller relented “because we really need to finish Genesis before the end of March,” but says he has appealed to the Dean of Students for a final decision on the issue.
“If a student is allowed to bring his own table, people will start demanding to sit on futons or to lay on the floor,” he argued. “The only way I think we could allow this would be to declare ‘being homeschooled’ a learning disability.”
The student handbook does not stipulate where students are allowed to sit.
Hartfield says he was “surprised but encouraged” at his classmates’ fervor in defending him, although he did not expect to cause such a controversy.
“I just hope they let me keep the table,” he said, and claimed that his ability to concentrate had been greatly improved by the familiar setting. “The only drawback is one of my classes is in Walker Memorial. It’s the only building on campus without an elevator.”