Professor Called Cops on Student Over Seat Choice

Ball State's Shaheen Borna won't be teaching again this semester
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 13, 2020 1:43 PM CST
Professor Punished Over Treatement of Black Student
A Ball State University Student holds a protest sign on Jan. 28, in Muncie, Ind., after a viral incident of a professor calling police on a black student who refused to move seats in class.   (Corey Ohlenkamp/The Star Press via AP)

A professor at Indiana's Ball State University won't be teaching for the rest of the semester after calling the police on a black student who refused to change seats in his class. Two campus police officers interrupted a marketing class on Jan. 21 on a call from professor Shaheen Borna, who'd asked student Sultan Benson to move to a seat at the front of the class that had been vacated by a student who had to leave. Benson says he calmly declined because he was already seated at a desk at the back with his laptop charging. In fact, he says Borna had directed him to that seat because his usual spot was taken, per CNN. But Borna didn't like his answer. "Either move your seat or I call the police," he said, according to Benson. Another student was filming as officers arrived. When they asked if Benson had disrupted the class, multiple classmates said "no."

"You gonna call the police? On a young black man not doing nothing but in class learning?" Benson later said at a protest attended by as many as 300 students, per the Chicago Tribune. Also in attendance was university President Geoffrey Mearns, who referred to Borna's action as a "gross error" and "unwarranted overreaction." More than 100 faculty members also signed a letter denouncing the move—for which Borna apologized in an email—before the school announced disciplinary action against the tenured professor on Wednesday. Kathy Wolf, VP of marketing and communications, said it would "ensure that we provide continuity in the curriculum, eliminate any unnecessary distractions, and help our students complete the appropriate course expectations," per the Ball State Daily News. (Read more higher education stories.)

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