A Ball State University professor called the police on a Black student after he refused to change seats in class. Now that student, and many others are upset with the school for its response to that professor.
The school has reportedly implemented a corrective plan after professor Shaheen Borna, who is white, called university police on student Sultan “Mufasa” Benson for declining to change seats in class on Tuesday January 21.
“This choice was a gross error of judgment, and it was simply an unwarranted overreaction,” University President Geoffrey S. Mearns said in an open letter on Thursday. “The classroom is a special place. It is a place of invigorated learning, and it should always be a welcoming environment for all of our students. In the incident this week, we did not meet that important standard.”
The dispute began when Benson declined to switch seats because he was charging his laptop. The professor, who requires assigned seating, responded by giving Benson the ultimatum: change seats or he would call law enforcement.
According to reports, two officers responded to the call, but, the situation ended when Benson voluntarily left the classroom. He later told The Star Press that he feared police would have injured or even killed him.
It’s a “big issue, a huge issue” that the police were called, Benson said, because once they became involved the outcome “could have gone several different ways. I don’t think they’re getting the concept of that yet.”
Borna has since apologized for the severe lapse in judgement.
“As a professor at Ball State University, it is my responsibility to ensure that you and all of my students receive an excellent educational experience,” Borna wrote in an email to the entire class. “I am sorry that my actions today did not contribute to that.”
“I was not acting out. I was not talking on my cell phone. I was learning. I was following the lesson plan,” Benson told The Star Press.
The school will allegedly make faculty undergo training. The Black Faculty and Staff Association plans to meet with Mearns to advise him on how to create a more inclusive campus community.
Benson explained he is still dissatisfied with the university’s response.
“I can’t say I’m proud to be a Cardinal anymore,” he said. “Not at the moment. In the future, who knows? I know there are plenty of good faculty on campus. Some have reached out to see what they can do.”