A Black student attending Ball State University in Indiana recently had the police called on him for not changing his seat at the professor’s demand. The student, Sultan “Mufasa” Benson, said that his marketing professor, Shaheen Borna, discriminated against him, according to a report from the AP. The university is implementing a “corrective plan” following the teacher’s actions, but apparently, Ball State University has a history of racism on its’ campus and has been called out on it in the past.
Two officers arrived at the classroom after the professor made the call to them because Benson, who was charging his laptop computer when asked to move his seat, refused to get up. Borna has assigned seating in his classroom and gave the student the option to either move or he would call the police.
Benson pointed to the possibilities of the situation playing out several different ways. Calling it a “big issue, a huge issue,” the student added, “I don’t think they’re getting the concept of that yet.”
“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 said in an email to the student and his classmates. “I am sorry that my actions today did not contribute to that.” However, according to Twitter responses from those familiar with the university and the professor, other students voiced complaints about Borna.
Benson took to Twitter after the incident transpired to express his disappointment. “Really just had the police called on me in class, Ball State Im totally disappointed,” he wrote.
The university replied to his tweet and immediately caught flak for what many considered to be an unprofessional response to an incident that glared with racism.
“We are aware of the incident and reviewing the situation. At Ball State, we are committed to a successful student experience. Anytime a student does not have an excellent student experience, we care deeply, and review the matter thoroughly as we are doing at this time,” Ball State University’s Twitter said in response to Benson.
“Calling incivility and racism an ‘unsuccessful student experience’ is part of the problem,” one person tweeted.
Another Black student chimed in and said, “Nearly lost my enrollment for his class last semester for EXACTLY the same thing. When I had a meeting with him and the departments they both laughed (in my face) at all of my problems presented. SMH BALL STATE DO BETTER!”
An alumni from Ball State University also wrote, “As an alum with two degrees from Ball State University, I am beyond appalled at its continued attacks on people it should be educating—those students in area MCS classrooms, and now apparently, those on our own campus. Un f**king believable.”
A former professor also confirmed the university’s practices describing them as “toxic.” “This is such a bullsh*t and heartless response. Shame on you. Ball State has got to be the most toxic campus I’ve ever worked at. Amazing students—but the leadership is absolute sh*t,” she wrote.
“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 addressing the incident. He also said that there will be “appropriate training and oversight” for Borna, according to the AP. The university president will also meet with the Black Faculty and Staff Association and the Black Alumni Constituent Society to advise him on the necessary actions that need to be taken in order to create an inclusive campus.
Benson has also accepted Mearns invitation to meet with him.
The professor, who has been working at the university since 1983 and is likely tenured, wrote an apology letter to his students, NBC News reports.
In 2012, Ball State University faced a lawsuit from a Black employee who allegedly was subjected to workplace banter about “Buckwheat” and the Ku Klux Klan, according to Courthouse News. The employee, Maetta Vance, who was hired to work at the university’s dining services department in 1989, reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2006 that she had been harassed by co-workers using racial epithets including references to the Ku Klux Klan and threats of physical harm, the site reports.
Vance said an employee hit her on the back of the head and spoke to her about “Sambo” and Buckwheat” in a racially derogatory manner.
Another employee allegedly called her a “nigger” and a “porch monkey.”
School officials responded to the racism with “warnings and counseling.”
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