MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — A black student in Indiana is disappointed Ball State University is not acknowledging that a marketing professor discriminated against him when he called the police on him for refusing to change seats in class.
Ball State is implementing a corrective plan after professor Shaheen Borna called university police on student Sultan “Mufasa” Benson for declining to change seats in class on Tuesday.
“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 Thursday.
Two officers responded to the scene and the situation ended when Benson voluntarily left the classroom. But Benson, who is black, told The Star Press that he feared police could have injured or even killed him.
It’s a “big issue, a huge issue,” that the police were called because once they became involved, the outcome “could have gone several different ways,” Benson said. “I don’t think they’re getting the concept of that yet.”
The professor has apologized for his handling of the situation.
“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.”
The dispute arose when Benson declined Borna’s request to change seats because he was charging his laptop. The professor, who requires assigned seating, responded with giving Benson the option to either move or he would call the police.
“I was not acting out. I was not talking on my cellphone. I was learning. I was following the lesson plan,” said Benson, who’s set to graduate in May with a degree in business administration.
Ball State’s total student enrollment is 22,541, and 1,731 of those are African American students, according to the university.
In his letter, Mearns outlined the university’s response, which includes appropriate training and oversight for Borna. The university will also ensure that all faculty undergo training. The Black Faculty and Staff Association will meet with Mearns to advise him on how to create a more inclusive campus community.
Benson said he will accept Mearns’ invitation to meet with him, but he remains 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.”