Indiana professor suspended after calling police on student who wouldn’t change seats

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By Justin Wise, The Hill

Ball State University has suspended a professor who called the police after an African-American student declined to switch seats during the middle of one of his lectures last month.

The university, which is located in Muncie, Ind., said in a statement that marketing professor Shaheen Borna would give up teaching for the rest of the semester, adding that the decision was in the school and Borna’s “best interest,” according to reports.

The move will “eliminate any unnecessary distractions, and help our students complete the appropriate course expectations,” the statement said.

Borna, who joined the Ball State faculty in 1983, had gained attention last month after calling the police on a student who had declined his request to move to a different spot during a lecture.

Sultan Benson, the student, told multiple media outlets that he arrived for class that day to find that the seat he normally sits in at the front of the classroom was taken. He told NBC News that Borna told him to sit in the back of the class, adding that it “was no problem for me.”

When another student exited the class during the lecture, Benson recalled the professor asking him to return to the front of the classroom.

“I asked him why [and] he wouldn’t give me an answer,” Benson said, noting that Borna then told him he would call the police if he did not agree to the request.

Video later shared on social media shows two police officers entering the classroom and speaking with both the professor and Benson.

At one point, an officer can be heard asking Benson whether he wants to stay or leave. Another officer asks if he’s been disruptive, prompting a collective “no” from Benson’s fellow classmates. One can be heard saying, “He hasn’t done anything wrong.”

Benson reportedly left the classroom on his own accord and briefly talked with the police in the hallway. Borna has since apologized to Benson and the class. He said in an email that he “mishandled” the situation, according to CNN.

Benson told CNN that he has dropped Borna’s class since the incident. He told The Star Press that Borna’s suspension was a “small victory,” but voiced concern as to whether “this slap on the wrist is enough.”

“I’m not doing anything out of spite. I want justice, and a temporary leave for all of the policies he broke is still just the bare minimum, but at least it’s a step forward in the right direction,” he said.

This article originally appeared in The Hill.

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