Professor suspended for calling police on black student

A white professor at an Indiana university who called police to his classroom after a black student refused to change seats will not be teaching for the remainder of the semester, the school said in a written statement.

No formal charges or disciplinary action was immediately taken against Ball State University marketing professor Shaheen Borna and he continued to teach after the classroom incident Jan. 21, The Star Press reported, despite campus protests.

“The decision is in the best interest of Dr. Borna and the University,” the school said of his suspension in a statement Thursday.

The student from Chicago who declined to switch seats, Sultan “Mufasa” Benson, characterized the teacher’s punishment as an insufficient “slap on the wrist.” Benson has said he believes he was singled out in class because of his race, and that he feared for his safety when police were called.

“I want justice, and a temporary leave for all of the policies he broke is still just the bare minimum,” he said. “But at least it’s a step forward in the right direction.”

In a letter to the university’s student newspaper, The Daily News, about 30 of Borna’s fellow faculty members expressed support and urged those who don’t know him not to judge him based on this one act, noting Borna is known as a “by-the book” person.

They said Borna chose to handle the classroom incident based on his understanding of the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, Appendix Q: Responding to Disruption in the Academic Setting.

The code gives faculty the authority to instruct a student to temporarily leave a classroom if they are disruptive, which the code defines as “any behavior a reasonable person would view as being likely to substantially or repeatedly interfere with the conduct of an academic setting.”

“If the student refuses to leave, University Police should be called and requested to remove the student from the academic setting,” the code reads.

Benson was given an ultimatum to move or have the police called. When two officers arrived, Benson left the classroom.

More than 100 faculty members signed a letter to the student newspaper “condemning the misuse of police in the classroom, calling out the institutional racism behind it, and telling you, our students, that we are with you.”

“Our first concern is Borna’s rapid escalation of the situation and involvement of the police to resolve a disagreement about seating,” the letter said. “No disruption or physical threat existed. The use of police to get one’s way in the classroom is institutional violence. We support our students of color as they deal with the trauma of these events and navigate its fallout.”

The NAACP was also outraged, calling Borna’s decision an example of “weaponizing the police against people of color impetuously.”

“The actions taken by Professor Shaheen Borna are yet the latest example of thoughtless behavior that yields traumatic and frequently detrimental outcomes,” the organization said in a news release. “Countless men and women throughout our nation have experienced discrimination, racial profiling, and over-policing at the hands of bigotry and intolerance.”

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8 thoughts on “Professor suspended for calling police on black student

  1. Q: Could we get some reporting as to why the student would not move seats? Was the student being disruptive? Was he answering too many questions? This is the basis for understanding the entire situation and without this information, it is difficult to understand if the professor’s actions were reasonable.

    1. Dr. Borna requires students in back two rows not use laptops, to avoid classroom disruptions. There were no seats in front when Mr. Benson arrived, so he sat in back and plugged in his laptop. At some point during the class, a student in front left the class. Dr. Borna told Mr. Benson to move to the front, and he declined, saying he was not being disruptive. The video is everywhere – you can see the students clearly agree with Mr. Benson. It doesn’t mean they were right, but it does explain a lot.

  2. Quote: The NAACP was also outraged, calling Borna’s decision an example of “weaponizing the police against people of color impetuously.”
    “The actions taken by Professor Shaheen Borna are yet the latest example of thoughtless behavior that yields traumatic and frequently detrimental outcomes,” the organization said in a news release. “Countless men and women throughout our nation have experienced discrimination, racial profiling, and over-policing at the hands of bigotry and intolerance.”

    Goodness, goodness: There sure are a lot of assumptions made here by people who were not in attendance…but in this day and age, to be accused of anything by the left is also to be convicted of multiple crimes against humanity….it simplifies jurisprudence, you know.

  3. Hubris… these two were made for each other! However, they were both clearly in the wrong at at least one moment, and both of them should have proper disciplinary hearings, outside of any media coverage they and their supporters may be fueling.

    This should have easily been solved if cooler heads prevailed at literally any moment since this started. It’s easy place the bulk of blame on the Professor, as he holds more power and seems to have escalated this issue far beyond the reasonable level – and since has since accepted the blame and apologized. But is the student truly absolved of all fault because believe race was a factor? The failing of all of these policies should be examined, and that falls on those higher in the University.

  4. I find it troubling that the Professor, who is Iranian, was described as White and this incident ruled another White / Black race issue. It appears to me that it was either a professor ego trip or an uncooperative student matter, or both. I wasn’t there so I’ll refer to the officials at my alma mater; however, call the police on the student was foolish.

    Nevertheless, the constant allegations that race plays into everything is typical of the Yellow Journalism that has inundated the U.S. I resent the fact that even after the University has taken action, they are being vilified in this manner. The University is required to conduct an investigation and come to a conclusion or risk legal action by the Professor and / or the student. Do you think they have an inventory of professors who could jump right in an teach the class? I think not and it would have done harm to the remaining students.

    But no, just up and fire the Professor right away and justice is served, is what some wanted. Clearly, the University did its job in this matter, and that is all they can do for now. For IBJ to frame this story in this manner indicate a bias against Ball State (let’s have an investigation) or yet another element of the press losing credibility.

  5. Lap tops are disruptive in a classroom? Seems outdated. Why not the back 3,4,5 rows? When one group is treated differently, this will cause problems. Something to learn from a marketing class.
    The request to move one row more disruptive than a laptop. A Black kid from Chicago vs. a white professor from?
    Talk about your coded objective reporting.
    For Blacks, these situations can and do result in felony charges or death.

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