Update (February 13, 2020): The Ball State University professor who called the cops on a student will not be teaching for the rest of the semester.
Professor Shaheen Borna called the police on Sultan Benson after he refused to move his seat for the second time.
“The decision was made to ensure continuity in the curriculum, eliminate any unnecessary distractions, and help our students complete the appropriate course expectations," Kathy Wolf, the university's vice president of marketing and communications, said Wednesday in a statement to CNN.
According to CNN, after Benson asked why he had to move his seat after being settled into his first one, the altercation between he and Borna escalated.
“Either move your seat or I call the police,” Benson recalled Borna saying to him.
“Are you really about to call the police?” the student then asked.
Afterward, two police officers arrived at the classroom where they were given accounts of the student cooperating with his professor and not being a nuisance. Benson also spoke to the officers in the hallway. After the incident, the student expressed his anxiety."I woke up in a panic (that night),” he said.
Benson also reiterated how the professor had little concern for his life. Situations in which cops have been called on Black people have had disastrous results.
Borna, who has taught at the university since 1983, has since offered an emailed apology to his class and Benson.
“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. I am sorry that my actions today did not contribute to that,” he said in both statements.
The professor has since been advised not to speak to the media.
The college issued a statement and a promise to improve.
“Anytime something like this occurs on our campus, the University works to understand what happened and how we can improve based on what we learn," the statement reads. "This includes talking with those who were involved and putting into place those measures that will prevent future situations”
The president of the university also directly reached out to students in an email and explained that the situation unnecessarily escalated and that the business school's dean had established corrective actions that included appropriate training and oversight for the professor in the future.
Benson is grateful for the positive reinforcement and encouragement he has received thus far.“I've had a lot of support, and I really appreciate it,” he said.
Despite the apology from his professor, Benson is considering taking legal action against Borna and the university.
Original (January 27, 2020): A student of Indiana's Ball State University was sitting in the back of the class, following along with the lecture when his professor called the police on him. When officers asked if he had been disruptive, his classmates came to his defense.
When Sultan Benson arrived at Professor Shaheen Borna’s Marketing 310 class on January 21, a classmate was sitting in his usual seat in the second row.
"So the professor had me sit in the back which was no problem for me," Benson told NBC. "Had my laptop charging in the back following the PowerPoint like the other half of the class."
About 30 minutes into Borna’s lecture, another student who had been sitting in the first row had to excuse herself from class. Five minutes after she vacated her seat, Borna told Benson to gather his belongings and take the unoccupied chair.
Benson did not want to move because he already settled in. He said the exchange between him and Borna was calm so he was surprised when it escalated.
“He gave me the two options of ‘you can move or I’m going to call the police,’” Benson told CNN. “You’re going to call the police?”
Two officers arrived at the class shortly after and asked Benson to step outside. Borna told them he just wanted his student to move seats. The officers asked the senior business major if he wanted to sit in the front or leave.
“Why am I moving in the middle of class? He legit just stopped the class to try and move me. I’ve been back here on this PowerPoint,” Benson told the officer.
One officer then asked if Benson had been disruptive, and the whole class came to his defense.
Professor really called the cops on kid for not moving seats in the middle of class— Barstool Ball State (@BarstoolBallSt) January 21, 2020
(Via ig/branden__roberts) pic.twitter.com/6vpa6m3UCD
“He’s been on the lesson the whole time,” another can be heard saying.
Benson left the class and spoke to the police outside.
The senior, who is set to graduate in May, said Borna targeted him because he is Black.
“He’s targeting this,” he said as he pointed to the back of his hand. “He says a bunch of off-the-wall things, if we’re being honest. He’s stuck in the past.”
Benson has since switched to another marketing class because he does not feel comfortable in Borna’s classroom. He said since the incident, he’s had increased anxiety and nightmares about what could have happened once the officers arrived.
"I woke up in a panic [that night]," he said.
Benson said Borna displayed carelessness when he called the police. He said his Chicago upbringing has allowed him to see how police officers "reacted with young African American men, and it hasn't been pretty."
"I'm automatically going to be scared and on guard," he said. "That shows me that you don't care about my life."
University administrators did not contact Benson until two days later. He is scheduled to meet with the university President Geoffrey Mearns on Monday. The school released a statement regarding the incident, saying they will use this experience to improve.
"Anytime something like this occurs on our campus, the University works to understand what happened and how we can improve based on what we learn," the statement says. "This includes talking with those who were involved and putting into place those measures that will prevent future situations."
Mearns sent an email out to students saying the business school’s dean will take action and training and oversight will be put in place for Borna.
"This choice was a gross error of judgment, and it was simply an unwarranted overreaction," the email said.
Mearns said he will meet with the university’s Black Faculty and Staff Association and Black Alumni Constituent Society.
Borna sent an email to the class and Benson specifically, apologizing for “mishandling” 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. I am sorry that my actions today did not contribute to that," the email read.
Benson is considering taking legal action against Borna and is thankful for those who have stood by him.