An Indiana professor who called police on a black student for refusing to switch seats in his class has been temporarily barred from teaching on the campus following viral video of the encounter and a student protest. Shaheen Borna, a marketing professor, “will not be teaching classes for the remainder of the semester,” the university said in a statement emailed to Daily Kos Tuesday. Video of the encounter posted by The Star Press in Muncie shows at least two officers arriving at Borna’s classroom on Jan. 21 after he’d called the police.
"Alright, do you want to sit here or do you want to leave?" a police officer could be seen asking Benson at one point in the recording. "Why am I moving in the middle of class?” Benson asked in response. He then began explaining that he was simply working on a PowerPoint presentation when Borna stopped the class and tried to get him to change his seat to one closer to the front. “Are you interrupting the class?” the officer asked. “No,” Benson said, with other students chiming in to support his response.
They tried to explain that Benson had been working on his PowerPoint the whole time and hadn’t said a word, but the student instead decided to defuse the situation by leaving. "It's cool,” he said. “You know what, I'ma leave.” He did, and later spoke at the rally students organized to support him. "You gon call the police while I'm paying attention to what you're teaching?" Benson asked rhetorically. "You gon call the police while the rest of these students out here trying to learn?” The decision could have cost him his life. “I could have been perceived as a threat," Benson said. "I'm not a threat to anybody."
The university said in its statement that having Borna stop teaching this semester “is in the best interest of Dr. Borna and the University.” “The Dean of the Miller College of Business, in consultation with the Provost, made this decision to ensure that we provide continuity in the curriculum, eliminate any unnecessary distractions, and help our students complete the appropriate course expectations,” the school said. Geoffrey Mearns, president of the university, said in a statement released to the campus Tuesday that he has been meeting with students and other community partners to find ways to "build a more inclusive, respectful campus culture." “Over the past four weeks, I have met with several groups and many people, both on campus and in our community,” he said. “These colleagues and friends have candidly shared with me their perspectives and their expectations. These meetings have been informative and constructive.”
Mearns said the university had begun the work of building a more inclusive campus even before the incident in question, with a list of goals dubbed the Inclusive Excellence Plan, which was released before Benson was made to leave class. Mearns asked for patience as he plans to continue meeting with school community members and prepare a response to the requests and recommendations that come out of those meetings. “Second, and more importantly, I ask that you join me as partners in this important work,” he said in his statement. “Our goal is an ambitious one: to create a campus climate and culture where every person is welcome, respected, and valued. We can only achieve this goal if we join our voices and our hands together.”