MUNCIE, Ind. (WISH) — The president of Ball State University slammed a faculty member’s “unwarranted overreaction” and “gross error of judgment” in a statement emailed Thursday to students and alumni.
Marketing professor Shaheen Borna called campus police Tuesday morning because a student declined to move from a seat in the back of his classroom to a newly vacated one in the front.
A minute-long video clip of two University Police Department officers entering the classroom and questioning the student went viral within hours.
Sultan Benson, a Ball State senior majoring in business administration, identified himself as the student involved in the classroom confrontation.
“I was scared I was going to get shot, I was going to get tased, get beat [or] arrested,” he said.
Borna did not ask other students seated in the back of the room to move.
Benson, who is African American, believes the professor “targeted” him because of his race, he said Wednesday night during an interview with News 8.
On Thursday morning, university president Geoffrey Mearns emailed a 520-word letter to Ball State community members, vowing to improve campus inclusivity, blasting Borna’s judgment and detailing a plan for corrective action.
The dean and department chair, at the request of the provost, met with Borna to express university officials’ collective concern, according to Mearns.
Administrators established “appropriate training and oversight” guidelines for the professor and planned to meet with all students in Tuesday’s marketing class, he said.
“I’ll meet with the Black Faculty and Staff Association to seek their guidance on how we can continue to create a more inclusive campus community,” Mearns wrote. “I will also reach out to the leadership of the Black Alumni Constituent Society to seek their counsel as well.”
Benson appreciated the university president’s words but was disappointed by his initial steps toward action, he said Thursday night.
He called for campus change — beyond meetings and training sessions.
“I do believe [Mearns] cares but, as a whole, I don’t think the impact is great enough yet,” Benson said of the university’s response. “I want to see Ball State say, ‘Let’s put our students first,’ for once. Let’s make a change ourselves. If it requires us hiring a whole new faculty and staff, let’s do it. If it’s hiring more security to make sure our girls are safe, let’s do it.”
Although the Chicago native was “embarrassed” by the unwanted attention, he said he was grateful for the opportunity to advocate for other students.
Benson urged Borna, who joined the Ball State faculty in 1983, to retire from teaching.
“A lot of students are coming forth, saying you’ve done things to them as well,” Benson said, addressing the professor. “You’ve said inappropriate remarks. You had a good run; a great run! 37 years. That’s longer than I’ve been alive. That’s longer than a lot of my friends from Chicago got to see.”
University officials and faculty declined News 8’s interview requests.