MUNCIE, Ind. (WISH) — A Ball State University professor called campus police after a student declined to switch seats during a Tuesday morning marketing class.
A Twitter video showing two campus officers in professor Shaheen Borna’s classroom generated hundreds of comments and more than 140,000 views.
“Are you in this class? Why don’t you head out? I’m going to talk to you real quick,” an officer says at the beginning of the minute-long video, walking into the classroom and pointing to a student in the back of the room.
Sultan Benson, a Ball State senior from Chicago, identified himself as the student in the viral video clip.
“We have assigned seats,” Benson told News 8. “Someone was in my seat but instead of making a big deal about it, I just decided to move to the back of the classroom where the professor said the ‘open seats’ were. He even pulled me a chair up.”
Approximately 30 minutes into the class, another student left, leaving an open seat in the front of the classroom.
“The professor asked me to move to that seat,” Benson said. “Mind you, I have my book bag and everything already [unpacked at my seat]. My laptop’s plugged in [and] it’s charging. There was no outlet near the other seat.”
The business major “calmly” declined to move and explained his reasoning, he said.
Students said Borna responded by threatening to call for backup: “You can move or I can call the police.”
Benson and his classmates initially thought the marketing professor, who joined university faculty in 1983, was bluffing.
“The rest of the class was like, ‘You’re really gonna call the police?’ He stepped outside and called the police,” Benson said. “I was scared I was going to get shot, I was going to get tased, get beat [or] arrested. I didn’t know. Honestly, I didn’t know [what the officers were going to do.]”
In the video, a campus officer can be heard giving Benson another ultimatum.
“Do you want to sit here or do you want to leave?” he asks the student.
“Well, I don’t want to move in the middle of class,” Benson replies. “He just stopped the class to try to move me. I’ve been back here on this PowerPoint [on my laptop].”
Officers ask if Benson was disrupting the class; a chorus of voices respond, “No!”
“I really gotta say thank you to my class because they had my back and they defended me,” Benson told News 8.
The student who recorded the video on his phone described the professor’s behavior as “unprofessional.”
“It wasn’t right,” the Ball State junior, who requested not to be identified in this report, told News 8. “So I felt like it needed to be seen.”
Three other students seated in the back of the classroom were not asked to move.
Benson, who is African American, believes he was “targeted” and treated differently because of his race, he said.
He had known only known Borna for several weeks — since enrolling in his marketing class at the beginning of the spring semester — but said the professor made several “off-the-wall” comments he perceived as racially insensitive.
Ball State University officials vowed to “learn and improve” in a statement issued Wednesday:
“Anytime [sic] something like this occurs on our campus, the University works to understand what happened and how we can improve based on what we learn. This includes talking with those who were involved and putting into place those measures that will prevent future situations. In this particular situation, in addition to talking with those involved and putting educational and preventative measures in place, the faculty member also sent his own apology to the students in the class. As an institution, we will use this situation to learn and to improve.”
University representatives did not provide a copy of Borna’s apology to News 8.
Borna was not available Wednesday to speak with News 8, university representatives said.
University representatives declined News 8’s request for an interview.