Ball State students plan walkout to protest cop-calling professor

Ball State students planning walkout

MUNCIE, Ind. (WISH) — Dozens of students are expected to participate in a classroom walkout and peaceful protest Tuesday morning at Ball State University.

The student-led demonstration was organized as part of a movement demanding campus policy change and disciplinary action in response to a viral incident the previous Tuesday.

Marketing professor Shaheen Borna called campus police on a student, senior Sultan Benson, because he declined to switch seats during class.

A video clip showing two campus officers entering the classroom and questioning Benson circulated on social media, generating thousands of comments, shares and views within hours.

Borna did not ask any other students to switch seats during the Jan. 21 marketing class, including three students seated near Benson in the back of the room.

Benson, who is African American, accused the professor of singling him out for “unfair” treatment because of his race. Borna is white.

“Far too often, police are weaponized against people of color impetuously,” the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said Saturday in a statement posted on the organization’s website. “The actions taken by Professor Shaheen Borna are yet the latest example of thoughtless behavior that yields traumatic and frequently detrimental outcomes.”

On Tuesday, an NAACP leader told News 8 she was “disgusted” by the incident at Ball State University.

“It is 2020,” said Tiffany D. Loftin, director of the NAACP’s Youth & College Division. “White professors are calling police on black students in the classroom because they won’t move their seat? … America continues to criminalize young black kids who are just sitting in the classroom, taking notes on their laptop. This is scary. Too often, when I read stories like this, I hold my breath for the worst outcome.”

Loftin “[stands] in full support” of Ball State students leading Tuesday’s walkout, she added.

Participants will walk out of campus buildings at 11:05 a.m. and march to the “university green” between Bracken Library and the architecture building, according to Benson.

Caitlin Maloney, a senior involved in organizing the walkout, said student demands include Borna’s termination, suspension or retirement; policy changes that would prevent similar incidents in the future; and administrative action beyond the faculty training, oversight and meetings detailed Thursday in an emailed statement from university president Geoffrey Mearns.

“It doesn’t affect me personally because I’m a white student,” Maloney told News 8. “Something like this might never happen to me in the future and hasn’t ever happened to me in the past. But [that] doesn’t mean that I can’t stand up and have an opinion, and say, ‘This is wrong.'”

Benson urged other students, regardless of race, to speak out about uncomfortable or unjust campus experiences.

“It feels like I’m giving the people a voice [and] showing people that you don’t have to be scared,” he said Monday. “I would hate for anyone else to go through this.”

Ball State faculty and officials declined News 8’s interview requests.

A university spokesperson emailed a statement to News 8 in response to requests for comment:

“We are aware of the walkout planned for tomorrow. We have a long-standing commitment to respecting the fundamental right to freedom of expression, which is a hallmark of our democratic republic. We are committed to listening to and learning from anyone who is interested in helping us build a more inclusive culture on our campus and in our communities.”