MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — Hundreds of Ball State University students gathered for a rally to demand the early retirement of a white professor who called police on a black student who refused to change seats last week during a class.
A crowd of 200 to 300 students, some carrying protest signs, converged Tuesday outside the Whitinger Business Building, The Star Press reported. It’s where Sultan “Mufasa” Benson, a senior business-administration major, left marketing professor Shaheen Borna’s class after the tenured faculty member called police on him.
Benson, who is from Chicago, recounted how he felt when Borna asked him to move to the front row from the back of the class. “Why am I being moved?” Benson said he asked the Iranian-born professor. “No answer. ‘You can move or we can call the police.’”
On stage, Benson then articulated his feelings about having authorities called over a seat:
“You gonna call the police? On a young black man not doing nothing but in class learning? … “We all know how situations with the police go with young African-American men, correct?”
Though Benson said he feels like “another statistic” that Ball State is using to advertise its black student enrollment, he thanked school President Geoffrey S. Mearns for attending the rally and listening to them.
Last week, Mearns said Borna had committed a “gross error” and had an “unwarranted overreaction” to Benson’s refusal to change seats. Mearns also unveiled an action plan that included meetings with Benson and other student leaders.
Borna subsequently issued an apology to Benson and the rest of the class.
More than 100 faculty members have signed a letter denouncing Borna’s “rapid escalation of the situation and involvement of the police,” reflecting “either an ignorance of or disregard for a national context where the over-policing of black communities and the criminalization of black children has been extended into every aspect of black life,” the letter reads.
Student Lauren Reynolds, a co-organizer of the protest, said students demand that all faculty receive mandatory diversity and conflict training, and also a student committee to respond to future incidents.
Ball State has until Feb. 4 to respond to the demands, organizers noted.