Hundreds of Ball State University students staged a walkout early Tuesday in support of a classmate targeted in an incident many believe was racially motivated.
The protest comes just days after a marketing professor sicced police on BSU senior Sultan “Mufasa” Benson for refusing to change seats during class.
“I was in class doing like everyone else, and trying to learn,” Benson told a crowd of supporters who’d gathered on the campus green.”What happened was unfair; it was unjust.”
The soon-to-be grad was in a lecture led by professor Shaheen Borna when the educator asked him to move to the front row after another student left class early. When Benson, who was already settled and charging his laptop, refused, Borna called campus police.
“You’re gonna call police on a young Black man not doing anything but in class learning?” he asked.
Much of the confrontation was caught on video and shows officers asking whether Benson was being “disruptive,” to which several of his classmates gave a resounding “no.”
Benson insists that what happened to him was a “discrimination act,” and many in the BSU campus community agree.
“He shouldn’t have had police coming simply for not moving seats in class, that’s ridiculous,” student Alexis Byrd told WTHR 13.
DeShawn Hardy, a junior at the university in Muncie, Indiana, also attended Tuesday’s protest and says this isn’t the first time Black students on campus have experienced something like this. In fact, dozens of students raised their hands when a speaker asked if they’d ever felt excluded or disrespected while at Ball State, WTHR reports.
“It’s about time we came together for a common cause,” Hardy said.
University president Geoffery Mearns addressed the controversy in a statement last week, criticizing Borna’s behavior as an “unwarranted overreaction” and a “gross error of judgment.” Borna has since apologized, and Mearns has promised that the professor will be required to undergo necessary training.
However, BSU students say apologies aren’t enough.
“It’s not fair to simply give the professor a slap on the wrist,” student Brittney Dillon told the outlet. “I’d like to see more training, like an open workshop where he speaks openly about how what he did was wrong.”
Benson has since filed a formal complaint and withdrawn from Borna’s class.
The campus community has launched a petition, putting pressure on the university to change its policies in the wake of the incident. Their demands include forcing Borna into early retirement, mandatory sensitivity training for all faculty and staff, and the creation of a campus-funded student committee to advocate for student issues.
Watch more in the video below.