Indiana professor is suspended for calling police on student who wouldn't switch seats

Tim Stelloh

An Indiana professor who called the police after a student declined to change seats during class last month has been suspended, the school said.

In a statement released Thursday, Ball State University in Muncie said marketing professor Shaheen Borna will not teach for the rest of the semester.

"This decision is in the best interest of Dr. Borna and the University," the statement said, adding that Borna's departure will "eliminate any unnecessary distractions, and help our students complete the appropriate course expectations."

A spokeswoman for the school did not provide additional details Monday.

The incident occurred Jan. 21, after Borna told the student, Sultan Benson, to move to another seat mid-lecture.

In a series of Twitter messages at the time, Benson told NBC News that he usually sits in the front of the class but that another student was in his seat that day. So the professor told him to sit in the back of the class, "which was no problem for me," Benson said.

Benson said he was using a laptop that was plugged in and charging so he could follow a PowerPoint presentation.

Then, after another student left class, Borna told Benson to move to the student's seat.

"I asked him why [and] he wouldn't give me an answer," Benson said, adding that the professor gave him two options — move or have the police called.

In a video of the incident posted on Twitter, a responding officer can be heard telling Benson that he could either move or leave class. When the student asked why he had to switch seats, another officer asked whether he was being disruptive.

Other students can be heard saying "no" and "he hasn't done anything wrong."

Benson eventually left the classroom rather than move seats.

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In a campuswide email message, University President Geoffrey Mearns described Borna's decision to call the police as "a gross error of judgement." Borna later apologized to students. Mearns said he planned to meet with the school's Black Faculty and Staff Association and Black Alumni Constituent Society.

The school has declined to say what role race may have played in the incident. Benson is African American; Borna is from Iran.