The University of Guelph has placed a professor on paid leave while it investigates ‘inappropriate’ comments allegedly made towards a student with special needs and an educational assistant during a lecture Monday night.
The incident happened during an “Introduction to Anthropology” class by substitute professor Edward Hedican when a student raised his hand to give his opinion, according to first year student Kiara Butler.
“It’s quite clear that he had an aid with him and some type of learning disability,” Butler said in a phone interview on Tuesday.
She said the student was not being rude, but just gave his opinion on what the professor was saying.
“The professor just shut him down, saying ‘I didn’t really ask for your opinion, I don’t appreciate the competition that you’re trying to bring right now,'” Butler described and mentioned the student was apologetic, but also had to be calmed by the aid.
That student was reportedly singled out again by Hedican later in the class for playing with his chewing gum and Butler said the professor referred to the aid as a “handler” and asked the aid to get the student “under control.”
“So basically not even referring to him not even as a human or a student,” Butler said.
She said the student was crying and left the lecture with his aid at that point. Other students eventually followed as the class whittled down to only about 50 students out of 600.
Another student even called out the professor before walking out, which Butler caught on video and shared to social media.
“I was absolutely disgusted,” Butler said. “If I would’ve said something it definitely would not have been as nice as she was.”
“We were all in shock.”
In a statement, University of Guelph Provost Charlotte Yates said she found the situation troubling.
“The University of Guelph is committed to ensuring a positive learning environment for our students; therefore, I am taking the matter seriously,” Yates said.
Hedican’s classes were cancelled Monday morning. Arrangements are being made to cover his courses while he is on leave, the university said.