University of Guelph professor suspended after insulting student

Published On January 18, 2018 | By HN Staff | News

By: Olivia Morris

The University of Guelph has suspended a professor for teacher misconduct after a student who suffers from severe anxiety complained they were insulted during class.

“The University learned about an incident Tuesday morning via social media and a handful of emails sent to University administrators,” said University of Guelph’s director of news relations and media releases Lori Bona Hunt. “An investigation has been launched and the professor has been placed on leave while the University looks into the situation and takes the appropriate actions,” she said.

The incident occurred Monday night in a first-year anthropology class that was being taught by substitute Prof. Edward Hedican because the course’s usual professor was away.

“The student had disagreed with something that the professor had commented on which, in my opinion, is very important for a university setting as open discussions are usually encouraged as learning to look from different view points is how we become critical thinkers,”said University of Guelph student Regan Devlin, who was present during the incident.

The student, whose identity has not been released, was singled out by Hedican in the class that had over 600 students for being a “disturbance.” He then asked the student why he was chewing gum. The young man explained he had severe anxiety and the gum helped with his condition.

The students said the professor referred to the student’s educational assistant as his “handler” who “needed to control” the young man in class. The professor’s words caused many in the class to stand up and walk out.

“The situation could have been handled so differently,” Devlin said.

The exchange was captured on video and began circulating on Twitter Tuesday afternoon by University of Guelph student Kiara Butler.

The video had more than 3,000 retweets and 14,000 likes and has since been deleted.

Devlin thanked her classmate, third-year University of Guelph student Courtney Orser, for speaking up for the classmate who was insulted by Hedican.

The post has more than 190 comments, nearly 3,000 likes and just like the Twitter post, has since been deleted.

Misconduct at Canadian post-secondary institutions

The University of Guelph isn’t the only school dealing with recent misconduct.

Former students of the acting program at George Brown College allege they suffered abuse, humiliation and harassment from faculty at the school.

The allegations described an environment in which students feared speaking up about being bullied by teachers because they didn’t want to get kicked out of the program.

Two teachers at Concordia University were removed from their classrooms last week after the school’s president denied hearing rumours of sexual misconduct within the creative writing program.

The suspensions follow a letter obtained by CBC News showing students attempting to tell the school about the “toxic” culture for women in the program in 2015.

The Ontario Human Rights Code protects people in Ontario from harassment “because of past, present and perceived disabilities.”

“Disability” covers a broad range and degree of conditions, some visible and some not visible. A disability may have been present from birth, caused by an accident, or developed over time,” the OHRC said in a statement regarding human rights issues.

“Organizations and institutions operating in Ontario have a legal duty to take steps to prevent and respond to breaches of the Code. This protection extends to five “social areas.” [including education]. Employers, housing providers, service providers and other responsible parties must make sure they maintain accessible, inclusive, discrimination and harassment-free environments that respect human rights,” they said.

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