Professor suspended after allegedly mocking student with anxiety
Published Wednesday, January 17, 2018 7:39AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 17, 2018 5:01PM EST
The University of Guelph has suspended a professor who students allege insulted one of their classmates who has severe anxiety.
The students say 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 prompted many in the class to stand up and walk out.
The incident occurred Monday night at a first-year anthropology class that was being taught by Prof. Edward Hedican because the course’s usual professor was away.
One student who was there, Shelby Hager, told CTV Kitchener the student had raised his hand in class to ask a question. Hedican allegedly responded the student was “trying to compete with him,” which appeared to make the student uncomfortable.
“You could tell that the student was visibly upset by how the professor was handling it,” Hager said.
Hedican then asked the student why he was chewing gum. The young man explained he had severe anxiety and the gum helped with his condition. He also explained he had an educational assistant (EA). Hedican then made several comments to the student, allegedly referring to his EA as a “handler” who needed “to control” him.
Another student, Sophia Pace, says Hedican asked the EA if the student was in the right class.
“(He said) it’s very unlikely that he would be enrolled in the class,” Pace said.
A video posted to Twitter shows a student getting up from her seat and telling Hedican she wouldn’t stay in a class in which a professor “bullied” a student. Other students began applauding and dozens got up and followed her out the door.
Guelph’s provost and vice-president of academic affairs Charlotte Yates told CTV Kitchener officials were investigating what they called “inappropriate comments” about a student.
“The University of Guelph is a community whose members respect and care about one another,” she said in a statement
“Although I believe this was an isolated incident, we will remain vigilant to ensure openness, respect and inclusion at U of G.”
Hedican did not respond to a CTV News interview request. In a statement to The Canadian Press, he declined to comment on the specifics of the incident, saying his union has cautioned him not to.
"There's two sides to every story," Hedican told CP. "There was no physical contact here, there's no sexual interaction, there's a verbal altercation that happened in class. And I'll just leave it at that."
With a report from CTV Kitchener’s Natalie van Rooy