On muddy grounds at the University Green, a crowd of students, faculty and members of the Muncie community gathered around a small stage demanding Ball State leadership to take action and make changes.
The student-organized walkout started with students speaking about their experiences at the university, including Sultan “Mufasa” Benson, who had University Police Department officers called on him for refusing to move seats during class Jan. 21.
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Another speaker, Kwesi Rogers, junior telecommunications major, shared his perspective on recent events.
Rogers said it was fortunate how the initial situation played out involving Benson and the University Police Department Officers because he believes [police] “could have done anything they wanted” to Benson because they “have the right too.”
“The way I was brought up, I was taught that you fear no man, but when the police is called on a black individual, we know the possibilities,” Rogers said.
Rogers said he and thousands of other students were concerned about how Ball State was going to move forward and handle this situation, and he wondered if the university will try to “sweep” the situation “under the rug.”
Terry Whitt Bailey, former Democratic Muncie mayoral candidate, also attended the walk out with opinions of her own.
Bailey, who said she had her first job out of graduate school at Ball State, has known or worked with seven Ball State presidents. Of those seven, President Geoffery Mearns, she said, is the only one with the “courage and compassion” to attend the protest.
“You all need to know that is a big deal for you,” Bailey said. “You are making history and so is he, as a leader of this university.”
Bailey also told the students that Mearns was an “ally” to them, and they should give him the opportunity to meet with the university and community leaders to form “appropriate actions.”
“... because there are actions that are going to happen. Give him time to do that,” she said.
While Mearns attended the protest, he did not wish to speak on the matter.
In an interview with Newslink Indiana, Benson said the situation both has and hasn’t gotten better since the initial incident.
While students have become more comfortable talking about the situation, no action, specifically regarding the classroom professor who requested UPD assistance about Benson, has been taken from the university.
“I see this man every day I walk into the business building. I'm crying on the phone with my mom, they don't see the emotions behind everything. They don't understand where my mental [health] is I haven't been stressed in years,” he said.
The university did send out a campus-wide response from Mearns in which he details a list of actions he plans on taking, which includes meeting with students and faculty to best figure out how to move forward.
Contact Charles Melton with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter at @Cmelton144.