University of Guelph professor is out on leave after allegedly ridiculing student with severe anxiety

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A professor at the University of Guelph, Edward Hedican, is being investigated after allegedly making inappropriate remarks towards a student in his first-year anthropology lecture who identifies as having severe anxiety.

According to CBC, the professor is being accused of calling the student’s aid worker his “handler.”

Other students in the lecture also said that the professor allegedly told the aid to “control” his student in class.

The situation became publicized shortly after the lecture when details of the incident were posted to an unofficial University of Guelph group called Overheard at Guelph.

“For anyone to display this behaviour, let alone an authoritative figure at a university that is to be accepting of everyone, and for someone who is a ‘cultural anthropologist’ to act this way is disgusting. After the student and his aid had left the class, people started packing up and Ed asked if the class was over. A girl in the back stood up and said ‘It is for me!’ and the majority of the class stood up and left,” said Regan Devlin in a post in the Overheard at Guelph page.

Allegedly, Hedican ridiculed the student for chewing gum — an apparent coping mechanism for the student when in an anxiety inducing situation.

Hedican also questioned whether he was enrolled in the course and apparently called the student “annoying” when he took part in the class discussion. The student and his aid left the lecture early as a result.

Hedican has been placed on a paid leave of absence until further investigation can be complete.

“I made this tweet and took the time to write this because I felt the teacher is now being attacked by people who didn’t really know what happened or weren’t even there at all … I was not the only student who felt this way.”

Courtney Orser, a third-year student at the University of Guelph, told CBC that other students were also clearly upset by the altercation, indicating that one student actually walked out of the class in tears.

Orser also said that she felt the need to leave the class early.

Before she left, however, she said she stood up to Hedican, stating that he was being disrespectful.

To this, other students in the class are heard clapping for Orser’s words, as seen in a short clip which was released of the lecture in question.

Another student in the class, Alex Weeks, posted a note onto his Twitter account pertaining to a different perspective and his recount of the lecture.

In the post, Weeks said that he stayed after class to speak with Hedican about what happened.

Weeks suggested that the student who was ridiculed by Hedican had been repeatedly responding to the lecture’s information by “interrupting him mid sentence.”

“The student wasn’t raising his hand or waiting for the prof to respond (which is relevant to the story) and the prof seemed to be getting more annoyed with the situation and eventually responded telling the student to stop talking as he was not having a 1 on 1 discussion in a lecture with 500+ students,” the post read.

Weeks also alleged that the student, who was sitting in direct line of the professor during the lecture, was “apparently making faces and noises at the teacher.”

“I made this tweet and took the time to write this because I felt the teacher is now being attacked by people who didn’t really know what happened or weren’t even there at all … I was not the only student who felt this way,” the post concluded.

The University of Guelph released a statement to The Cord regarding the situation:

“Tuesday morning I learned about an incident involving a professor making inappropriate comments to a student and an educational assistant during a night class Jan. 15. I find this situation troubling. The University of Guelph is committed to ensuring a positive learning environment for our students; therefore, I am taking the matter seriously. We are an open and inclusive university that respects and welcomes all members of its community, especially our students,” the statement read.

“The incident is under investigation, and the professor involved has been placed on leave while we look into the situation and take the appropriate actions. The University of Guelph is a community whose members respect and care about one another. We are committed to civility and diversity. I appreciate the care and concern demonstrated by students who have reached out to me and to other U of G administrators and faculty about this situation. I believe this was an isolated incident; we will remain vigilant to ensure openness, respect and inclusion at U of G.”

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