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Guelph professor placed on leave after accusations of inappropriate comments to student with severe anxiety

Roughly 450 students walked out of a class Tuesday night in support of a student brought to tears by prof
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GuelphToday file photo

A University of Guelph professor has been placed on leave after several students report he made inappropriate comments to a student and his educational assistant during a class.

The incident, which happened Tuesday night during a first-year anthropology lecture, led to roughly 450 students in the lecture hall standing up and leaving in support of the student.

The university says it is investigating.

Noah, a student who said he was in the class at the time, said the professor in question, Ed Hedican, accused the student of disturbing his class, of chewing gum and of not paying attention.

Nathan, who didn't want his last name used, and others say the professor called the student’s educational assistant his “handler” and that they “needed to control” him.

Nathan and others say the unidentified student identified to Hedican that he had an anxiety disorder, but allege the professor continued to single him out and be critical of his behaviour.

“The personal support worker with him was almost panicking and eventually the student left in tears and the personal support worker left with him,” Nathan said.

At that point a student in the back of the large lecture hall stood up and started packing up her things, to which several reports say Hedican responded “is this class over?”

That student responded “it is for me,” and proceeded to express her displeasure with the way Hedican had treated the student that had left in tears.

“Then the whole lecture hall applauded and just about everyone got up and left” in a show of support, Bok said.

Daniel Zovic said the professor was clearly 'picking' on the student and his aid.

Nathan’s account was corroborated by several postings on social media.

Hedican, who teaches sociology and anthropology at the U of G, was filling in for the course’s regular teacher.

Asked for comment, he replied via email that e has been "advised by the faculty association not to give interviews on this matter, so unfortunately my side is now not taken into consideration."

Charlotte Yates, Provost and Vice President (Academic) at the U of G issued a statement on the issue late Tuesday morning.

“This 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,” Provost said.

“The University of Guelph is committed to ensuring a positive learning environment for our students; therefore, I am taking the matter seriously.

“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.”

Social media was abuzz with comments from those that were in attendance, with others that weren’t there also weighing in.

“By far the most upsetting thing I have ever witnessed,” posted Alexa Robinson on Facebook.

“It was absolutely appalling to see the way a fellow student was treated by a professor tonight,” wrote Genna Villella

Some on social media defended the professor.

“What do you suggest the professor should have done then, the class was continuously being interrupted not just this week but last week as well,” wrote Anthony Miller.

Another poster said Hedican “warned the kid twice.”