To the Girl who Stood up for the Student With Severe Anxiety Being Bullied by Their Professor

Students at the University of Guelph woke up Tuesday January 16th to the news of an anthropology professor who greatly misspoke and mistreated a student suffering from sever anxiety. Students also heard of the bravery of an individual in the first year course who stood up and spoke out about the situation in a lecture that held 600 plus students. The individual did not agree with how the student with severe anxiety, who was accompanied by his EA (educational assistant), was spoken to or how the substitute professor handled the situation. The professor called out one of the many ways anxiety presents itself, fidgeting, saying that his actions were disrespectful. By deciding that sitting down in silence was not a viable option, this individual stood up to the professor. Many individuals would have sat by and watched as the student was mistreated, not speaking up due to fear of repercussions that accompany standing up to an individual of power but this individual did.  

To the individual who stood up for the student with severe anxiety, thank you. Anxiety is not something that anyone should have to deal with as it is an illness that affects a persons daily ability to do simple tasks such as answering a question in class.

And to the student suffering from severe anxiety, you are not alone. The University of Guelph is a unique community that protects each other for the greater good and this injustice shows how students have a voice in difficult situations.

I had the chance to sit down with the brave student who stood up in their lecture to ask her a few questions about the incident, check them out below! 

Q. Could you tell me how you felt watching the situation play out? Would you react the same if this were to happen again?

 A. “I've never had a tolerance for social injustices and I saw one of my fellow Gryphons human rights of freedom of speech and a right to an education being violated and denied. I was holding my tongue during the entire situation and I was already typing up an email and was planning on speaking with the professor during the break but it kept escalating and I could not stand to hear someone being victimized like that. I would 100% do it again and I will speak up again if similar situations arise. I honestly felt so sick to my stomach while the situation was occurring and you could tell that I was not the only one, the tension in the room was very apparent. Other students were becoming visibly emotional and I was completely shocked at the fact that this was going on.

Yes I would react the same again, I do wish that someone could have stepped in sooner to prevent the situation from escalating as much as it did.”

Q. What does it mean to you that the situation is getting so much attention? Is there anything you wish would be focused on more? Or do you think what happened has brought to light social injustices that occur in daily life?

A. “ It means a lot to me that the university, Guelph community and my fellow gryphons were also so outraged about the situation and showed so much passion about it that the media did pick up on what is going on. It makes me extremely happy that this is getting so much attention because I know that that was not the only incident and Guelph is not the only university where small-minded professors abuse their power and where mental illness is stigmatized and discriminated against. My hope is that it's raising awareness towards those issues and that the student who had to undergo this humiliation and discrimination is doing okay with all of the publicity. I think that reporters are hungry and now that they've talked to me or heard my story and the stories of my classmates they're not itching to talk to the victimized student which I completed disagree with. So I just hope everyone keeps their heads on straight and focuses on the actions of the situation (the power abuse and the violated human rights) and the message of that rather than working so hard to put faces to names and voices. To be honest I would have done what I did even if I knew there were going to be repercussions because I would've fought against them. But after my interview with CBC I called CSA (central student association) to make sure that I would be academically protected and they were extremely supportive in promising that they would personally see to it. I was also reassured of this my many other university officials”

Authors note: Thank you for answering my questions and having a voice when all seems lost has a lasting effect on everyone involved.