Professor Mikhail Molchanov’s first day of class with a group of political science students didn’t go as planned.
Third-year student Robert Young was kicked out of the Comparative Politics class last week when he made a joke to the professor. The professor got angry and asked him to leave class, but not before accusing the student of having a mental disability and asking if he needed to go see a doctor, said students from the class who witnessed the interaction.
Once Young was kicked out of class, some students left class and one crying student raised her hand to defend Young who she believed did have a disability, said spectators.
One student was so disheartened by the event she submitted a formal complaint to the university.
First-year student Shaylynn Hayes reported exactly what happened during the incident in the letter and how deeply it affected her.
Hayes has overcome two mental illnesses, depression and anxiety disorder, and felt personally attacked during the incident.
“It’s very important to me that anybody going through any mental challenges have the support they need to feel accepted and a part of the community. Unfortunately, STU failed yesterday. I felt alienated in that class.”
She said six people left after the professor proceeded to insult Young after he had left the room.
Hayes said Molchanov told the class, “having a disability is not an excuse for rude behaviour and if you’re unable to function properly in society you should be in an institution.”
“As a person who struggled with mental health throughout my entire high school career, these statements appalled me … I felt attacked by these remarks,” said Hayes.
“I believe that, as a whole, STU believes in the anonymous nature of mental disabilities and illnesses, however, this was not shown in the behaviour of one of your professors today,” Hayes wrote in her letter.
The university is completing a formal investigation.
A day after agreeing to an interview with the Aquinian, Molchanov was forced to cancel it.
“I am sorry we have to cancel the meeting as the matter of interest to you took a formal turn. I, therefore, will not be able to see you tomorrow at 11:30 or any time in the near future,” he wrote in an email.
Vice President Academic Barry Craig met with the class on Thursday to say the incident was being investigated and that class was cancelled for the day. Students were able to voice any questions or concerns they had.
Craig made it clear he would not speculate about what happened.
“I can’t prejudge the decision. The professor has rights and the student has rights.”
Craig announced the class would be informed the following Tuesday about whether or not Molchanov will continue to teach the class.
Communications director Jeffrey Carleton said he couldn’t talk about details, but there was someone assigned to examine the incident.
“With Barry’s talk you can see with privacy issues there comes into play many other problems like faculty contracts, human resources issues,” he said. “It’s not as simple as, ‘this is what happened, and this is the result.’”
During the meeting with the class, Young said he thought Molchanov had anger issues.
“I’m worried that he might come after me,” he said.
Craig answered that he would speak to him after the meeting, and was taken away from the reporters right away before speaking.
Young also emailed the AQ declining to answer any questions until after the investigation is finished.
Third-year student Lindsey MacKay said this incident was so upsetting some students decided to drop the class. MacKay was one of them.
“The classroom environment was not what I was expecting. I don’t mind a hard-ass professor but I didn’t like the way he acted and the way he treated that student. If that is how he’s going to treat a student with a disability, then how will he treat someone without one? How will he treat me? What if I need help with an assignment? I would be afraid to ask him.”
MacKay said she was very uncomfortable and Molchanov scared her.
“It sucks because I really need this class for my major. I know I will have to take it eventually,” said MacKay.
“Even if he wasn’t yelling at us directly, how could he treat a human being like that? I was almost in tears and it wasn’t even me.”
A previous version of this article misquoted Shaylynn Hayes as Robert Young. We apologize to those affected and regret the error.
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