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Professor accused of ethnic discrimination

A Bradley student is alleging Bob Podlasek, associate professor of mechanical engineering, ethnically discriminated him.

On Oct. 10, Abraham Barrantes, a senior criminal justice major, came forward to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion with a discrimination allegation against Podlasek.

The university has confirmed they are aware of the situation and are looking into it.

According to Barrantes, the incident took place during his shift in the duplication room at McMillan Hall.

“I was working as usual, my supervisor always lets us listen to any music we want,” Barrantes said. “I was listening to my Spanish music. The professor [Podlasek] comes in and I always help him out. I start printing his jobs and as I was printing, he asks me if what I was playing was Indian music and I say ‘No, that’s Spanish music’ and then he goes off and says ‘This is America. We speak English here. You shouldn’t be listening to that.’”

Barrantes said he was alarmed by the incident, shocked to hear the words from a professor.

“I told him this is a diverse country, we can speak or listen to whatever we want,” said Barrantes. “He [then] says ‘diversity’ sarcastically, [and said] ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’. I didn’t know what to say from that.”

Micah Yoon, a junior middle school mathematics education major, who also works in the duplication room, was present during the alleged discrimination.

“I was really thrown back at what he said; he is always so polite to me,” Yoon said.

Podlasek did not respond to an email or phone message left for him on Tuesday.

Nathan Thomas, vice president for student affairs, is responsible for handling non-academic grievances. While he was unable to comment on this particular complaint, he ensures procedure is in place for these situations.

“We get made aware and do our best to be responsive, whether it’s a student that brings it up or whether it’s been made aware of,” Thomas said.

Thomas said there are three different ways student complaints of discrimination by a faculty or staff member can be reported. If they are in a student-employee situation, they can talk to a supervisor. If it is in an academic area, they can report to a department chair, assistant dean or dean. Finally, there is the formal academic grievance process.

Barrantes said he talked to Norris Chase, executive director of diversity and inclusion, and is now waiting for administration to review his allegation.

“[Administration] seems to be on top of it because they told me that everyone is aware of it including the president and the provost … I told them I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to other students. I want them to be aware that this happened because if I stay silent then it makes it seem like its okay for people to do that,” said Barrantes.

If the allegation is determined to be valid, Barrantes asked human resources for a written or verbal apology from Podlasek and training of a class on diversity for faculty.

Yoon also talked to human resources and is now waiting to see if anything happens.

“I feel like we were heard,” Yoon said. “I don’t know how much will actually get done. We got our point across and told them everything.”

University president Gary Roberts sent an email to all students Thursday afternoon encouraging everyone in the Bradley “family” to treat each other with respect and dignity.

Roberts’ email also asked victims of discrimination to report their experience to administration.

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