Vanier College says it is reviewing professor's comments after viral video
MONTREAL -- Vanier College is looking into the behaviour of one of its teachers after video of an online class was posted on social media.
In a video posted to an Instagram account called The Armenian Report, a professor identified as Afshin Matlabi can be heard repeatedly hectoring a student over his name, questioning why his mother's family name was first in the student's hyphenated last name.
“How come your dad didn't put their name first and your mom put her name first?” Matlabi says to the student.
“I'm telling you your problem,” Matlabi continues.
It is not clear whether the students in the class knew the video was being recorded or whether the student at the centre of the video consented to it being posted on Instagram.
In the post, the account owner accused Matlabi of prejudice against Armenians.
"Many in the Armenian community at Vanier and the broader Montreal Armenian community have demanded the professor be terminated for embarrassing the student with armenophobic behaviour," they wrote.
According to the Vanier website, Matlabi is a teacher in the Communications, Media and Studio Arts program and a visual artist.
Vanier director of communications Monica Bhattacharya said a formal investigation into the teacher's conduct has been opened.
The administration will meet with the teacher, student and union, and also the other students in the class to get a clear understanding of the context in which the comments were made.
"We have a duty of care to the student, but we also have a duty to the teacher as well," said Bhattacharya.
The school was contacted by the student in question's father who asked the school how to lodge a formal complaint, but, to date, no formal complaint has been filed.
The teacher's classes have been temporarily suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
Vanier is currently looking for a substitute teacher.
OUT OF CONTEXT
Two students have reached out to CTV News saying the video and accusations of racism are out of context.
"I don't really get why this is a big issue. Why has this video gone viral? It doesn't show the whole context. We discussed several things, and this is just a small snippet of what the whole class is about," said Najum Avur Mammu, who was in the class of about 30 students.
"I saw the whole story and it's completely out of context, the video that they took and posted online," said another student, who did not want their name used as they have been harassed online for defending the teacher.
The student said the teacher has a very strong presence, and if people could see the entire class, it would be clear there was no ill intention on his part.
"This could have been anyone who had two last names," the student said.
"He never asked the guy what his religion was, he never asked him where his parents or from. He didn't ask any of those questions at all."
"He said 'Don't you think it's going to cause problems when you have kids and they have your two last names plus your wife's last names? Then your kids are going to have six last names and then nine,'" said the student.
The two students added that they are upset about losing class time while the investigation is ongoing.
"It's a little bit disappointing," said Mammu.
"The teacher's job is to educate us, to make us talk, to share ideas, and we're at school to learn, to gain more knowledge and to share our ideas," he said, adding that the best way to deal with a situation like this is to speak to the teacher or dean rather than taking it to social media.
Mammu is a Muslim Sri Lankan and has never felt any discomfort in Matlabi's class.
In a statement posted to social media, the college told students it takes allegations of racism very seriously.
“We have mechanisms in place to address such situations and the College is addressing this issue immediately. Vanier is a diverse community of learners and prides itself on trying to create a learning environment free of racism, discrimination and hate.”