‘Learn English’: KU engineering professor removed as class instructor following remark to international student

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- "Learn English." That's what students in a University of Kansas engineering class say their professor told an international student on Tuesday. Now the university says it has a difficult decision to make.

Dr. Gary Minden has been teaching at KU's School of Engineering for nearly 40 years. However, Tuesday's embedded systems class left many of his students stunned.

"Did he just say that?" student, Kyle Kappes-Sum said.

Engineering students say Minden told another student, who classmates say is Chinese, to learn English. Those in the room say the student was using his phone to translate the lecture, but the class has a no cellphone policy.

"We all sat there stunned for a second, and then someone called him out on it," Kappes-Sum said. "He proceeded to - first I don't think he was aware that he said it, and then once that was, he continued to defend his action for about the next hour."

Students say the mood in the room changed at that point, and the tenured professor began to defend his choice of words. They say he started pointing to students and ask what they thought about what he said. Kappes-Sum says the statement happened within the first five minutes of class, and the rest of the hour the statement was the topic of conversation for Minden.

"The whole class was clearly uncomfortable," Kappes-Sum said. "There was people who just said - 'I don't want to be a part of this.'"

On Thursday, KU's dean, department chair and provost addressed the class about the incident. The administrators told them Minden would no longer be their instructor for this specific class.

"Only a third of the class showed up today, because people weren't sure what was going to happen," Kappes-Sum said.

FOX4 talked to Minden, who showed up to the class, but declined to comment on camera, and said he'd, "Done enough damage already." He went on to say that he "made a mistake," however, he "doesn't feel responsible for student failings."

The University of Kansas said in a statement to FOX4:

"A number of students have raised concerns about events that occurred in their engineering class. In response to those concerns, the university has assigned a different instructor to teach the course while the matter is reviewed."

Kappes-Sum says the class has people from many countries in it, and part of their college experience is meeting, and learning from different people with different cultures.

KU will be on Spring Break next week, and administrators say the new instructor will pick up the class when school is back in session.

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