An Arabic lecturer who resigned from the University made students uncomfortable with unwanted advice about religion and had difficulty teaching the language, according to students and an adviser.
Haider Bhuiyan was a lecturer of Arabic and Islam at the University from 2007 until he resigned after fall 2011.
In a second investigation, the EOO looked into charges by Bhuiyan that two other religion professors, Alan Godlas and Kenneth Honerkamp, had discriminated against him when he was not rehired as a lecturer in Arabic. According to a letter from Dawkins to Bhuiyan, the EOO found no evidence of discrimination against Bhuiyan, but found that he had discriminated against students earlier.In December 2010, the Equal Opportunity Office investigated Bhuiyan on allegations that he made inappropriate comments about religion and sexual orientation to students, according to documents obtained by the Red & Black and published in a Feb. 2 article. The EOO found no evidence of discrimination, wrote E. Janyce Dawkins, associate director of equal opportunity, in a letter to Bhuiyan.
A student, who wished to remain anonymous, took the University's first four Arabic classes with Bhuiyan in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 academic years.
She said he made her and other students uncomfortable with "a lot of unwanted advice" about religion.
"Aside from his ability to teach Arabic, which was completely subpar, I was told by him on several occasions that being an Arabic girl in Georgia by myself was not a good idea," she said.
She said Bhuiyan told her that as a Muslim woman, she shouldn't live alone without male family members and shouldn't be working so hard at her job.
"I went to office hours to talk about Arabic, and I got lectures about how I should quit my job and move back to Egypt," she said. "I was told to join Muslim Student Association, go to Friday prayers, basically 'be a better Muslim.' All that made it really hard to interact with him as a teacher."
The student grew up in Egypt and was raised Muslim, but she said she made it clear to Bhuiyan that she hadn't practiced Islam since the age of 4.
Wanda Wilcox, an adviser for the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, said another student complained to her about Bhuiyan's inappropriate remarks about religion.
She said a male student in Bhuiyan's summer Islam class told her Bhuiyan had said "very aggressive and very dismissive" things to a female student in the class who practiced a different denomination of Islam than Bhuiyan.
"As just a guy who was in there, he felt very badly for the girl that she was being attacked," Wilcox said. When she learned the EOO was investigating Bhuiyan, she gave the male student's name to the EOO.
The anonymous student also said Bhuiyan's comments, rather than distinguishing between Muslims and non-Muslims, distinguished between "good" and "bad" Muslims.
"Our class was basically full of people who were just stunned by the things he said to us," she said.
In addition to the allegations of discrimination, some students also said Bhuiyan was not a qualified teacher.
The anonymous student said if Bhuiyan had been a better teacher, she could have dealt with his advice.
"More than any of this, what bothered me was that he was not capable of teaching the Arabic language," she said. "It was incredibly hard to learn from him and I found myself teaching myself all of the lessons instead of learning from him in class."
Wilcox said several students stopped studying Arabic because they found it hard to learn from Bhuiyan's classes.
"They definitely had difficulty with the way he taught the introductory Arabic class," she said.
Anna Beth Havenar, a sophomore linguistics major who took ARAB 1001 with Bhuiyan, said she enjoyed the class and liked Bhuiyan as a person, but there could be "a little bit of a disconnect" in his teaching. She said he was sometimes disorganized and had trouble explaining concepts.
Still, other students had only good things to say about Bhuiyan.
Jeffrey Timmons, a senior finance and international business major, said he has taken nine Arabic classes with five different teachers for his minor. He took Bhuiyan's classes in spring 2009 and spring 2010. Timmons said he never observed or heard about Bhuiyan making any discriminatory comments, and said Bhuiyan was especially good at teaching lower-level classes.
"I thought he was definitely one of the better Arabic teachers," Timmons said. "His explanations of the Islamic Arabic culture were really good."
In a Feb. 2 Red & Black article, Bhuyian said one of his reasons for resigning was that he felt uncomfortable when other professors asked him to change students' grades.
But Zack Judson, a sophomore chemistry and linguistics major, said he thinks Bhuiyan may have voluntarily changed his grade in the ARAB 1001 class he took last semester. He said his final grade was an A on OASIS, but an A- on eLC.
"The way he calculated our final grade was really weird. I'm not sure how he did it," Judson said.
Although opinions of Bhuiyan vary, an Arabic major pointed out the strengths of the program and the other Arabic professors.
Kole Bowman, a junior international affairs and Arabic major, said that since the program is relatively small, students and professors get to know each other well.
"It's got kind of a sense of community in being an Arabic major," he said.
He said he never took a class with Bhuiyan, but has taken classes with Godlas, Honerkamp and Arabic instructor Yassin Mohamed.
"There's nothing that has ever happened that could ever cast a light on them that could be discriminatory in any way," he said.
Wilcox, who studied religion at the University and teaches as a religion instructor, said she never interacted with Bhuiyan, but has had "only positive" experiences with Godlas and Honerkamp.
"I find Godlas and Honerkamp very open and very welcoming to all religions," she said.
Godlas and Honerkamp declined to comment. Honerkamp referred to a letter from Dawkins about the EOO investigation, which advised everyone involved to conduct themselves with respect and professionalism.
"I for my part have always valued mutual respect, professionalism and collegiality," he said. "These are the principles by which I have always tried to conduct my life, on and off campus, so I am not sure what more I might have to offer to your article," Honerkamp wrote in an email.
Godlas chose not to comment for similar reasons, and said he wished Bhuiyan the best in the future.