Adjunct accounting professor under investigation for discriminatory comments in class

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Update: This article was updated to include information from interviews with other publications in which Daniel Bayak responded to the incident. Bayak did not provide public comment to The Brown and White.

Editor’s note: The names of students in this story have been changed to protect their security while the investigation is ongoing.

Daniel Bayak, an adjunct accounting professor in the College of Business and Economics, was accused of allegedly making inappropriate comments regarding a student’s ethnic heritage in a class Wednesday. John, an Intermediate Accounting II student whom The Brown and White has chosen not to name to protect his security, filed a complaint to Lehigh’s Equal Opportunity Compliance Coordinator and the university initiated an investigation into the matter.

John said Bayak bragged at the start of class Wednesday that he won $10,000 from a bet he made that Donald Trump would win the election, and made various discriminatory comments to non-white students about the election.

For example, John said, Bayak asked one Indian-American student how late he stayed up the night before watching the election, because his eyes “looked like slits.”

Moments later, Bayak, who knew John was an American with Mexican heritage, allegedly asked him, “What about you? Are you staying or are you going back to your country?”

When John, who was in disbelief, asked, “Excuse me?” Bayak repeated his question.

John said he told Bayak he thought the question was inappropriate, especially given the circumstances of the election.

Maria, another student in the class, said Bayak had made comments to John about his heritage on several other occasions. She said though John’s responses to the professor were respectful, it was clear he was visibly upset by the comment.

“Then professor Bayak said something along the lines of, ‘I’ve been teaching for x amount of years, I ask these questions all the time, no one’s ever had a problem before,'” she said.

John said he was shaken and angry, because he felt the language Bayak was using was threatening to his grade. As he began to pack his things to leave the classroom, Bayak said, “’Oh my God, you’re not going to throw a temper tantrum now, are you?’”

Maria said the rest of the students sat in stunned silence after John left, and the professor continued to teach the class.

“I think a lot of people wish that they had done something, but everyone was just so shocked and no one really said anything,” she said.

Anna, a third student in the accounting class, said she was glad someone said something and stood up to the professor, “instead of letting it slide like we usually do.”

All of the students told The Brown and White this was not the first time Bayak had made offensive and discriminatory comments in class, and that he has a reputation in the business school for doing so. John said Bayak’s comments were never directed toward white students.

John said he thinks it’s possible other students have reported Bayak for his comments in the past.

“If he (hasn’t had anything reported against him), I would be very shocked to hear that, because I feel like he always mentions little things that are borderline racist, but are never directly offensive enough to be considered racist,” he said

John said he thought Bayak felt particularly empowered to make the discriminatory comments on Wednesday.

“(Bayak) mentions all the time that he has a full-time job position at Lafayette and he has a part-time position (at Lehigh),” John said. “So maybe that’s why he’s so much more free and open about the language that he uses here because he maybe feels that even if he loses his position at this university, he still has another position at Lafayette College.”

Maria said it’s likely many students are intimidated by Bayak because he has been teaching at Lehigh for so long.

“Many of us are aware of the fact that he got a DUI two years ago, like a block off campus,” she said. “It’s kind of been instilled in us that stuff like that can happen and he’s still here, so nothing that we would say to him would really have any pull, because he’s really open with his opinions.”

Bayak was scheduled to meet with members of the Lehigh administration yesterday as part of the investigation, according to University Communications.

Anna said she was surprised at how quickly the university responded to the accusations against Bayak, and was glad to see Provost Pat Farrell’s email address the community about the matter.

“I heard that he’s going to get fired, which I feel is drastic — I understand it, because students are feeling uncomfortable in his class and you can’t have a professor violating Title IX things — but it makes me wonder if other students in the past have reported him,” Anna said. “It makes me wonder if students in the past have come forward and made complaints like this and that’s why (the administration) is taking it so seriously.”

Karen Salvemini, Lehigh’s Equal Opportunity Compliance coordinator and Title IX coordinator, sent an email to students in the ACCT316 class to update them on the steps being taken to address the situation.

Salvemini and Bryan Cloyd, the chair of the accounting department, will be attending the first portion of the class Monday to discuss the steps and answer students’ questions.

Cloyd declined to speak to The Brown and White while the EEOC investigation is ongoing.

The Brown and White communicated with Bayak via email. He did not provide public comment on the incident.

Alison Byerly, the president of Lafayette College, confirmed the college has also opened an investigation into Bayak’s teaching practices, according to Lafayette’s student newspaper.

In an interview with The Lafayette, Bayak said he felt Lehigh students’ complaints were “misplaced aggression” toward the results of the presidential election. He said he saw the aggression as a personal attack, and that he was in the process of hiring a defamation attorney.

Bayak also denied the students’ claims in an interview with Lehigh Valley Live.

The classes Bayak was scheduled to teach this week, which include Intermediate Accounting II and two sections of Introduction to Financial Accounting, will be taught by other faculty members in the College of Business and Economics.

“I think it’s very important that people remember that regardless of who is in a leadership position as president, regardless of who our leader is, what is right and what is wrong has not changed,” John said. “And I don’t want anyone to ever feel discouraged in any way, to feel as if their struggle, their suffering, their pain is unappreciated.”

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10 Comments

  1. Susan Magaziner on

    http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/howto.html

    This is the link for students and parents to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education to request investigation. It has been provided by OCR attorneys at the Philadelphia office of OCR as Lehigh at this time remains under federal jurisdictional authority.

    As Complainant in current case at Lehigh, Docket No. 03142021, our civil rights attorneys have been advised of this incident of alleged harassment/discrimination as per the extent of terms of the present monitoring agreement between the University and OCR.

    Follow the link to file a new case of alleged harassment, discrimination, bias in the educational environment. The OCR attorneys can be contacted individually regarding the current case at : [email protected] and [email protected] ed.gov

    In solidarity,

    Susan Magaziner, M.A., BCEA, ’77

  2. Andrew Moloff, tuition-paying parent of current student on

    If the facts are as reported here I expect Lehigh to fire Bayak promptly. Nothing less is acceptable. This behavior is wildly inappropriate for a person in control of a classroom.

    • Susan Magaziner on

      Kudos to you T.

      This is reassuring and it makes me glad that you are standing up for Professor. Lehigh is under heat right now for a multitude of allegations against protected populations. I filed a case of behalf of discrimination of Hispanic and Latino/Latina students with mountains of evidence. Unfortunately Bayak is going to take the fall so that the University can perform and pretend that they effectively respond to harassment while the US Department of Education looks on. What is ashame is that those at Lehigh who still remain demonstrate discrimination and harassment on a far greater scale than comments.

      What we also must consider is that language is ambiguous. Tone inflection and the context in which words are said are critical to assessing the incident. Also important is the level of relationship that Professor has with these students and if this banter was typical and customary.

      I have warned Bayak of the groundswell due to the civil rights watch and rigorous monitoring from OCR. This incident may cost him his job, but there is a complicated series of events that fulfill Lehigh administrators corrupt and disingenuous agenda. Bayak, guilty or not will be scapegoated, as Lehigh remains under federal monitoring and Salvemini and Lehigh are pressured to man up. Sadly, for Bayak, the forces of legal power and corruption in the Office of General Counsel and Salvemini’s biased internal “investigations” will triumph in the name of “justice”. Watch out Professor Bayak, you have yourself been the victim of targeting and discrimination. What Lehigh has accepted for decades is being placed on you alone, and you are not collateral damage in our advocacy to end harassment and discrimination of protected populations. Let this be a lesson to all that it is time for change, so we can end incidents such as these.

  3. I have this professor at Lafayette and I think he does a fantastic job. He might make a slightly edgy comment here and there but his motives are purely to keep the classes attention and certainly not racially motivated. It would be a shame for the Lehigh community to lose him but a positive for Lafayette to have him full time as he is very well liked among the students here.

  4. Reginald McAnders on

    He was asking a rhetorical question which was asked ad naseum the day after by so many people to others in fear of what the Trump administration could bring. He was misinterpreted, he was, indeed, engaging in debate. These delicate little snowflakes will have a tough time, especially now that a white nationalist is in charge. Stand up for what you believe, comment your concerns to the “oppressor,” but we are certainly in the world of rush-to-judgement, blow-it-out-of-proportion, and “I’ve been hurt and can’t even.” There is NO doubt in my mind — having been a teacher and having had tougher, more unconventional teacher — Bayak meant no racist commentary amidst his questions. And, I don’t even know him. However, he should be retained in his teaching jobs and be written a hearty apology for the inane publicity and falsifications. “John” and his peers, however, need to be hand-held and guided to all decisions by those who should not have to make decisions on such things. Absolute whining is one of the many reasons Trump won.

  5. Pingback: Here’s a Rundown of the Latest Campus-Climate Incidents Since Trump’s Election – The Ticker - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education

  6. The accuser is very likely not a minor, nor is this a sexual assault case. Hiding the accuser’s name to “protect their security” while disclosing Bayak’s is biased, partisan journalism.

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