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.”