The last time Northern Arizona University student Shannon McKinley saw the professor who taught her interior design class was on Monday, Oct. 30.
“She told all of us that she was going to post some of the notes online because we had a test that Wednesday,” McKinley said. “That Wednesday she didn’t show up and we had another teacher give us the test.”
McKinley and many other students never got the notes they were promised by test day because the now former professor of that class, Melissa Santana was arrested earlier that Monday on five counts of felony stalking - one involving a student - and three counts of giving false information to law enforcement.
By Nov. 1, two days after her arrest, Santana no longer worked for NAU (officials decline to comment whether she was fired or resigned). Her salary was $54,000 a year, according to the NAU Budget report.
Several students who had Santana as a teacher were shocked to hear that a professor they described as respected, dedicated and accessible was accused of committing years of online harassment against Forest Service hotshot firefighters and their families, as well as a student.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” said Stephen Petrie, who had two classes with Santana. “When I heard about what happened, it just didn’t make sense because she was good and friendly teacher.”
Petrie said he would regularly attend office hours with Santana and described the professor’s classes as difficult.
“She was a tough grader but it was so she could push you,” Petrie said. “I would go to office hours a lot because her class was so difficult. She always made time for me and was always quick to respond to my emails.”
NAU student Breanna Keith said she was concerned when Santana did not show up to her last class.
“She just didn’t show up and I thought that was really strange since she never missed a class,” Keith said.
McKinley said there wasn’t a lot of communication between the college and its students regarding Santana’s status.
“It was just suspicious because no one in the department would tell us what was going on,” McKinley said. They would just tell everyone that she was on leave and would probably not be coming back.”
She learned about her professor’s arrest two weeks later, when she googled Santana’s name.
However, McKinley still said that the interior design department did a good job picking up the pieces after Santana was arrested.
“I think they were in a tough position and they did a really good job keeping our class going after everything that happened,” McKinley said. “It was a really shocking situation and it probably was just as surprising to them as it was to the students.”
Santana’s husband and multiple friends of his did not wish to comment when contacted by the Daily Sun.
Santana is scheduled to appear in federal court on Nov. 29.