Ball State Reversal on Donor Who Used Slur

August 17, 2018

When word spread last month that John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John’s Pizza, had used a racial slur, many colleges said that they would remove his name from centers that were created with his donations. But Ball State University, his alma mater, did not do so and said it would keep his name on the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise.

But on Thursday, the board of Ball State announced that it had voted to remove Schnatter's name from the institute and from an endowed chair. Further, gifts for the institute will be returned to Schnatter's family foundation.

A statement from the board said, "The Board of Trustees strongly condemns racism, both implicit and explicit. Our condemnation extends to include John Schnatter’s comments that are the subject of controversy and have no place in our society. The board had hoped that the situation would provide a learning opportunity regarding race relations and critical thinking. We respect and appreciate that John desired to engage with our students and campus community and otherwise continue to be supportive of Ball State. From the board’s perspective, our university was presented with a chance to have a healthy and open conversation that could lead to better understanding of issues facing our society. Notwithstanding the board’s strong belief in the power of conversation, President [Geoffrey S.] Mearns has advised us that such discussions with John and other good faith gestures would not be well received or effective, as long as his name remains on the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise. Unfortunately, the response from some on campus and the current political climate in our nation makes the meaningful progress we desire very challenging. At the same time, the board does not wish to risk that others will have a false impression that Ball State is not fully committed to a welcoming and inclusive campus for all."

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