Purdue vs. Yale and Mizzou

Mitch Daniels criticizes two universities that have struggled with racial tensions and free speech issues. Some are praising him, but many are angry -- and he'll face a demonstration on campus today.

November 13, 2015
Mitch Daniels

The Wall Street Journal couldn't have been much more excited about what Mitch Daniels said Wednesday about the protests at Yale University and the University of Missouri. "We’ve been wondering all week what happened to the grown-ups on American university campuses, and it appears we have a sighting. Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University, spoke up Wednesday about the children’s revolt at Yale and Missouri," said the Journal in an editorial.

While many conservatives joined in praising Daniels, his comments angered many black students at Purdue and some critics elsewhere. A rally is planned at Purdue today.

So here's the complete text of what Daniels said: "Events this week at the University of Missouri and Yale University should remind us all of the importance of absolute fidelity to our shared values. First, that we strive constantly to be, without exception, a welcoming, inclusive and discrimination-free community, where each person is respected and treated with dignity. Second, to be steadfast in preserving academic freedom and individual liberty. Two years ago, a student-led initiative created the 'We Are Purdue Statement of Values,' which was subsequently endorsed by the University Senate. Last year, both our undergraduate and graduate student governments led an effort that produced a strengthened statement of policies protecting free speech. What a proud contrast to the environments that appear to prevail at places like Missouri and Yale. Today and every day, we should remember the tenets of those statements and do our best to live up to them fully."

It's true, of course, that many have questioned whether some involved in the protest movements at Missouri and Yale have been intolerant of journalists and those who disagree with the goals of the protests.

But the strong reaction at Purdue seems to relate more to Daniels criticizing two universities engaged in public discussions of racial tensions when many argue that Purdue has similar tensions and has largely ignored them. Black students and some black professors have noted that they have been saying for some time now that they face bigotry in the classroom and on campus.

Black students (joined by others at Purdue) created the hashtag #boilersofpurdue to describe their experiences and why they feel solidarity with those protesting at Missouri and Yale, not a desire to put them down.




Some also questioned whether Daniels has always shown the same commitment to free speech that he now praises. While governor of Indiana, the Associated Press reported, Daniels tried to ban the teaching of the radical historian Howard Zinn in professional development programs for teachers, and sought to cut funds to a program led by a professor who was a critic.

But the primary focus today in a campus rally will be the way black students are treated at Purdue. The rally will be called "How Many More Fires?" -- a reference to a 2013 rally by black students that used the name "The Fire This Time," a reference to James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time.


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