Purdue University President Mitch Daniels is retracting and apologizing for a comment in which he called an African American scholar, in his words, “one of the rare creatures in America.”
The letter was addressed to five campus organizations, all representing students or faculty of color. One of the organizations receiving his apology is the Purdue chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP.
Purdue NAACP President Carey Walls says he and other students shouldn’t have had to ask for an apology.
“The disrespect we felt in the African American community to be seen as anything but a human, it hurt especially coming from the president of our university,” Walls said.
Daniels sent the apology letter to five campus organizations representing people of color, but did not send an all-campus note, as he does several times a year on other topics. Walls says he believes it should have been sent campus-wide and hopes it’s the beginning of creating a more inclusive environment at Purdue.
“I hope that we can all come to a better understanding, so we can all come together on one accord to make Purdue a more accepting place,” Walls adds.
The NAACP had earlier requested an apology for Daniels' comments, which the president claimed had been misunderstood. Daniels’ comment came only after he’d been confronted about being tight-lipped in the wake of an incident at a CVS store across the street from campus, where a Puerto Rican student was denied the purchase of cold medicine by a clerk who didn’t understand the student was legally an American citizen.
Walls says he believes events like these are starting conversations about diversity on Purdue's campus.
“I hope to see a time where not just these campus organizations, but administration can sit down and we can have an open discussion," Walls says.
Walls says such discussions are necessary to ensure similar events don’t happen in the future.
A University spokesperson said Daniels was unavailable for an interview on the issue . CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story erroneously indicated the Purdue NAACP had sent its letter directly to President Daniels. University spokesperson Tim Doty says while the letter was addressing Daniels, it was written to the Purdue Exponent newspaper, which then printed the letter.