Late last month, Purdue student José Guzmán-Payano tried to purchase some cold medicine at a local CVS store, but was denied when the employee refused to accept his Puerto Rican identification. His US passport also was refused with the employee allegedly informing him that his immigration status would need to be confirmed, The Exponent reports.
What CVS has to do with the university, other than being located in a college town, is meager; nevertheless, some 40 student activists took to the streets to protest Guzmán-Payano’s treatment … and (naturally) turned the incident into an indictment of the entire campus.
Junior Derrick Cotton said Purdue “should be ashamed,” and that he and his fellow protesters were “standing up for the injustices that have been occurring on campus recently.”
Student Government President Jo Boileau asked Purdue President Mitch Daniels to make a statement about the incident, but was rebuffed. Daniels noted that assuming the situation was racially motivated was “jumping to conclusions” and, as noted, the store isn’t even part of the university.
Boileau responded by saying Daniels “mandated silence” on the matter.
This past Wednesday, the Purdue Graduate Student Government debated a Student Senate bill which condemned the CVS incident as one of “xenophobia and racism.”
Kilian Kelly, head of PGSG legislative affairs who “prefers gender neutral pronouns,” alleged that “(acts of racism and xenophobia) have been happening for years (at Purdue) and they’ve been swept under the rug.” Kelly chided a fellow student who had condemned the situation at Syracuse, but would not refer to the CVS matter as “xenophobic.”
President Daniels found himself mired in a racial stew that same day when, in a hallway conversation following a student government meeting, he said “I will be recruiting one of the rarest creatures in America: a leading, I mean a really leading African American scholar.”
“Creatures?” asked Black Student Union President D’Yan Berry.
Daniels attempted to elucidate, saying “It’s a figure of speech, you must have taken some literature. One of the rarest, let me say, rarest birds, rarest, rarest, rarest phenomena.” Berry retorted “Person. Students. It’s words to make us humanized.”
The Exponent dedicated an article to how Twitter reacted to Daniels’ comments:
“We knew Mitch the Bitch had some white supremacy still in him from his time before Purdue. This ain’t nothing new but extremely disheartening in 2019 that someone who is the president of a school doesn’t know how to properly communicate,” said Jonathan Hoestar.
“Stark but not Tony” wrote “Bravo to Mr D’Yan Berry for checking him! But what does it mean when a university president doesn’t get why calling Black scholars anything but students/scholars is inappropriate and tone death? Especially when you admitted the institution is struggling with student diversity.” [Note: Berry is a female, according to The Exponent.]
“Mitch Daniels is a racist and needs to resign. This is just horrifying,” wrote “Faith.”
“Aaron” added “@purduemitch is an embarrassment to @LifeAtPurdue and should apologize for his dehumanizing comments and resign. He has repeatedly demonstrated that PoC are not valued or welcome here and this @purdueexponent piece is a chrystal [sic] clear distillation of his blatant racism.”
On Thursday, university spokesman Tim Doty said Daniels’ remarks were “an innocent mistake” and that Berry “missed the point.”