WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University students, faculty and staff upset by the recent discovery of the words “white supremacy” written on a mirror inside the campus’ Black Cultural Center turned their grievances into a protest march that ended outside the school’s main administration building.
A mix of more than 200 Black, White, Asian and Hispanic men and women marched Monday afternoon past the West Lafayette campus Memorial Hall to the steps of Hovde Hall, which houses the offices of Purdue’s top administrators.
The Journal & Courier reported ( http://on.jconline.com/13TQiUf) that the protest started quietly before the group erupted with energetic chants, shouting “This is what diversity looks like!” “The people are the power!” and other slogans.
The protesters are upset by an incident last Friday in which the words “white supremacy” were found written on a mirror inside the Black Cultural Center.
Purdue’s University News Service said in a statement released Monday, however, that Friday’s incident was not an act of vandalism but was an unintentional transfer of words from a sticky note during an educational seminar.
Nonetheless, organizers of Monday’s protest said the incident, whether intentional or not, follows after a series of race-related incidents on campus.
FBI statistics rank Purdue second in the nation among public and private universities for the number of reported hate crimes. Those rankings are not objective, however, because reporting of hate crimes by universities is inconsistent.
During Monday’s protest, members of the group shouted a list of demands compiled by Purdue’s Anti-Racism Coalition.
Among them was a request that university President Mitch Daniels should “articulate a zero-tolerance stance against all racist acts.” In addition, they called out for a doubling of the number of minority faculty and students over the next 10 years and requiring an undergraduate course on race and racism.
“All diversity means is difference, unlikeness,” said Christopher Warren, who instructs courses on African-American studies and sociology at Purdue, during the protest. “Who cares about diversity when there is no equality?”
Provost Tim Sands watched the demonstration from the sidelines and walked up to the first step of Hovde Hall and addressed the gathering when the crowd called his name.
“We are not an inclusive environment,” said Sands. “We have not figured that out yet … . I’m really excited to see this momentum building. I’m sorry it’s based on the fact that Purdue is not yet a psychologically safe place to study for many people. It is for some but not for everyone.”
Daniels, who did not attend because he was in Washington, D.C., at a conference, released a statement apologizing for being out-of-state and unable to attend.
His statement said the incident at the Purdue Black Cultural Center “presents an opportunity to reaffirm our common commitment to a Purdue environment that is completely respectful of all and not accepting of behavior that falls short of that standard.”