The end of this fall semester will mark President Mitch Daniels’ first year as Purdue’s 12th president.
Let’s look back on his accomplishments and shortcomings.
1. An approachable president
Daniels said one of his main goals for this year was to meet at least 5,000 students and that’s exactly what he did. In every event or speaking engagement he attends, he always comes early and utilizes his time to speak with the students attending the event.
Daniels isn’t someone who is up on stage talking about the most boring topic you can think of – he’s someone down in the aisles talking to you face to face about what your goals are at Purdue and in life. That’s an approachable college president.
Obviously, there are many students on campus who have never met Daniels, but with a campus of close to 40,000 students, Daniels is doing the best he can.
2. Changing college affordability on every level
Daniels said he wanted to change how parents and students viewed the financial side of receiving a college education. An announcement was made in the spring semester that he would freeze Purdue’s tuition for the next two years, after just three months of being president.
That specific announcement is what set him apart from previous Purdue presidents. He came into Purdue and learned every aspect he could about the campus and made his own assessments about what could be done to cut costs for students. Although a decrease in tuition is obviously better than a freeze on tuition, this is exactly what the first step to affordability should look like. All eyes are on Daniels right now to see what he’ll do next.
3. Increasing fundraising for Purdue academics and research
The staff at The Exponent learned that wherever Daniels goes, money will always follow. An astounding amount of $65 million was donated to the College of Agriculture in February, 2013. This semester, an anonymous $3 million was donated to the history department within the College of Liberal Arts. Several more donations have been made this year, which shows there’s no doubt that Daniels has an influence on people wanting to help Purdue expand as a global university.
4. Increasing the reputation of Purdue
Daniels gained national attention when emails about the censorship of Howard Zinn’s writings in K-12 schools and the need to clean up college courses were released into the Purdue community. The emails were written during his time as governor of Indiana. Was this good press for Purdue? No. Some may argue there’s no such thing as “bad press,” but the thought of our own president wanting to ban someone’s literary work for having his own opinion gave everyone a cringe.
The controversy did not stop there. It was revealed by Daniels’ staff that he received compensation for his speech at a conservative think tank in Minnesota in October this year. Although he released an apology letter to the Purdue community and made his compensation available for scholarship, the criticism of the Purdue president kept coming in.
The reputation of Purdue ultimately relies on the students and their success after graduation, but it is the president’s job to lead us to the right path while we’re here. If new opportunities don’t open up for students because of what Daniels did, then the blame is on him.
5. Increasing diversity and making a statement
On April 23, 2013, the Purdue Anti-Racism Coalition marched around campus demanding Daniels to make certain changes on campus. After leaving a placard in front of Hovde Hall, an unsuspected person wrote a racial slur and drew a stick figure hanging from a tree. Although the perpetrator was never caught, it shook the entire campus and made a lot of people uneasy. Daniels then released a press release with this statement, “There is no place at Purdue for those who act from hatred. If you recognize yourself in this last sentence, you are not welcome at Purdue.”
But what does releasing a statement solve? Nothing.
Daniels needed to act quickly as president, be active in the investigation and set specific guidelines for hate crimes if they ever happened again. Automatic expulsion, a revoked diploma and a required course in diversity and inclusion would be good examples. Diversity doesn’t mean increasing the number of international students; it means understanding where people come from and having an open mind to accept everyone for who they are. Did Daniels try to make the Purdue campus foster understanding of each other? Not really.
When Daniels visited the staff at The Exponent, he specifically said he is looking into increasing the number of black and Hispanic students. Although not much has been done about Purdue’s hate crimes, it’s good to see Daniels doing his homework and trying to find a solution.
“I don’t know why our number is so low, but we’re always actively looking to recruit everyone,” Daniels said.
When The Exponent reached out to Daniels for a comment on his first year at Purdue, he said he won’t grade himself.
“I will say I am never satisfied and can always find ways I could have done better, or done a good thing faster,” Daniels said.
Daniels said he does have one regret this year, “(It would be) taking so long to find Beans in the Materials and Electrical Engineering Building.”
Final overall grade: B