About 40 students chanted “Enough is enough” and other phrases on Northwestern Avenue on Wednesday evening after a Purdue student attempted to buy cold medicine and was denied after giving his Puerto Rican ID.
“We’re here standing up for the injustices that have been occurring on campus recently,” said Derrick Cotton, a junior in the College of Health and Human Sciences.
José Guzmán-Payano attempted to buy over-the-counter cold medicine on Oct. 25, according to the Journal & Courier, and the clerk said the ID he provided wasn’t enough.
Guzmán-Payano also showed his U.S. passport and said the employee told him she would need to see a form of immigration status before selling the medicine.
Cotton said Purdue should be ashamed of the incident.
Purdue Student Government president Jo Boileau said at the protest that he asked Purdue President Mitch Daniels to release a statement. Daniels told him that he wouldn’t be releasing a statement because he thought that assuming the incident was racially motivated was jumping to conclusions, and the incident was not on University property.
“The problem is the silence that is mandated by ... Daniels,” Boileau said. “On almost every issue that involves real or perceived racial discrimination, his administration is forced to be silent, where they otherwise want to say something.”
Later Wednesday at the PSG meeting, Boileau quoted John Gates, the vice provost for diversity and inclusion.
“’The University is unlikely to make a statement in any way about this issue, and this is part of the administrative culture. My power only extends so far. If I could issue a statement, I would,’” Boileau said.
Boileau said that the silence from Purdue’s administration effectively diminishes the importance of the experiences of minority students.
Autumn Pickett, a senior in the College of Science, said the incident at CVS was just one example of many issues that have led to racism proliferating in the community.
“I believe that it’s part of a policy that’s lacking on CVS’ part, but also absolutely a racist incident when a Purdue student was discriminated against for the color of their skin,” she said. “For where they’re from, even though they’re a U.S. citizen.”
Cotton, who was part of a program called Diversity Ambassadors which he said was cut because of a lack of funding, said he thinks that if Purdue is claiming to be diverse, it would have kept the organization and others like it.
In reference to the experience of marginalized or intersectional communities, Boileau said Purdue needs to protect its students while they are here, aside from just ensuring students succeed after graduation.
“I think if Purdue is always trying to tout ‘We’re so diverse. We’re so great. Our diversity makes us awesome,’ then you have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk,” Boileau said.
Members of the group were handing out flyers outside Mackey Arena when they were asked by a Purdue University Residences representative and several police to move across the street. They were told that Purdue Athletics had reserved the space.
They moved across the street outside the CVS and a speaker yelled “What do we want?” in Spanish with the group responding with “Justice” in kind.
Pickett said the event was not a protest, and Cotton said that the participants intended to calmly promote diversity on campus.
“I don’t want it to look like we’re trying to cause havoc on campus or anything,” Cotton said. “We’re just trying to peacefully express our opinions.”
Cotton also said that in the 21st century, these issues shouldn’t need to be addressed.
“This isn’t something we should be talking about, and I’m just getting tired of it,” he said. “I think a lot of us are getting tired of it, and we’re at the moment now where we need a call to action.”