A student senate bill condemning the recent CVS incident revealed starkly contrasting feelings about racism and xenophobia on campus.
At a meeting Wednesday night, the Purdue Graduate Student Government discussed the CVS incident concerning Puerto Rican Purdue student José Guzman Payano, who was denied purchasing cold medicine even after showing his ID, passport and visa at the CVS near campus off Northwestern Avenue.
PGSG members clashed over the bill, which condemned the CVS incident as an act of xenophobia and racism.
“(Acts of racism and xenophobia) have been happening for years (at Purdue) and they’ve been swept under the rug,” said Kilian Kelly, a first-year graduate student in the College of Liberal Arts and the head of legislative affairs for PGSG.
One student opposed calling the incident xenophobic. He said that there’s too much attribution of hateful attitudes where ignorance could better explain actions in America.
Other students raised concerns over the perceived prevalence of racist and xenophobic sentiment at Purdue. Students referenced vice provost for diversity and inclusion John Gates’ comments at the recent town hall meeting at the Latino Cultural Center held in light of the CVS incident.
As reported previously by The Exponent, Gates angered many students with his response to student concerns about racial discrimination around campus.
“You simply may not be happy here. This may not be the institution for you,” Gates said at the town hall meeting.
The PGSG students ultimately voted to table the bill for next meeting.
Kelly, who prefers gender neutral pronouns, co-authored the bill and described their frustrations with the responses to the CVS bill.
“I feel that from certain people that there was too much concern with the feeling of the employee,” they said, “and not with the individual that experienced the discrimination.
Kelly mentioned a student who condemned the recent racially charged incidents at Syracuse University, but didn’t want to call the CVS incident xenophobic.
“The fact that (an individual) was willing to make a statement about racism at a different campus and not on our own feels a little incongruent with what would make sense about advocating for our students,” Kelly said.
This month’s PGSG meeting also continued last month’s discussion on Purdue’s graduate student payroll debacle. The meeting featured Senior Director of Human Resources Amy Boyle, who answered students’ questions about how future communication issues between Purdue and students could be prevented.
Boyle said she recognized the payroll shortfalls. She said that human mistakes are always a possibility in the University’s system because humans interact with the system.
With Boyle present, PGSG passed a bill requesting Purdue’s HR department to acknowledge the transition pay issues graduate students employed by Purdue suffered.
PGSG also passed a bill to establish a dedicated space for prayer and meditation in the Graduate Student Center, Room 108. Students said that the establishment of this prayer and meditation space would bring Purdue more in line with its peer Big Ten schools because most have similar university-owned spaces available for students, staff and faculty.