11/20/19 PSG, Purdue President Mitch Daniels

Purdue President Mitch Daniels speaks with students outside of PSG's meeting room during Wednesday night's senate meeting.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels spoke at a Purdue Student Government senate meeting Wednesday about diversity, the treatment of minorities on campus and batch registration.

Daniels, during his talk and Q&A session in the PSG senate meeting, brought up statistics from a Student Experience in Research University survey about Purdue’s campus climate.

“Purdue was No. 1 on every question,” Daniels said. “Among minority students we were either first or second on every question.”

Though Daniels wanted the numbers to be even higher, he said it wasn’t fair or accurate to conclude that Purdue is not a welcoming, tolerant community, according to SERU data for campus climate.

Some students felt otherwise.

“I’m just gonna say it bluntly: You’re willing to call out injustice and prejudice on other campuses, like the (2015 University of Missouri) incident, but when something is affecting our communities here on campus, your silence is hurting,” said Cesar Guillen, a junior in the Polytechnic Institute, during an open-question session in the senate meeting.

Daniels replied the incident was unfortunate and should never have happened, but that as an institution, Purdue should be careful about condemning people.

“Acting and living it to me is the single best way,” he said. “I’m not saying words don’t matter, and we will look for the right opportunities.”

Daniels said the decision to make a statement in response to the CVS incident was a judgement call, and said he didn’t think it warranted a statement.

“Worse things have happened, or other things have happened,” he said, “and they’re probably going to again. I hope they don’t, but for all those reasons and given that ... the people involved responded as positively as they did, I thought that was good enough.”

In an impromptu conversation with students outside the meeting doors in the hallway of Pfendler Hall after he left the meeting, Daniels said he emphasizes results and action in support of diversity on campus. He made it a point to say he wasn’t devaluing the importance of words.

He said Purdue is spending $15 million on diversity and referenced again the SERU data. Some students took issue with his statistics-oriented statements.

“I feel like, personally, you should care more about your students, as opposed to the values of things, because we’re not just numbers,” said Derrick Cotton, a junior in the College of Health and Human Sciences.

Daniels said that though he didn’t resent that comment, he was hurt by it and sees each individual as unique and deserved to be treated as valuable.

“It’s hurtful when you tell me I don’t care about our students, ‘cause that’s all I care about,” he said.

A few students in the discussion defended Daniels, as one student said they’d never experienced such an inclusive environment and nearly cried after finding out there was a LGBTQ center.

Other students in response did not have such a positive outlook on campus diversity, though.

“Just because we have stuff does not mean the environment is welcome,” D’Yan Berry, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts and president of the Black Student Union, said in response.

Another student invited Daniels to the cultural arts festival at the Black Cultural Center Thursday, and a different student asked Daniels to read a Diversity and Inclusion Action plan being developed.

In regards to the cashier who rejected José Guzman Payano’s ID at the CVS on Northwestern Avenue, Daniels said students should help rather than condemn them.

“I only wish that every young person could be in an environment like this — that’s as close to what we want in terms of openness, tolerance and so forth — as we are,” he said. “So we ought to get better all the time, and when somebody doesn’t live up to it, let’s try to help them.”

Daniels also brought up batch registration in the senate meeting. He said that batch registration is attempting to address students’ concerns that they aren’t able to get into courses they want or need.

Instead of allowing students to choose their classes based on time and professors offered, batch registration allows the scheduling system to schedule all students into their requested classes at the same time. This is supposed to keep classes from filling up before students who need to take those classes for their major and minor can register during their time ticket.

Daniels said such a system would help students get into the courses they need in order to graduate.

“On a first-come, first-serve basis, certain courses filled up, and whoever hadn’t gotten in line at that point was out of luck,” he said.

University registrar Keith Gehres said while batch scheduling is being considered, it is not confirmed to be occurring for students other than freshmen in the fall 2020 semester.

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