6/26/2020 Black voices

Protesters and activists have brought different issues and calls for change to light over the past few weeks, as protests and demands for change have rocked the nation.

The Exponent is glad to see an apparent change in presidential attitude when it comes to protecting its students’ well-being, especially at such a critical time in our nation’s history.

The expulsion of Maxwell Lawrence came days after outrage on social media and reporting from The Exponent highlighted the then-student’s racist behavior.

It comes months after tepid concessions, and in some cases inaction, from the University and Purdue President Mitch Daniels. Consider when Purdue didn’t acknowledge the struggles of a student trying to buy cold medicine at CVS, or when the referential phrase “rare creatures” set off a maelstrom around campus and beyond.

This case sets a precedent for Purdue’s actions evermore into the future: incite violence, make “jokes” referring to the lynching of black people, make light of running over protesters? Judging by what happened to Lawrence, you won’t last long at Purdue.

Microaggressions, offensive language and references to violence make for an unsafe, unacceptable learning environment anywhere, particularly at a University that prides itself so on diversity efforts and innovation.

The University made the right decision Tuesday. Yet, naturally, we have some follow-up questions on the decision-making process and assorted details.

Purdue emailed a statement to The Exponent Friday that said although Lawrence’s views “are obviously highly inconsistent with the values and principles we believe in at Purdue,” the University is committed to freedom of expression and thus does not control or punish that speech.

In the days that followed, then, what changed?

Was it another decision in a line of calculated moves made to quell student rage trending online? Or was it the first step in a series of giant leaps in reappraising what the University deems acceptable speech?

Thousands of students, already shouldering the emotional burden of racism from a peer, should not have to convince the University to take action. Thoughtful anti-racism policies ought to take care of that.

It begs the question: Did Daniels just hope to save face after his comments which drew students’ ire in the past?

Purdue should make good on its promise of inclusion and proactively seek out solutions that better the campus and its community.

Minutes before the expulsion was announced, our editorial board was focused on systematic, curricula-based change. Similar to how drinking in dorms or pirating online content leads to mandated seminars, why couldn’t Purdue require that likewise-accused students take diversity and history courses on the black experience?

Require students to spend hours in class hearing perspectives they’d neglected when they made an insensitive decision. And require an assessment at the end so they can’t slack off — preferably, an essay reflecting on what they’ve learned.

If we’re required to attend additional training to guard against drinking and pirating media content, surely exhibiting racist, inflammatory behavior should be cause for some similar punishment.

Judging by the depth and breadth of experiences detailed in @blackatPurdue, the dean of students’ office would be doling out diversity seminars daily.

Purdue has set the bar for discipline high.

It can no longer rely on its pattern of behavior that refuses to acknowledge problems on campus until Twitter users throw their collective weight around. The University has now unequivocally taken a stand against racist speech, messages that incite violence and promote hurting others.

Boilermakers are watching.

The Editorial Board is composed of The Exponent’s summer staff and written by its editor.

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