11/6/19 CVS Protest

Students protest the incident where José Guzmán-Payano was denied a medical sale at CVS after providing a Puerto Rican ID.

To those with enough grit to stand up to the injustices of discrimination that still ripple across this campus, stand proudly.

For who is a better example of a Boilermaker than one who fights to make Purdue, the community and the world a better place?

Weeks ago, an American citizen was denied cold medicine at a local pharmacy because the cashier didn’t recognize his Puerto Rican ID as valid. Since then, CVS has claimed it’s investigating the issue, but Purdue President Mitch Daniels has not yet acknowledged Jose Guzman Payano’s experience.

The people debating whether or not this incident was caused by racial discrimination or just plain stupidity might be missing the larger point — though that debate is a good one to have without a doubt.

The bigger problem is the fact that Purdue, Daniels and even the vice provost for diversity and inclusion, John Gates, haven’t stood up for the Boilermakers.

Do we expect the Purdue administration to decry all CVS locations, launch mass-scale protests and grant all affected students infinite scholarships?

Nah, but you know what’d be really nice?

Literally any recognition, acknowledgement or statement regarding what Guzman Payano went through.

The pharmacy isn’t on University property, that’s true. But isn’t it the job of the administration to ensure its students happiness, health and success? Isn’t it the job of a University 40,000-plus people strong to stay in touch with the harsh experiences of marginalized communities who live here?

If the University is going to house, feed, teach and nurture a student population whose diversity it not only recognizes but boasts about, shouldn’t it also teach them the lesson of sticking up for your peers?

If there was an off-campus shooting of two black students, would we expect the University to stay silent just because Purdue “wasn’t involved?”

The students weren’t asking for much: a statement acknowledging the injustice Guzman Payano faced. An answer to whether or not Daniels recognizes the incident even happened. A response from Gates telling the student body what he thought of the incident, what he thought of the following meeting with affected students at the Latino Cultural Center and what he thought of a town hall held Monday night in response to the previous events.

Purdue answered loud and clear, with a response of complete silence.

Before telling students Monday that the rule of “freedom of expression ... makes it difficult for (Purdue), under that rule, to respond,” Gates sent an email to a couple dozen concerned students — including Guzman Payano — finally acknowledging the incident itself.

“First, I appreciate the perspectives you all expressed and the passion for diversity and inclusion you conveyed,” Gates said. “We are truly very sorry about the experience that Jose Guzman Payano had at CVS, and regardless of where or why this happened, the experience does not reflect the inclusive community we strive to be or be a part of.”

Cool.

Why didn’t this get sent out to the entire student body? Why wasn’t this “statement” listed under Purdue News, where all the University’s public comments are posted?

Why did it take a meeting at the LCC, a protest and a town hall for Gates to share his thoughts?

Why does the University continue to display a systematic repulsion toward accepting that its students battle racism and discrimination every day?

When did supporting its students become a debatable concept?

“Keeping out of it” isn’t a neutral stance — it’s a sign to underrepresented students that they’re not worth worrying about.

During the LCC meeting, Gates hammered this point home, as seen in a video recording of the meeting shown at the town hall Monday.

“If you want me to be the person who’s going to ramrod the administration, I am not that guy,” Gates said to a student. “You simply may not be happy here. This may not be the institution for you.”

Gates is new to Purdue, but the president has been around for a while. It seems he hasn’t learned anything since one of the last times racism on campus was brought to his attention, after the University of Missouri protests led to increased racial tensions at Purdue.

Daniels at one point met with a group of concerned students, who gave him a list of demands asking for the acknowledgment of and a plan to combat racism on campus.

“I do not know a faster way to get condemned or even ostracized on this campus by students, staff or faculty than to say something openly racist,” Daniels said in 2015, according to previous Exponent reporting. “It’ll be a long time before you’re in another community of people who will rush to condemn such behavior.”

What’s changed since the last time discrimination pushed students to protest and demand answers from their administration?

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