Purdue University’s president is now facing backlash, after his reply to a request for an investigation of white supremacy on campus involved equating neo-Nazism and antifascist activism. Professors likened his response to Donald Trump’s following the fatal Charlottesville riots.
Mitch Daniels is also being criticized for personally attacking one professor who had been critical of him previously. Professors are likening Daniels’ response to President Donald Trump when he had responded to the fatal violence in Charlottesville by saying the violence was “on many sides.”
Purdue University had declined to comment on the accusations, but pointed out that in his past statements, he had publicly condemned anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry as well as any kind of violence.
The White Supremacy Incidents
According to six professors, “Campus Antifascist Network,” a growing national movement that aims to combat white nationalism on university campuses, had brought seven incidents of Nazi propaganda on Purdue’s campuses starting November of 2016, to the attention of Daniels.
In the first incident, people who were sympathetic or apologetic to “American Vanguard,” a white nationalist group had posted fliers to denounce “cultural Marxism” and “white guilt.” In a more recent incident, desks at a classroom in Honors College were arranged into what looked like a swastika.
The network also reportedly sent Daniels a “documented evidence of support by people at Purdue” for anti-Semitic groups such as Identity Evropa, whose fliers were seen on campus. The showed screenshots of text messages from a student who apparently expressed affiliation with Identity Evropa.
Despite this, Daniels said that there has been no evidence that anyone who was in anyway in affiliation with Purdue had taken part in spreading white supremacy fliers on campus.
Bill Mullen, a “Campus Antifascist Network” leader and an American studies professor who was previously critical of the president, had sent an email to Daniels requesting that Purdue investigate the matter and send out a report regarding white supremacy. Daniels reportedly responded by saying: “We may condemn but we don’t silence individuals in the university community, regardless how offensive or preposterous their remarks or writings may be.”
Daniels also said “we distinguish between words and conduct,” claiming that if anyone were to resort to violence or physical intimidation, the university would “act swiftly to expel” them.
Professors are criticizing his response, saying that instead of carrying out an investigation, he “chose to (a) reassert the principle of ‘free speech’ for Nazis; and (b) target a faculty member with a long record of antiracist work in a polemic closely resembling that of the U.S. president when the latter blamed ‘both sides’ for the tragedy at Charlottesville.”