The Purdue chapter of the American Association of University Professors has released the following statement in regards to comments made by President Mitch Daniels on May 19, 2020.
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The Purdue chapter of the American Association of University Professors, the largest AAUP chapter in the state of Indiana, expresses its full sympathies with and empathy for all people affected by the coronavirus or COVID-19. As an organization dedicated to shared governance, we wish to respond to the comments President Daniels made when he was interviewed on CNN”s Erin Burnett Out Front on May 19th, 2020 to discuss Purdue University’s plans for on-campus instruction for the fall semester. Burnett asked President Daniels to respond to a quote by a Purdue faculty member who expressed her concerns about in-person teaching until a coronavirus vaccine was available. President Daniels denigrated the faculty member’s concerns as a “very tiny minority view” and discredited her viewpoint as “not from the most scientifically credible corner of our very STEM-based campus.” In fact, these comments were from a female tenured professor and scientist in a school dedicated to the education of future engineers and STEM students. This interview is another unfortunate example of how Daniels and the Safe Campus Task Force (now the Protect Purdue Implementation Team) he appointed have continued to dismiss the diversity of faculty and staff views on fall instruction and COVID-19.
President Daniels’ comments also ignore the documented disparate effects the coronavirus has had on Indiana communities of color and lower socio-economic classes from which many members of the Purdue community come, as well as unknown longer term effects of infection on “young people”. His comments dismiss valid questions from faculty, staff, and at-risk students about how the commitment to on-campus instruction will address their concerns.
For this reason, we call for immediate and greater inclusion of faculty, staff, and student voices at all levels of the decision-making processes regarding university instructional and research activities, especially as they relate to the return of students to campus in the fall. In addition, we demand that all instructors should have the freedom to choose to teach remotely or on campus based on their personal circumstances in the coming academic year without penalty or risk to their financial or professional status at the university. Finally, we reiterate an earlier statement from the Purdue AAUP executive committee that maintaining all employees in their current positions must be a priority for the campus in addition to guaranteeing a safe work environment for all.