The Faculty Senates for Purdue West Lafayette, Fort Wayne and Northwest have called for the dismissal of Purdue Northwest Chancellor Thomas Keon in response to Keon appearing to impersonate Asian languages during his speech on Dec. 10 at the Purdue Northwest commencement ceremony.
According to Thomas Roach, Purdue Northwest Faculty Senate chair, the three campus’ faculty senates convened in the beginning of the spring semester to discuss Keon’s comments and potential calls for dismissal. Roach said in an email the senates had to wait a month before calling for an official vote.
On Dec. 21, the Purdue Northwest Faculty Senate surveyed 155 tenured, tenure-track, clinical and administrative faculty, and 135 respondents voted “no-confidence”, reflecting a majority of faculty not supporting Keon’s comments and leadership.
According to Senate documents, during the Purdue Northwest Faculty Senate meeting on Jan. 20, faculty presented the no-confidence vote and called for Keon’s removal. Keon was not present in the meeting. Roach said in the meeting Keon was supposed to meet with Faculty Senate leadership earlier that week but did not show up to the meeting. Additionally, Roach said in an email to the Purdue Board of Trustees that Keon failed to appear at three more scheduled meetings with faculty leadership and three Senate meetings.
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On Feb. 20, the Purdue West Lafeyette Faculty Senate passed Senate Document 22-20 condemning Keon’s actions at the commencement and calling for his resignation, according to Senate documents. According to the Purdue Fort Wayne Senate agenda, on March 13, the Purdue Fort Wayne Faculty Senate joined Purdue Northwest and West Lafeyette Senates in calling for Keon’s removal.
In a Dec. 22 press release, the Purdue Office of the Trustees said members had reviewed the December commencement ceremony to examine the context of Keon’s statements and, while finding the remarks were offensive, no action would be taken to remove the chancellor.
“Although in the Trustees’ estimation, this offensive remark does not reflect a pattern of behavior or a system of beliefs held by Dr. Keon,” the press release said. “The Board has made clear to him that a repeat incident of a similar nature would provide grounds for further Board action, including possible dismissal.”
Roach said in an email to the IDS he emailed the Purdue Board of Trustees of the senates’ calls for Keon’s removal on March 22. In his email to the Purdue Board of Trustees, Roach asked the trustees to reconsider their decision to keep Keon in his position.
"Your inaction makes us complicit,” Roach said in his email. “Leaving Keon in place tacitly condones his conduct. If the board does not dismiss him specifically for this incident, he will retire, and Purdue will lose its only significant means of publicly rejecting his irresponsible and distasteful actions.”
Roach said he sent the Purdue Board of Trustees three emails about faculty support for Keon’s removal prior to his email on March 22, but had received no response to any of them.
In the email, Roach said if board members did not take further action, he would request they attend the next Faculty Senate meeting on April 14 so trustees could explain their position to faculty. Roach stated in his email he would also be willing to meet with the trustee members in West Lafeyette. Roach said he has not received any messages from the Board of Trustees about these requests to meet.
In response to Roach’s email, on March 24 the Purdue Office of the Trustees told Roach that Michael Berghoff, the Purdue Board of Trustees Chairman, had received the email, but there would not be additional communication on the topic of Keon’s removal beyond an attached press release.
Roach said he believes the lack of response shows a disconnect between faculty and trustees. He said the Purdue University system is being run like a company where faculty are treated like employees rather than educators.
In response to IDS's request for comment, the Purdue Board of Trustees declined to comment and stated there would be no further communication beyond an attached press release.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include the Purdue Board of Trustee's response to request for comment.