Thomas Keon, chancellor of Purdue University Northwest, is facing demands to resign after making allegedly racist remarks.
What did Keon say?
At the Dec. 10 commencement ceremony at Purdue University Northwest, keynote speaker James Dedelow, a radio host, spoke about a “made-up language” that he sometimes uses with his family.
When Chancellor Keon returned to the lectern after Dedelow’s speech, he said, “Well all I can say is—” before spouting off Asian-sounding gibberish, clearly an ode to the subject matter that Dedelow’s speech addressed. The audience laughed and Keon said, “That’s sort of my Asian version of his [speech].”
PNW Commencement Ceremony, December 2022 – Morning Ceremony
It did not take long for the incident to gain attention online.
University of Minnesota Professor Richard Lee accused Keon of making “a racist comment,” while author Min Jin Lee condemned Keon for “racist anti-Asian linguistic mocking/mimicking” that she claimed is “injuring Asian and Asian American students.” An online petition demanding Keon’s resignation, meanwhile, has garnered more than 6,000 signatures.
Keon responded to the outage last Wednesday with contrition. He apologized for his remarks, which he described as “offensive and insensitive.”
“I am truly sorry for my unplanned, off-the-cuff response to another speaker, as my words have caused confusion, pain, and anger,” Keon said in a statement.
Is Keon resigning?
On Dec. 16, PNW’s Faculty Senate Executive Committee unanimously voted to demand Keon resign. It condemned him, despite his apology, for behavior it said does not reflect the university’s diversity values.
But Keon has not resigned.
Now, PNW’s faculty senate plans to hold a no-confidence vote, WLS-TV reported.
Thomas Roach, chairman of the faculty senate, said he will continue pressuring Keon to resign because his apology is not enough. Nothing, in fact, is enough for Keon to retain his job.
“I’m going to continue putting pressure on the situation until he either voluntarily resigns or the Board of Trustees comes to their senses and forces him out,” Roach said, WSL reported. “Any apology is meaningless as long as he’s still in in place of the university, he needs to resign or needs to be removed.”
The vote, however, is practically meaningless. If Keon refuses to resign, the only people with power to remove him are Purdue’s board of trustees and its president.