We are deeply disturbed by the demeaning and dehumanizing comments made by Thomas L. Keon, chancellor of Purdue University Northwest, during a winter commencement address on December 10. His remarks, in which he mocked Asian languages in a crude impression, came at a time when hate against individuals of Asian descent, Jewish heritage, and other historically marginalized groups is on the rise in the U.S.
The university’s response to this incident cannot be silence. Keon’s comments were harmful and convey a disrespect of communities of Asian descent that do not befit the leadership of higher education institutions. Universities, and their leaders, should serve as models for society. We call on Purdue University Northwest to respond appropriately to ensure that this offensive conduct is not minimized and not allowed to be swept aside. We must stand against messages and acts of belittlement and belligerence, even when made in “jest,” and work to support, elevate, and humanize all communities across the globe.
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