White Supremacy Posters At Purdue Reignite Free Speech Concerns

Sep 20, 2017

Purdue's West Lafayette campus is no stranger to politically charged displays.
Credit Purdue University

Another round of flyers posted by a racist group at Purdue University has called free speech rights on campus into question.

Supporters of the white supremacist group placed posters at several universities as part of a higher education-targeted campaign, and Purdue officials are once again condemning the speech they say doesn’t uphold university values.

President Mitch Daniels says Purdue’s notoriety may have made the West Lafayette campus a target.

“We’ll continue doing, obviously, those things we think make us a stronger, and better, and more appealing university – and hope that there are not too many side effects along the way,” he says.

The balance between fostering free speech and an inclusive learning community came up again last month when Daniels and Interim Provost Jay Akridge denounced racist and violent actions in Charlottesville in an open letter.

Earlier this week, an article in the U.S. Chronicle of Higher Education quoted several Purdue professors who questioned the University’s response to hate speech.

The latest round of posters come almost a year after a different white supremacist group put up literature in a building which houses Purdue’s School of Languages and Cultures.

Daniels says the group wants attention, and may have used Purdue’s popularity as a way to get it.

“Maybe it is a, so-to-say, a cost of doing business,” Daniels says. “If you try to become a better known and occasionally innovative university, you’re just on somebody’s radar that you’d rather not be.”

Daniels says while the school doesn’t tell faculty what to teach, he’s confident there won’t be any classes supporting the group’s views.

After the events in Charlottesville earlier this year, Daniels and Akridge sent an open letter to students stating racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry and violence have, “no place on our campus.”