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Purdue Northwest: Faculty cast no-confidence vote for chancellor

By Ben Thorp, IPB News | Published on in Community, Education, Statewide News
Purdue Northwest’s Chancellor during the now-viral commencement speech where he mocked Asian languages. (YouTube screenshot).

Purdue Northwest faculty and staff have overwhelmingly cast a vote of no-confidence in Chancellor Thomas Keon’s leadership.

The vote was initiated on Monday after Keon’s office did not respond to calls for his resignation from either the faculty senate or the PNW chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

Out of 155 ballots, 87% of respondents cast a vote of no-confidence in Keon’s leadership, and just 13% voted that they had confidence.

Earlier this month, a clip of Keon doing a mocking impersonation of Asian languages during commencement went viral. The chancellor issued an apology, saying that the moment did not represent “my personal or our institutional values.”

Purdue’s Board of Trustees released a statement saying they accepted the apology, but PNW faculty called for Keon’s resignation – threatening a no-confidence vote if the chancellor did not step down.

On Monday, when Keon’s office did not respond to calls for his resignation, Thomas Roach, chair of the PNW faculty senate, sent anonymous ballots to roughly 238 tenured, tenure-track, and clinical faculty at the university, giving them until Tuesday at 11 p.m. to respond.

135 respondents voted that they had no confidence, and 20 voted that they had confidence.

“The 135 no-confidence votes represent more than half of all of those who received a ballot,” Roach said. “In other words, if everyone who didn’t vote voted confidence, he still would have lost the vote.”

“This is as close to unanimous as it’s going to get, I think,” he added.

Roach also pointed out that administrators were able to vote – meaning members of Keon’s staff would have been able to cast a ballot.

“Those twenty votes are confident, but I’m assuming at least half of those are directly working with him,” he said.

Roach said he expects Keon to resign. If he doesn’t, Roach said the Board of Trustees should fire him.

David Detmer, president of the Purdue Northwest chapter of the AAUP, said the vote was decisive.

“When it’s eighty-seven percent voting no confidence, that’s just an untenable situation for the chancellor,” he said. “You can’t have a leader of a university when there is that level of no confidence among the faculty.”

But, Detmer said he has no idea how Purdue’s board will respond to the vote.

“I would say that the vote does indicate that at Purdue Northwest, the faculty at least does take issues of inclusion and diversity seriously,” he said. “We’ll see whether the Purdue Board of Trustees does.”

Neither a spokesperson for Purdue University nor the office of chancellor Keon responded to a request for comment.