Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

May 15, 2014

DAVE BANGERT: Statute of limitations on Daniels' vow of no partisan politics

Purdue president set standard for himself; maybe he shouldn't have

(Continued)

Still, Daniels continues to do himself no favors by neglecting to get ahead of the questions, making it clear to other university players what he’s doing when he heads to something such as the American Enterprise Institute. It might have been one thing to be there, trying to pin down policy makers to tell Purdue’s story and play up to university donors. But how does it come across when he’s actually speaking, presumably influencing the influencers? (What he said and who was listening isn’t clear, because the event was closed.) Daniels doesn’t necessarily see the issue when those two streams cross.

That blind spot leaves him to explain in hindsight what he considers to be political and what’s not — how his promise still holds.

His direct bosses, Purdue’s trustees, have had no complaints. They’ve been upfront that part of the allure of hiring Daniels was the very reason he keeps getting asked to speak before think tanks and the like. They see it as a bonus for Purdue. And they’ve been willing to OK his use of the jet, if it means Daniels can get back for business quickly. (That’s how it played out in October, when Daniels ultimately apologized for the perception of partisanship he gave by taking a private speaking gig at a fundraiser for a conservative think tank called the Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis.)

But it’s telling that the response from one of Daniels’ biggest faculty supporters on campus, David Williams, the outgoing University Senate chairman, was so muted.

“My year as University Senate chair began with a controversy and seems to be ending with another,” Williams wrote in an email. “The Purdue faculty will have to sort this out, and I will be listening.”

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