It’s one thing to say work isn’t good enough. It’s another to conspire, through official channels and with the weight of the highest office in the state, to squelch it at the university level.
Daniels understands that appearances matter in his role as Purdue president. And those emails, at the very least, appear to cut close to the bone on a subject near and dear to his new colleagues among the faculty: academic freedom.
On Jan. 18, the week Daniels moved his things into Hovde Hall, he wrote an open letter to everyone on campus, laying out his vision for the job, some of his expectations and what he considered to be the challenges. Among them: A dedication to “open inquiry.”
“A university violates its special mission if it fails to protect free and open debate,” he wrote. “No one can expect his views to be free from vigorous challenge, but all must feel completely safe in speaking out. One can hope for a climate of courtesy and civility, and ‘speech’ that attempts to silence or intimidate others must be confronted strongly, but the ensuring of free expression is paramount. This is, if anything, even more important when the point of the expression is to criticize decisions of the university administration itself.”
As governor, did Daniels attempt to silence an academic voice? Absolutely. “Can someone assure me that [Zinn’s book] is not in use anywhere in Indiana?” Daniels wrote. “If it is, how do we get rid of it ...?”
The trust Daniels has built at Purdue has always been hitched to his past. Daniels has to hope there’s grace in that June 21, 2012, dividing line between partisan Mitch and President Mitch.
Either way, his job at Purdue just got a lot tougher. His politics aren’t as far behind him as he thinks.
Dave Bangert is a columnist for the Journal & Courier of Lafayette. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.