Monthly Conversation With Mitch Daniels

the last Wednesday of every month at noon and 7 p.m. on AM 920

Each month, former Indiana Governor and current Purdue President Mitch Daniels chats with WBAA News Director Stan Jastrzebski about higher education and Purdue's place in the collegiate landscape.

Listen for new episodes of the program at the end of each month and send any questions you'd like us to ask President Daniels to: news@wbaa.org.

Jae Lee / WBAA News

When, in late October, a Puerto Rican Purdue student was denied the purchase of cold medicine at a CVS store across the street from campus, international students and students of color hoped for more of a public response than they got from school administrators – and, undoubtedly, a different response than they got following a recent Purdue Student Government meeting.

On this month’s conversation with Purdue President Mitch Daniels – which was taped before that meeting -- he comments on why he’s been relatively quiet on the subject. And he questions what the boundaries of campus are, with respect to where and when a comment must be made about a student being harmed.

Jae Lee / WBAA News

In any organization, the line item that requires the most money is personnel – so at a place like Purdue, which has many thousands of employees, pay and benefits are a big topic of discussion.

So it goes on this edition of WBAA’s Monthly Conversation with Mitch Daniels.

We talk with him about the fact he’s getting about eight percent more money this year than he did last year, while the average employee got between two and three percent, and what kind of message that sends -- especially in a time where so much has been written about CEO pay in America and disparities between it and the pay of rank-and-file employees.

Jae Lee / WBAA News

Two topics come up time and again on this edition of WBAA’s Monthly Conversation with Mitch Daniels: food and money.

Faculty have opposed the opening of a Chick-Fil-A location on campus, in part because the company’s founders oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds. So is making the proprietor sign boilerplate language about inclusivity and non-discrimination enough to quiet those concerns? And what’s the difference between this and giving money back to the founder of Papa John’s Pizza after he made insensitive remarks?

Jae Lee / WBAA News

Purdue President Mitch Daniels disagrees with the notion that he’s sometimes snarky in the regular column he writes for the Washington Post. He’d prefer to call it sarcasm or humor. But in a recent column about politics – a subject he regularly comments on, even if there’s little connection to his current role in higher education – his language jabs at both parties, but is notably more dismissive to Democratic ideals.

Jae Lee / WBAA News

Sometimes news changes fast. When we taped our conversation with Purdue University President Mitch Daniels this month, the school had just announced it’ll change its IDs to make it easier for students to vote in Tippecanoe County. As you’ll hear, Daniels says Purdue isn’t in the elections business, and advises that the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles – which he oversaw as governor – will give free IDs to those who ask.

That’s true, and it’s a fact the county election board seized upon a couple days after the interview was taped. But there’s a problem – getting that ID can mean students would have to give up their driver’s license from their home state.

Jae Lee / WBAA News

Admitting as much when he used it in this year’s commencement address, Purdue President Mitch Daniels chose what he called a “distasteful, but descriptive word” – snowflake – to describe graduates at some of Purdue’s competitor institutions. President Daniels insists he’s received more positive comments about the remark than about almost any other speech he’s given, but the backlash was swift on social media, saying he shouldn’t have even invoked a term that’s often been co-opted by some conservatives to describe people with whom they don’t agree.

Jae Lee / WBAA News

Despite a slowdown wrought by the Purdue Senate, school president Mitch Daniels says he still thinks next year’s graduating class could be the first one to need to pass a civics exam to receive a diploma.

On this edition of WBAA’s Monthly Conversation with Mitch Daniels, we ask him about that timeline, and the one deciding the future of the Purdue Armory, which many community members seem to want to save.

Jae Lee / WBAA News

It came as little surprise when, earlier this month, Purdue President Mitch Daniels announced the school would extend its tuition freeze another year. The bigger financial news was the offering of a $500 bonus to employees making less than $75,000 a year.

Jae Lee / WBAA News

At the beginning of each year, Purdue President Mitch Daniels pens an open letter to campus. Mostly, it talks about the high points of the past 12 months, but this year’s mentions an increasingly common topic: grit. It’s a qualitative measure of how ready a student is for school, life, and the challenges both pose.

Jae Lee / WBAA News

A number of elite schools, including members of the Ivy League, have gotten rid of the need for an ACT or SAT test score to get in. But Purdue President Mitch Daniels says in a recent Washington Post editorial that the West Lafayette campus will not be following suit.

On WBAA’s Monthly Conversation with him, we ask President Daniels why not and have him respond to an editorial in the Purdue student newspaper that points out what its writers think may be hypocrisy on the president’s part regarding how he talks about grade point averages and their worth.

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