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Purdue University Board of Trustees issues formal reprimand to Chancellor Keon following no-confidence vote from faculty

Purdue Board of Trustees chair Mike Berghoff pictured during December’s board meeting (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)
Purdue Board of Trustees chair Mike Berghoff pictured during December’s board meeting (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

Purdue Northwest’s Chancellor Thomas Keon has received a formal reprimand from the university’s Board of Trustees for racist comments made during a commencement ceremony.

The reprimand comes one day after Purdue University Northwest’s faculty held a no-confidence vote, which showed overwhelming disapproval of the chancellor’s leadership.

In a statement, chair of the board Mike Berghoff wrote that after reviewing the entirety of commencement for context, the board found Keon’s comments “extremely offensive and insensitive.”

“This offhand attempt at humor was in poor taste, unbecoming of his role as chancellor, and unacceptable for an occasion that should be remembered solely for its celebratory and unifying atmosphere,” Berghoff wrote.

Last week, the board wrote that they had accepted a formal apology issued by Keon after clips of his statements went viral.

In their statement Thursday, the board wrote that Keon’s remark did not reflect a “pattern of behavior or system of beliefs”, but if there was a repeat incident it would be grounds for further action - including dismissal.

But faculty say the reprimand still isn’t enough.

In response to the board’s reprimand, Thomas Roach, chair of the PNW faculty senate, sent an open letter to the board saying that “[Keon’s] mere presence is an affront to the Asian community.”

“Any condemnation of Keon’s actions by the board are meaningless if he remains as chancellor,” Roach wrote.

Roach also pointed to the discrepancy between a majority of faculty who have no confidence in the chancellor and the board’s determination that Keon will not be removed.

“Beneath the veneer of your high-handed statement you are really saying: We don’t have to fire Keon, and you can’t make us,” he wrote.

This story has been updated to include comments from PNW faculty senate chair Thomas Roach.