Alumnus John Schnatter gives a commencement speech at the 2015 Spring Graduation ceremony. DN File
Ball State community says pull Schnatter's name, university decides otherwise
“I recall my time as a tour guide, speaking highly of John Schnatter,” Fernando Rubio said. “The name now leaves a bad taste.”
Rubio, a 2011 Ball State graduate, is one of many alumni who have spoken out after the Papa John’s founder used a racial slur during a conference call in May.
Rubio said he is not only disappointed in Schnatter’s actions, but also Ball State’s response, which he said, “has been lackluster at best.”
Shortly after Schnatter, a 1983 Ball State graduate, resigned as chairman of the Papa John’s board for his use of the N-word, Kathy Wolf, Ball State’s vice president of marketing and communications, said the university had plans to continue evaluating the impact of Schnatter’s actions.
Now, nearly three weeks after the July 18 statement, the Ball State Board of Trustees announced its support for Schnatter Friday, stating the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise will remain on campus, keeping the alumnus’ name on the institute in Carmichael Hall.
The university’s public statement comes two days after Schnatter said the Papa John’s pizza chain needs him back as its public face, adding that his quick resignation as chairman was a “mistake.”
In the statement, Board Chair Rick Hall said Schnatter’s use of the N-word during a private meeting with consultants was “not in a derogatory manner seeking to demean any individuals or groups; rather it was used as an example of improper conduct.”
“John has acknowledged, notwithstanding his intentions, that his use of the word was inappropriate. His response was to promptly issue an apology and unequivocally denounce racism,” Hall said. “He has reaffirmed those views to us personally, and such sentiment is consistent with Ball State’s values.”
Michael Goldsby, executive director of the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise, did not comment on the decision Friday and instead directed The Daily News to Wolf, stating the university spokesperson is “handling all media inquiries on the issue.”
In 2016, Schnatter and the Charles Koch Foundation awarded a $3.25 million grant to Ball State's John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise, which "supports events and training focused on creative problem solving, best business practices, and economic literacy," according to the Ball State website.
As a supporter of “completely removing Schnatter from the records,” Rubio said Ball State’s statement Friday did not come as a surprise.
“This is Indiana we are talking about, and when one white man is attacked, the institution protects him,” Rubio said. “We, the alumni community, should hold all donations to the university until real action is taken.”
James Wells, a 2017 graduate and former SGA president, said he believes the university should take more time evaluating whether or not Schnatter’s name should remain.
“It’s clear they’ve received understanding from John Schnatter. Why not reach out to the larger Ball State community and see how they feel — alumni, current students, professors, people of color who are affected by this,” Wells said. “I understand greatly Papa John didn’t mean it as derogatory. But we can’t let that continue to let the intentions behind the actions give us a waiver to excuse such inappropriate actions and lack of judgement.”
While Wells said the administration “still has a lot to learn,” he said he believes the university cares about the student population.
“Unlike many universities, Ball State has worked toward increasing its minority population over the past years, adding a new Multicultural Center – we have seen evidence that Ball State is making strides toward making our university a more welcoming and diverse campus,” he said.
The current SGA slate Amplify released a statement on Facebook about the university's decision.
"We would like to formally condemn and share that we strongly disagree with the language and actions of John Schnatter," the statement said. "John Schnatter and his platform do not uphold the values of Ball State students, faculty or the community at-large. We as an executive board have heard the outcry and will fight to honor the Beneficence Pledge."
The statement also said the board will meet with President Geoffrey Mearns in August to discuss this, along with other issues, and will request to meet with the Board of Trustees. The board also will host a student forum to hear student input, but a date has not yet been set.
Wells and Rubio weren't the only members of the Ball State community to speak out. Others took to social media to express their concerns:
Other community responses
In July, Jeffersonville, Indiana, Mayor Mike Moore returned a $400,000 donation from Schnatter and pulled his name from a historic gym located in the city where Schnatter first launched his pizza empire in 1984.
The donation was supposed to go toward renovations of the Nachand Fieldhouse, which was renamed last year to the John H. Schnatter — Nachand Fieldhouse.
Following a $8 million gift from the Schnatter’s foundation, Purdue University announced plans in April to rename the Purdue Research Center in Economics as the John H. Schnatter Center for Economic Research.
As of Thursday, Purdue's Board of Trustees voted to strip Schnatter's name off the economic research center at the Krannert School of Management and offered to return the funds associated with the naming.
University of Utah
The University of Utah also closed its Papa John's location in its food court.
“The actions of this individual, from the top ranks of the company, clearly do not align with our beliefs, and we hope to find an alternative that is a better fit with us,” said Jerry Basford, Utah’s associate vice president for student affairs, in a statement.
The University of Louisville
The University of Louisville announced its plans to change the name of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium to Cardinal Stadium.
And while multiple universities have spoken out against Schnatter, not all have pursued cutting ties with the millionaire entrepreneur.
The University of Kentucky
The University of Kentucky also issued a statement in July regarding Schnatter’s language, but has not recently announced any new changes after receiving a $12 million donation in 2015 from Schnatter and the Charles Koch Foundation to create a center for the study of free enterprise.