After previously releasing a statement saying John Schnatter's name would remain on the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise, the Board of Trustees held a special session to discuss the issue further. After an 8-1 vote, the Board decided to remove Schnatter's name and return all previously donated funds. Brynn Mechem, DN
Ball State Board of Trustees votes to remove Schnatter's name from institute, return funds
In an 11-minute meeting Thursday, the Ball State Board of Trustees decided to remove John Schnatter’s name from the university, passing the resolution 8-1.
The motion included removal of Schnatter's full name from the university's Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise, which is to be renamed the Ball State University Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise, along with the related distinguished professorship appointment.
On Aug. 3, the Ball State Board of Trustees released a statement, saying 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.”
After the statement was released, student organizations stated their disapproval of the board’s stance. Nearly two weeks later, the board called a special session where the purpose of the meeting was unclear, but ultimately ended in the decision to remove Schnatter's name, with only Jean Ann Harcourt voting no.
“I’m a Christian who feels strongly about forgiveness. I feel John has apologized and asked for forgiveness. We all sin and have regrets. I do believe that his negative comment was taken out of context and for that reason, I vote no on this motion for the reasons that Chairman Hall also stated and the two that I just highlighted,” said Harcourt, who was present by phone.
Ball State’s removal comes after Purdue University Board of Trustees announced in the beginning of August they would remove Schnatter’s name from its economic research center at the Krannert School of Management. The board also offered to return the $8 million donation Schnatter gave to the West Lafayette campus in April.
In March 2016, the university announced the unveiling of the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise. The institute was funded through a $3.25-million grant from Schnatter and the Charles Koch Foundation.
Rick Hall, chair of the board, said the university also will return the original grant funding to Schnatter’s Family Foundation.
“From the board’s perspective, our university was presented with a chance to have healthy and open conversation that could lead to better understanding of issues facing our society. John Schnatter was willing to engage with our students in a campus community in those conversations,” Hall, who was present via phone call, said. “Notwithstanding the board’s strong belief in the power of conversation, President Mearns has advised us that such discussions with John and other good faith gestures would not be well received or effective, as long as his name remains on the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise.”
Senior Media Strategist Marc Ransford said the sign will be changed as soon as the university is able to work with the maintenance department.
Residence Hall Association (RHA) President Kathy Berryhill said she expected the meeting would focus on Schnatter and was disappointed with the university’s initial response.
“It’s just sort of necessary, I think, if they want to show that they’re for everything in the Beneficence Dialogues and for all the students on this campus,” said Berryhill, who is also on the 2018-19 Student Government Association (SGA) Executive Board.
SGA President Isaac Mitchell, said he was “very pleased” with the board’s decision. Following the board’s initial decision Aug. 3, SGA released a Facebook statement condemning Schnatter’s language.
Once the meeting adjourned, the audience, which was comprised of students, staff and community members, erupted in applause, including those who had orange bands on their arms as a symbol of solidarity.
“We are handing them out in solidarity with the faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members of color,” said CS Hendershot, events chair for Muncie Resists. “We’ll be passing them out for convocation tomorrow — the faculty convocation — to show our support for our community members.
“It’s not just a one-time deal, it’s continuous and so we need to show our support and solidarity.”