Founder of Papa John's John Schnatter resigned as chairman of the board last week after using a racial slur on a conference call. Now, he is suing the company. AP Photo.
Students, alumni react to Schnatter announcement
After the Ball State Board of Trustees released a statement saying it sided with John Schnatter Friday, many student organizations and various members of the Ball State community have responded, calling the university to take different actions.
However, President Geoffrey Mearns released a statement Monday morning which said the Board made the right decision for the university.
“He has acknowledged that he should not have used that language, and he has apologized for the harm that his words caused to so many people,” the statement reads. “This situation provides all of us with the opportunity to consider our most important responsibility—our obligation to take tangible steps to make our campus and our communities more diverse and inclusive.”
In the statement, Mearns said the university has done this in a variety of ways including investing $4 million into a new Multicultural Center, enrolling the most racially diverse freshman class in history in 2017 and making ACT and SAT scores optional for those applying to the university.
However, student organizations and alumni are still speaking out on the issue:
Student Government Association
In response to the Board of Trustees statement, the Student Government Association (SGA) released a statement of its own stating the organization did not agree with Schnatter’s actions.
“John Schnatter and his platform do not uphold the values of Ball State students, faculty or the community at-large,” the organization’s Facebook statement said. “We as an executive board have heard the outcry and will fight to honor the Beneficence Pledge.”
The executive board will meet with President Geoffrey Mearns in August to discuss a variety of issues, including Schnatter’s name remaining on the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise. Additionally, the organization plans to host a forum to hear student input.
Before holding these meetings, however, the board asked students to come forward with their concerns and promised to release “personal statements in the near future to explain our thoughts in greater detail.”
Black Student Association
The Black Student Association (BSA) released a statement Saturday saying the group disagreed with the decision the board made.
“We are deeply disappointed and embarrassed at the lack of care and consideration demonstrated by Ball State University’s Board of Trustees concerning the John Schnatter situation,” BSA’s statement on Facebook said. “Our University has made commitments and pledges to their student body, concerning diversity & inclusion on its campus. These commitments and pledges are supposed to be for every minority group represented on our campus. However it appears that the Black Students, Faculty, and Staff at this University are an exception. Once again, it seems as if we are irrelevant and unaccounted for by upper level and leadership decisions.”
In the statement, the organization insisted Schnatter show his commitment to the university and black students by donating time or funds to the proposed $4-million Multicultural Center.
“Similarly, with Schnatter’s expertise in Entrepreneurship we would strongly encourage, and welcome him to make this available to Black Students at our University in partnership with the Career Center and Miller Business of College,” the statement read. “This could include special workshops, paid internships, and instances where Schnatter returns to the university speaking on topics of Personal Branding, Entrepreneurship, Venture Capitalism, and Social Entrepreneurship.”
AASA, LSU and Spectrum
On Sunday, the Asian American Student Association (AASA), Latinx Student Union (LSU) and Spectrum released a joint statement in support of BSA’s statement, stating Schnatter’s words could not simply be ignored.
“John Schnatter’s use of racist language and past anti-black rhetoric can not simply be disregarded,” the statement, which was released on Facebook, said. “The decision to continue supporting Schnatter is harmful to the unity and inclusion that we practice amongst the Big 4 Organizations and encourage on campus. Ball State University has the responsibility to uphold an environment where all feel honored and respected; therefore, we respectfully but strongly disagree with the Board’s decision.”
The statement encouraged other students to support BSA and write to The Board of Trustees to send the message that “promoting a diverse and welcoming community at Ball State University requires that they also honor the Beneficence Pledge.”
On Monday, BSU NAACP released a statement on Instagram stating the organization was "highly disappointed and distraught" by the Board of Trustee's stance.
"The Board of Trustees released a statement regarding Schnatter using the 'N-word' from a perspective that the usage of this word was not disparaging," the statement read. "The statement overlooked the principle behind the situation: It does not matter the context in which the word was used it is the simple fact that it was stated with no sentiment nor knowledge of the meaning of the word."
The statement also encouraged others to sign a petition to remove Schnatter's name from the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise.
Various alumni took to Twitter to express both concerns and support for the university’s decision.
Additionally, a petition was started Friday by various alumni asking the university to remove Schnatter’s name from the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise.
“Ball State University should remove John H. Schnatter’s name from the institute, honor our Beneficence Pledge and began to engage students and alumni in a meaningful way around issues of cultural and racial injustice,” the petition reads. “The university for too long has shown that when it comes to issues of racial injustice, it cannot get it right.”
Currently, the petition has almost 2,000 signatures with a goal of 2,500, but not all alumni say Schnatter’s name should be taken off the institute.
“John Schnatter is Ball State family and we better treat him like family,” said Jason Whitlock, an alumnus who is now a sports journalist, in a Star Press article. “You don’t abandon family over this kind of exaggerated controversy. If there’s proof he ran Papa John’s Pizza in a discriminatory fashion, then I say boot him from campus. But the only thing I’ve seen proven so far is that he’s really outspoken in his beliefs and a bit undisciplined in how he expresses those beliefs.