The faculty and staff of Purdue Northwest have cast an overwhelming vote of no-confidence in Chancellor Thomas Keon’s leadership.
The chancellor had been asked to step down from either the faculty senate or the PNW chapter of the American Association of University Professors after a video of him doing a mock impersonation of Asian languages during commencement went viral.
Keon made the controversial comment on Dec. 10 after the speech of commencement keynote speaker Jim Dedelow, who talked about creating a mock language to entertain his new granddaughter.
After walking up to the podium, Keon said, “Well, all I can say is” before speaking gibberish. He then said, “That’s sort of my Asian version of his (inaudible).”
In a public apology, Keon explained that the incident did not represent “my personal or our institutional values.”
An Apology from Purdue University Northwest Chancellor Thomas L. Keonhttps://t.co/EXkONnU5rh pic.twitter.com/FKWB6D98EC
— Purdue Northwest (@PurdueNorthwest) December 14, 2022
Thomas Roach, chair of the PNW faculty senate, initiated the vote on Monday after Keon’s non-response to calls for his resignation.
Roach sent anonymous ballots to roughly 238 members of the university’s staff and faculty and gave them until 11 p.m. on Tuesday to respond.
The vote resulted in 87 percent of the 155 respondents casting a vote of no-confidence in Keon’s leadership.
“The 135 no-confidence votes represent more than half of all of those who received a ballot,” Roach was quoted as saying. “In other words, if everyone who didn’t vote voted confidence, he still would have lost the vote. This is as close to unanimous as it’s going to get, I think.”
According to Roach, members of Keon’s staff were able to vote, noting that of the 20 votes of confidence, “at least half of those are directly working with him.” In light of the voting results, Roach expects Keon to resign, but should he decide not to, he noted that the Board of Trustees should step in and fire him instead.
Despite PNW faculty’s continued push for Keon’s resignation, Purdue’s Board of Trustees have not commented on the subject further after issuing a statement indicating that they accepted the apology.
“Our Board of Trustees, which oversees the entire Purdue system, including our regional campuses of Purdue Fort Wayne and Purdue Northwest, when made aware of the insensitive and unacceptable remarks made by Chancellor Keon at a Dec. 10 commencement ceremony, asked for an immediate apology,” Purdue University spokesman Tim Doty told the Post-Tribune.
“Chancellor Keon has provided that apology and his plan to ensure this does not happen again, which you have already seen. Trustees have accepted the apology.”
A Change.org petition created by students demanding Keon’s resignation has reached 7,635 signatures.