Confronting an Indiana teacher-basher

September 13, 2012

MORE THAN 60 members of the Society for an Open Accessible Purdue--some in red Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) solidarity shirts--gathered on September 11 to picket at the doors of Loeb Theatre at Purdue University, where Purdue's president-elect Mitch Daniels was scheduled to speak. The group included Purdue faculty, students, and members of the Lafayette and West Lafayette communities.

Daniels is currently the governor of Indiana and is due to take office as the president of Purdue in January. As governor, Daniels has been responsible for cutting over $300 million from public education, gutting collective-bargaining rights for teachers, and passing notorious union-busting "right to work" legislation.

The protesters turned the event into an impromptu speak-out against Daniels and for the CTU. "Defend Public Education," "Union Busting Is Disgusting," "Oppose Right to Work" and "Stand with Chicago Teachers" read some of the many placards.

A graduate student of the College of Education, April Burke, sparked off the event with a spirited defense of public education and demanded that the Purdue Board of Trustees rescind their decision of appointing Daniels. Eight of the 10 members of the board of trustees that hired Daniels were appointed by Daniels himself.

"His appointment makes Purdue look like an ethical joke," said Purdue alum Greg Seiters. Geraldine Friedman, professor of English, explained how, even at a private institution such as her alma mater Yale, the process of appointing presidents was far more democratic, involving faculty and student input.

"Because I support equal marriage, and he does not, I don't support him," said Mariheida Cordova, a graduate student in Engineering, referring to Daniels' homophobic stance on gay marriage.

Connecting the struggles of the Chicago teachers to the fight against Mitch Daniels, Bill Mullen, a professor of English and American Studies, said:

The attack on public education has come down from the same group of people: the heads of the city of Chicago and the governor of Indiana. Both cut funding for public education, attacked the teachers' union and made it more difficult for ordinary people to get a decent education in the U.S.

Students also read out a message of solidarity from students and faculty from Indiana University who were holding a parallel solidarity demo to oppose Daniels. Daniels did not dare come in through the main gates. Students promised to use the next months to make Daniels feel as "comfortable" as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is feeling right now.

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