Purdue University is dropping the name of the Papa John’s founder from a business school program amid controversy over his use of a racial slur, while his Indiana alma mater announced Friday it is keeping its public ties with John Schnatter.
Purdue’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously Friday to offer Schnatter a refund of the $8 million donation that was announced in April with the renaming of the John H. Schnatter Center for Economic Research.
Schnatter resigned as chairman of the Louisville, Kentucky-based pizza chain after Forbes reported last month that he used the N-word during a media training conference call. He has apologized for using the word, but said it was taken out of context. He told The Associated Press this week that he should be back as the chain’s public face.
The University of Louisville acted within days to remove the Papa John’s name from its football stadium and Schnatter’s name from its business college’s Center for Free Enterprise. But Purdue trustees chairman Mike Berghoff said university leaders had a responsibility to put time into a decision about whether to remove Schnatter’s name.
“The board believes this action is necessary to avoid distraction from the center’s work, counterproductive division on the campus, and any inference of any deviation from the university’s often-stated stance on tolerance and racial relations,” Berghoff said in a statement he read before Friday’s board vote.
Ball State University, meanwhile, said it will retain its recognition of Schnatter, a 1983 graduate of the Muncie, Indiana, school. Ball State started the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise in 2016 after he and the Charles Koch Foundation gave a $3.25 million donation.
Ball State trustees chairman Rick Hall said in a statement that Schnatter’s comment wasn’t derogatory, calling it “an example of improper conduct.”
“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.”
Many other institutions have cut ties with Papa John’s. The University of Utah decided to close the location in the campus food court. The school said Schnatter’s use of the slur was in “direct opposition to our values.”