[March 04, 2014] Recently a private citizen pledged over $10,000 to Purdue University’s school of engineering in return for naming a conference room in one of their buildings. The plaque had God’s name on it, so Purdue removed the reference to “God” and did so without notifying the private citizen. This is not just another example of leadership failure at the university level.
The citizen’s father had received a Ph.D. in engineering from Purdue. The plaque read:
“To those who seek to better the world through the understanding of God’s physical laws and innovation of practical solutions…” [emphasis mine].
According to the citizen’s lawyer, “They [Purdue University spokesperson] said it might offend someone and might possibly cause a violation of the Establishment Clause,” Of course, this is a misreading and misunderstanding of the rather simple constitutional clause of the First Amendment. It states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The last I checked, Purdue is not the U.S. Congress or government.
We might have left it at that but this is the same university that recently allowed and vocally defended the right of a private citizen to blaspheme Jesus on campus. Now they have banned a donor from using the word “God” on a plaque honoring someone because it might offend someone. Didn’t they think someone might be offended by the blaspheme?
Leadership means making sound and reasoned decisions. Purdue University stumbled on this one. Apparently, they are holding fast although I’m a bit perplexed by their logic. The double standard is rather obvious and a bit ironic. A university is to be a place where ideas are discussed and openly debated.
Apparently Purdue would rather shutdown free expression and debate out of a simple lack of moral courage. Small minds at work at big universities. With all due respect to Purdue, it would be a good thing if someone from a senior leadership position stepped in quickly and resolved this. Very easy.