By Randall Yip, AsAmNews Executive Editor
More Asian American and other civil rights groups called for the firing of Purdue Northwest Chancellor Thomas Keon today, calling him “unfit to lead.”
Keon spoke gibberish on stage during a recent graduation ceremony, calling it an “Asian version” of a made-up language.
Today a coalition of 22 Asian American, Black and Latino groups sent a letter to the Purdue Board of Trustees and Dr. Mung Chiang, President of Purdue University, to terminate Keon.
So far the Board of Trustees has only issued a letter of formal reprimand to Keon.
“That the Purdue Board of Trustees accepted Keon’s apology with a mere letter of reprimand only serves to establish the legitimacy of Chancellor Keon’s remarks,” the letter read. “It is implicit tolerance of racism and prejudice. What can Purdue students and applicants expect of their experience at Purdue NW if the chancellor and trustees show their approval of outrageous mimicry, all in the name of good fun. How can parents be confident in sending their children to an institution of higher learning when they don’t see a firm commitment to true inclusion, diversity, and equity.”
Those groups and individuals who signed the letter are:
Richard Konda Asian Law Alliance
Victor GarzaLa Raza Roundtable
Bob Nunez, San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP
Sarita Kohli, Asian Americans for Community Involvement
Michael Chang, Asian Pacific American Leadership Institute
Philip Nguyen, Vietnamese American Roundtable
Will Kaku, Nihonmachi Outreach Committee
Mylinh Pham, Asian American Center of Santa Clara County
Charlotte Casey, San Jose Peace and Justice Center
Angelica Cortez, LEAD Filipino
Yvonne Maxwell, Ujima Adult and Family Services
Aram James, Coalition for Justice and Accountability
Anjali Rimi, Parivar Bay Area
Kevin Ortiz, San Francisco Latinx Democratic Club
W. Michael Lee, Cameron House
Susan Hayase, San Jose Nikkei Resisters
Gabrielle Antonovich, Billy DeFrank LGBTQ+ Community Center
Malcolm Yeung, Chinatown Community Development Center
Gabriela Chavez-Lopez, Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley
Mayra Pelagio, Latinos United for a New America
Thomas Matthew, Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Silicon Valley
Shelia Mitchell, Unity Care
Michele Lew, Asian Women Empowered
Bonnie Sugiyama, Asian Pacific Islander Faculty & Staff Association, San Jose State University
In addition, the Asian Law Alliance sent a letter to several California legislators urging them to speak out about the issue as well.
“Purdue is condoning the mocking of Asians throughout the US and their inaction totally contradicts their educational mission,” wrote Richard Konda, Executive Director of Asian Law Alliance. “The trustees must reverse their decision, and fire Keon. The Purdue faculty senate has already condemned Keon’s act, and the inaction of the trustees. “
State Senator Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley) and other state leaders are being urged to publicly take a stand against Keon.
Keon has apologized and said he has appointed a task force to work on issues of importance to the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
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We must keep our foot on the pedal and stay focused. Behavior like this cannot be tolerated.
People of Asian descent are often treated as easy and acceptable targets. If Keon made animal noises like a monkey and called that “version of an African language”, would the attendees and faculty have laughed? Would the board remove Keon as soon as it happened for mocking people of AFRICAN descent?
Keon’s “apology” came days after the video went public. That “apology” was full of self-praise and self-promotion. It minimized racism as an insensitivity. Keon passed the buck to a task force.
The administration and board must take action and remove Keon to set a standard to its students, its faculty, its administrators, and the anyone who laughed. Purdue needs to decide whether it allows racism or not.