University Senate discusses PUPD incident, votes against MHAW in academic calendar

Purdue President Mitch Daniels made a statement about the investigation into the incident between a Purdue police officer and a Black student at the university senate meeting; the senate voted not to add Mental Health Awareness Week to the official academic calendar and reworded language of the medically excused absence policy for students.

PUPD officer investigation

Daniels said in his opening remarks that the prosecutor on the PUPD investigation advised him to say as little as possible about the situation until the investigation concludes. He did say, however, that there’s “no pattern, let alone precedent” of excessive use of force by Purdue police.

“There is not a single case or complaint of excessive use of force against any student of any color for seven years under the current record-keeping system,” Daniels said.

The senate passed a resolution asking the administration to enhance transparency about campus police incidents involving force and to institute more robust community oversight over campus police activity. It also requested that the administration provide expanded mental health resources to students impacted by the incident.

“We’re not passing judgment on whether there was intent,” biological sciences professor Ximena Bernal said. “The objective of this resolution is to bring the community together to support those that are most affected.”

Mental Health Awareness Week

After postponing voting on the bill until February, the university senate opposed adding Mental Health Action Week to the official academic calendar.

Purdue Student Government President Shannon Kang and Purdue Graduate Student Government President Madelina Nuñez proposed the bill in the January meeting to show students that the university values mental health enough to put it in the official calendar.

“The goal is to institutionalize the focus on mental health,” engineering education professor Alice Pawley said.

Provost Jay Akridge said he’s worried that change might distract from academic progress.

“I was fully supportive of the idea of adding Mental Health Action Week in some ongoing way to our university calendar,” said Provost Jay Akridge. “The academic calendar has a very particular purpose, and I do have concerns about opening it up and adding information like this that, while important, is not directly linked to the academic progress of a student.”

Medically excused absence policy for students

The senate passed a bill to provide excused absences to students with serious mental or physical ailments.

The bill, originally proposed in November, would allow students to request a medically excused absence with evidence of a medical ailment that may keep them from their studies, according to previous Exponent reporting.

Recognizing Black and underrepresented faculty

The senate discussed a new bill which intends to recognize and value the voices and contributions of Black and underrepresented faculty and staff by growing their numbers.

The bill, sponsored by English professor Brian Leung, would require the administration and all departments to allocate additional resources to attract and retain Black and underrepresented faculty and staff.

The document states that the bill would also require staff and faculty to follow the recommendations of the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, in order to foster a climate of belonging.

Proposal of winter academic session

The senate proposed an optional session during winter break for students to take a class or study abroad.

“It would be three weeks long and occur between the existing fall semester and spring semester,” engineering professor Thomas Siegmund said. “No further changes to the academic calendar would take place.”

Students would have the opportunity to take an asynchronous three-credit course during winter break or go on a study abroad trip, College of Health and Human Sciences Dean Marion Underwood said.

“This is an opportunity for academic innovation and study abroad to new parts of the world,” he said, “and it’s an opportunity for student success, for students to take a course in between the long semesters, if they so choose.”