Ball State and Purdue Handle Papa John Controversy Differently


If you have been on the internet in the last few weeks, then you have likely heard about the Papa John controversy. Papa John founder, John Schnatter, used the n-word on a conference call back in May. According to him, the context was actually referencing past use by someone else. Whatever the reason, the fallout has been swift. He has already resigned from his post as chairman and many schools and institutions have already severed ties and distanced themselves from Schnatter. 

The University of Louisville, for example, removed Papa John’s name from a stadium and business school.

Purdue and Ball State were faced with a similar decision. They did not reach the same conclusion.

Purdue decided to remove the name from their economic research facility on campus.  Citing distractions and deviations from the universities policy on race:

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"

It should be noted that Purdue also plans on returning the $8 million donation given to the university by Schnatter.

Ball State, John Schnatter’s alma mater, decided to accept the pizza mogul’s context of events and announced there are no plans to remove Schnatter’s name from the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise:

To such end, we have the following understanding of John’s comments. They were made in a private meeting with consultants, from which he was seeking advice as to how to communicate in a way that would be less offensive to others. In the course of the conversation, he recited his understanding of another’s use of the “N word”. He did so not in a derogatory manner seeking to demean any individuals or groups; rather it was used as an example of improper conduct.

John has acknowledged, notwithstanding his intentions, that his use of the word was inappropriate. His response was to promptly issue an apology and unequivocally denounce racism. He has reaffirmed those views to us personally, and such sentiment is consistent with Ball State’s values.”

Many people are not happy about Ball State’s decision. A petition was started to remove Schnatter’s name from the building in question. The petition has a goal of 1500 signers and at the time of writing this, it has already received 1320.

John Schnatter is not fading into the background. He has taken legal action and sued his own company, so this will likely not be the last we hear of Papa John.  


Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.