Purdue University

Purdue Northwest Chancellor Apologizes for ‘Offensive' Remark During Commencement

The remark, which was recorded on video and has since been seen hundreds of thousands of times on social media, was a response to another speaker's story about a language he made up with his new granddaughter

The chancellor of Purdue University Northwest has issued an apology after he made an "insensitive and offensive" comment during a recent commencement ceremony at the school.

The remark, which was recorded on video and has since been seen hundreds of thousands of times on social media, was a response to another speaker's story about a language he made up with his new granddaughter.

Chancellor Thomas Keon then took the stage and began speaking in a fake language that appeared to mimic an Asian language.

"That's sort of my Asian version of his uh..." Keon said, trailing off as he spoke.

Twitter users began calling out the moment.

"Can’t get more racist than this @PurdueNorthwest administrator," one user wrote, sharing video of the moment, which has now been seen more than 500,000 times.

On Wednesday, Keon issued an apology for his remarks.

"On Saturday, December 10, during one of our two PNW Commencement ceremonies, I made a comment that was offensive and insensitive," the statement read. "I am truly sorry for my unplanned, off-the-cuff response to another speaker, as my words have caused confusion, pain, and anger."

The statement continued by highlighting diversity and inclusion initiatives put in place at the school, including the formation of a team dedicated to "respecting inclusion, diversity and equity," which Keon said he is now directing to "specifically understand and address issues of importance to the Asian American Pacific Islander community at PNW." He also said he plans to meet with student government to discuss how best to address student concerns.

"We are all human. I made a mistake, and I assure you I did not intend to be hurtful and my comments do not reflect my personal or our institutional values," he said. "In the true spirit of diversity and inclusion that is a cornerstone of PNW, I will learn from this and assure you that Purdue Northwest and I will take action to prevent such missteps from occurring in the future."

A spokesperson for Purdue University, Tim Doty, told the Chicago Tribune in an emailed statement that the Board of Trustees, "which oversees all campuses in the Purdue system," was aware of the comments made by Keon and "has accepted his apology."

Purdue University Northwest is located in northwest Indiana, where it has two campuses.

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