Ball State will keep name of Papa John’s founder on institute despite controversy

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MUNCIE, Ind. – A Ball State institute named after Papa John’s founder John Schnatter will retain its name, the university announced Friday.

The Ball State Board of Trustees said the university will continue its support for the “John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise” even as Schnatter faces national controversy.

Schnatter, a BSU alum, resigned as company chairman when it came to light that he’d used a racial slur during a conference call in May. The University of Louisville removed his name from its football stadium and a business school named after him.

Schnatter’s name will stay on the institute, the board said in a statement Friday.

In voicing support for the embattled pizza chain owner, the Board of Trustees called Schnatter’s language “insensitive and painful to others.” However, the board’s statement contended he didn’t seek to demean anyone and was using the “N-word” as “an example of improper conduct” during a meeting with consultants.

“In our experience with John, he has never expressed racist views,” the board wrote. “He has demonstrated himself to be an individual who is very appreciative of his fortunate situation and cares deeply about creating an environment in which all enterprising individuals have the opportunity to succeed.”

Here’s the university’s statement:

To the Ball State Community:

Ball State alumnus, John Schnatter, has been the subject of media reports regarding his comments in a private meeting in May. As a result, the Board of Trustees has been asked whether his name will be removed from the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise.

Higher education plays a unique role in the support of free speech and the exchange of ideas that lead to better understanding. In that pursuit, it does not mandate perfection. The language used by John was insensitive and painful to others, making a review of context appropriate.

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.

In our experience with John, he has never expressed racist views. He has demonstrated himself to be an individual who is very appreciative of his fortunate situation and cares deeply about creating an environment in which all enterprising individuals have the opportunity to succeed. With such perspective, John has generously shared his blessings through his contributions to universities and other philanthropic activities.

Based on our current understanding of what transpired, John’s response to the current situation, and our experience with him, the Board will continue our support of the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise.

While we recognize that some will disagree with our position on this particular matter, we hope all will share in the Board’s unwavering commitment to a diverse and welcoming campus. Through our continued work together, Ball State can advance a sense of community that is so essential to the creation of a stronger Indiana and a healthier society.

Sincerely,

Rick Hall

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