The Ball State University Board of Trustees has changed its tune and will remove the name of Papa John’s International Inc. (Nasdaq: PZZA) founder John Schnatter from the university’s Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise. During a special meeting Thursday, the board also voted to return the $3.25 million grant awarded by the John H. Schnatter Family Foundation in 2016.
The Ball State board voted 8-1 to remove the name and return the grant funding, with trustee Jean Ann Harcourt providing the sole "no" vote. The resolution reads:
“While we sincerely acknowledge Mr. Schnatter’s generosity in providing the 2016 grant funding, it is proposed that the name John H. Schnatter be removed from the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise as well as the related Distinguished Professorship appointment; and the Institute be referred to as the Ball State University Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise. Accordingly, the funding from the original grant will be returned to Mr. Schnatter’s Family Foundation.
The decision is a change from earlier this month, when the board decided to keep Schnatter’s name on the institute after the pizza chain founder came under fire for using the N-word during a conference call. That same day, Purdue University announced it would remove Schnatter’s name from its Research Center in Economics and return an $8 million gift from the foundation.
The board issued the following the statement after the vote.
The Board of Trustees strongly condemns racism, both implicit and explicit. Our condemnation extends to include John Schnatter’s comments that are the subject of controversy and have no place in our society.
The Board had hoped that the situation would provide a learning opportunity regarding race relations and critical thinking. We respect and appreciate that John desired to engage with our students and campus community and otherwise continue to be supportive of Ball State. From the Board’s perspective, our University was presented with a chance to have a healthy and open conversation that could lead to better understanding of issues facing our society.
Notwithstanding the Board’s strong belief in the power of conversation, President Mearns has advised us that such discussions with John and other good faith gestures would not be well received or effective, as long as his name remains on the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise.
Unfortunately, the response from some on campus and the current political climate in our nation makes the meaningful progress we desire very challenging. At the same time, the Board does not wish to risk that others will have a false impression that Ball State is not fully committed to a welcoming and inclusive campus for all.
Accordingly, the Board voted today to remove John Schnatter’s name from the Institute.
While the office suite signage in one of our buildings has changed, the troubling issues facing our nation still exist. The Board encourages the Ball State community to engage in constructive dialogue as we collectively work towards solutions.