University's Questionable New Leadership Yields $65 Million for Purdue Agriculture

An anonymous donor trusted an estate valued at $65 million, stipulation-free, to Purdue's School of Agriculture last month. Though it may not become available to the school for another few decades, this is the largest single donation Purdue has ever received. A fundraising official at the university sees the gift as part of a larger "increase in broad base support" for its new administration — former Indiana government Mitch Daniels took office as President of Purdue University in early 2013.

The $65 million itself is good news, but not everyone shares the anonymous donor's personal enthusiasm for Daniels. Former Purdue College of Education dean Marilyn Haring cancelled a $1 million donation to that college last year in protest of Daniels' appointment. Haring derogated the university's decision to inaugurate the ex-governor as "a travesty and insult to academics," according to the Purdue Exponent.

Many members of Purdue's Board of Trustees, eight of whom were appointed by Daniels himself, disagree. 

But Haring is not alone. Close to 60 people showed up to express their disapproval at the current university president's inauguration ceremony in June of 2012. The Society for an Open and Accountable Purdue organized the protest. They questioned the university's decision to appoint as its president an ex-governor who signed off on $150 million in funding cuts to the state's postsecondary education system in 2009. 

Another dissatisfaction with the ex-governor as Purdue president is that he does not hail from academic stock. He did receive a law degree, but has been in politics since then, according US News and World Report. Daniels first worked for Dick Lugar's campaign in the late 1970s, then Ronald Reagan, and ultimately George Bush. Under Bush, Daniels was nicknamed "The Blade" due to his penchant for cutting budgets. He ultimately went into business for himself as a politician with the same strategy.

If Daniels' political career has indeed brought attention and support to Purdue, it remains debatable whether or not it is the kind that will benefit a university in the long run.