The Forum

On This Date in Campus Freedom: Mitch Daniels Becomes The President of Purdue University

January 14, 2024

Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr., has had a wide-ranging career: political adviser, corporate executive, head of a federal agency, governor, and most recently, university president. As he was completing his second term as the governor of Indiana (and after opting against a presidential run in 2012), his interests turned to Purdue University’s then-vacant presidency. He became president of the STEM-focused university on January 14, 2013, and quickly began setting his policy goals in motion, aided by his political skills and past experience balancing budgets. He froze undergraduate tuition for seven consecutive years; spearheaded partnerships with several engineering corporations to promote research and job opportunities for Purdue graduates; and helped created Purdue Polytechnic High School, a STEM preparatory charter school in Indianapolis. His insistence on a civic literacy requirement for all undergraduates evidenced his commitment to intellectual rigor.

President Daniels also led to the way towards strengthening the university’s commitment to free expression and academic freedom. With his support, Purdue’s board of trustees adopted the Chicago Principles on Freedom of Expression in May 2015, signaling the university’s “solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.” In a 2017 interview with the George W. Bush President Center, President Daniels noted he was “very proud” that both the undergraduate and graduate student governments had recently passed free speech resolutions. He put the Chicago Principles into action by establishing a freshman orientation unit on free expression, which includes training on the First Amendment and live skits, wherein students learn how to navigate various dilemmas involving free speech.

Governor Daniels stepped down as president in 2022 and now serves as chairman of the board of the Purdue Research Foundation, having overseen the university’s ascent to the fourth best engineering school in the nation (and first in the Midwest), according to U.S. News & World Report. In 2023, the university honored its former president by naming their reimagined business school after him. President Daniels’s “strong leadership and vision” left Purdue University significantly better than he found it.


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