Although we won't be dedicating it until October 16, Purdue's new Black Cultural Center facility opened for business in June. Director Renee Thomas and her staff have moved into their offices and now are busy getting ready for the return of students and the next academic year.
The new structure -- built entirely with gift funds -- is a striking and unique presence in West Lafayette. Located near the heart of campus on one of our busiest pedestrian thoroughfares, it stands out because of the distinct African motifs used in the exterior design. The theme is carried through in the interior, as well. Blackburn Architects of Indianapolis created a facility that is beautiful and functional -- one that will be valuable to the entire University and to the surrounding community. My senior staff and I already have used it for one of our weekly meetings.
Besides administrative space, a library, and performance and rehearsal venues for the Black Cultural Center's four student performance ensembles, the new building includes study and lounge areas, office space for student organizations, and computer facilities with access to the University's main computing center.
The computer equipment -- including 20 work stations -- was a gift from the IBM Corporation. Al Schleicher, a retired IBM vice president for global finance and business operations, wanted the building to have the kind of computing center that will attract students from all sectors of campus. In taking this approach, Al and IBM recognized one of the most important -- but least understood -- missions of the Black Cultural Center. Although it provides a social venue and some services for Purdue's black students, its broader role is to create opportunities for all people who live on or visit the campus to experience African-American culture, which has a unique place in the histories of our nation, our state, the Lafayette community, and the University.
This mission always has been carried out through the center's programming, but with the completion of the new building, I hope we will see many more people taking advantage of its unique features for meetings, study, special events, and especially for promoting understanding.
The most recent development in the NCAA's investigation of the Purdue men's basketball program was a decision to impose sanctions that I consider severe in light of all the facts brought forward in the case. Under NCAA legislation, the committee must base all findings on "credible, persuasive information of a kind reasonably prudent persons rely on in the conduct of serious affairs." Yet, some of the findings appear to be contrary to the evidence presented at Purdue's hearing.
For example, the Committee on Infractions ruled that a local bank's $4,000 loan to a prospective student athlete was arranged so he could pay his outstanding prep school tuition bill and that his mother was told by a coach that he would not be required to repay the money. The committee also stated that the mother had taken no steps to obtain funds to repay her debt to the school.
However, evidence presented at the hearing showed that at the only meeting the mother had with the coach, she did not yet know her son's prep school tuition bill would have an unpaid balance. Therefore she could not have discussed it with the coach. At the hearing, Purdue provided the Committee with a copy of a letter from the mother to the prep school mailed several weeks after her son's 1995 graduation. The letter offers to work out an arrangement with the school to pay off the outstanding balance. We are unable to understand how the committee's findings can be reconciled with the existence of the letter.
The committee also found that "minimal" effort was made by the bank to collect the loan when it first came due. However, the mother told the committee in 1996 that her son called her to complain that all during the winter of 1995 the bank was "harassing" him for payment. The committee concluded that the bank had taken "no other measures to collect any payment," even though documentary evidence was presented that the bank continues to monitor the loan monthly for collectibility. The bank eventually decided to "charge off" the loan, when the student failed to pay, but this is normal banking practice when a borrower defaults and the loan is no longer considered an asset. Action to collect the debt can be brought until August of 2002, and the bank has affirmed its intent to pursue the matter if it thinks it can collect.
Perhaps most puzzling was the committee's conclusion that in 1993 a student athlete's mother "learned" from a Purdue coach that a man from Indianapolis "would assist her" in relocating from Tennessee to Indiana.
Purdue presented sworn statements to the committee from the mother, the student athlete, and the benefactor that the coach had no role in the relocation assistance. The man also maintains that he has no loyalty to Purdue, and the University's records support this.
The only information to the contrary was contained in an internal memorandum of an unrecorded interview of the mother prepared by the NCAA enforcement staff. The woman in her subsequent sworn statement to Purdue denied any participation by the coach in the relocation and related that on several occasions during her NCAA interview she found it necessary to tell the staff, "I didn't say that."
The effect of the committee's finding in this instance is to make it impossible to challenge the presumptive validity of an internal NCAA enforcement memorandum, no matter how many sworn statements contradict it.
If we could believe that evidence in this case supported the NCAA committee's conclusions and that the penalties were appropriate, Purdue would accept the report of the Commiuttee on Infractions and get the situation behind us. In the interest of justice to everyone concerned, we feel compelled to appeal the decision. However, even if the committee's findings are overturned or if the penalties are reduced, the injury to the University and the athletic programs will not be undone. No institution has worked harder than Purdue to maintain the integrity of its athletic programs. We have an obligation to Coach Gene Keady, his players, and everyone else in the Purdue community to carry our appeal as far as possible.
Effective August 1, the new dean of Purdue's School of Management and the Krannert Graduate School of Management will be Richard Cosier, currently dean of the University of Oklahoma's School of Business. Rick is one of the most dynamic young deans in the country. He emerged as the clear standout in a very strong group of candidates from throughout the country. Rick will succeed Dennis Weidenaar, who will step down but will continue his distinguished Purdue career as a professor of management.