University Chancellor Apologizes After Mocking Asian Languages

Global HR

​Thomas L. Keon, chancellor of Purdue University Northwest in Indiana, used a mock Asian accent when referring to a joke by a prior speaker during the school’s winter commencement ceremony on Dec. 10.

The comments were recorded and went viral online, sparking outrage. Keon has since apologized for his comments.

“On Saturday, Dec. 10, during one of our two [Purdue University Northwest] commencement ceremonies, I made a comment that was offensive and insensitive,” he wrote on the school’s website. “I am truly sorry for my unplanned, off-the-cuff response to another speaker, as my words have caused confusion, pain and anger.”

Keon mentioned that he will direct the school’s “Respecting Inclusion, Diversity and Equity” team to specifically address issues that impact the Asian American Pacific Islander community at Purdue University Northwest.

“I made a mistake, and I assure you I did not intend to be hurtful and my comments do not reflect my personal or our institutional values,” he added. “In the true spirit of diversity and inclusion that is a cornerstone of PNW, I will learn from this and assure you that Purdue Northwest, and I will take action to prevent such missteps from occurring in the future.”

SHRM Online gathered additional news on the topic.

Internet Reacts to Keon’s Comments

A clip of Keon’s comments was posted to Twitter and has garnered nearly 1 million views. Many users on the social media platform expressed their anger, calling his words “outrageously racist” and “disgusting.” People on Twitter began using the hashtags #StopAsianHate and #AntiAsianHate in response to the video.

(Yahoo News)

Purdue University’s Board of Trustees ‘Aware’ of the Comments

Tim Doty, Purdue’s director of media and public relations, told Axios that the school’s board of trustees, which oversees all campuses in the Purdue system, is “aware of the comments made by Chancellor Keon” and “has accepted his apology.” It has yet to be seen if administrative action will be taken against Keon.


Asian American CEO Addresses Ways Companies Can Combat Asian Stereotypes

Joy Chen, former deputy mayor of Los Angeles and now the CEO of the Multicultural Leadership Institute in Los Angeles, said HR professionals can help Asian American workers rise through the leadership ranks by recognizing and fighting against biased perceptions.

[SHRM Online]

Violence Against Asian American Workers Has Become Alarming Trend

In May 2022, a man opened fire during a lunch reception at a church in Laguna Woods, Calif., killing an Asian-American man and wounding five senior citizens. Police later said the shooter was targeting Taiwanese people. The event came three years after a gunman killed eight people, six of whom were of Asian descent, at three spas in Atlanta.

[SHRM Online]

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