Mitch Daniels moved out of the Statehouse in early January after eight years as governor. But he never left the headlines.
Daniels took the helm of Purdue University in West Lafayette and immediately made waves by freezing tuition for the first time since 1976. That forced the state’s other public universities to raise tuition less than they had been recently.
Not everyone at Purdue’s West Lafayette campus supported the move, which required $40 million in budget cutting. But Daniels, nicknamed The Blade when he was President George W. Bush’s budget chief, said he’s committed to making Purdue stand out as a high-value institution, not just a high-spending one.
“Today, you get credit for spending more money. There’s nothing in there about how well it works,” Daniels said.
Controversy around Daniels spiked in June when emails he wrote in 2010 criticizing the late historian Howard Zinn were published by the Associated Press.
In those emails, Daniels called on his staff to make sure Zinn’s famous book, “A People’s History of the United States,” wasn’t being used in any K-12 classrooms or teacher training programs.
Some professors at Purdue decried what they called Daniels’ attempt at censorship.
But faculty anger didn’t reach its zenith until professors’ funding was threatened. In August, Daniels refused to join most other university presidents in the nation in signing a letter to Congress asking for more research funding to universities. Daniels said such a call was irresponsible given the nation’s fiscal condition.
But after Purdue professors called the move blatantly political, Daniels reversed course, noting that the university presidents had previously called for congressional action to improve the nation’s finances.
In September, Daniels announced his priorities, including a $60 million effort to turn Purdue into a hub of pharmaceutical R&D partner for large drug companies.