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Mitch Daniels: Universities will be judged on response to Israel-Hamas war

Mitch Daniels publishes new book

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Former Purdue University President and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels on Friday said universities facing criticism for their response to the Israel-Hamas war sowed the seeds of it years ago.

Daniels’ comments came during an interview for Sunday’s “All INdiana Politics” about his new book, “Boiler Up,” a collection of speeches, op-eds and lectures from his time at Purdue. His 2018 commencement address, included in the book, highlighted the need to be exposed to different viewpoints in order to ward off tribalism. Some colleges around the country, including Stanford, Columbia and Penn, have faced criticism for statements their leaders have made following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Asked to view the universities’ responses through the lens of that speech, Daniels said some institutions have “disgraced themselves.”

“Many of them have at least acquiesced, if not actively participated in, squelching, canceling, otherwise suppressing views that didn’t coincide with their own,” he said. “That, I think, made it especially difficult for them to be neutral brokers.”

A section of Daniels’ book, titled “The Grand Experiment — The Future of Democracy,” includes an op-ed criticizing the Commission on Presidential Debates for blocking third-party and independent candidates from taking part in presidential debates. Daniels, who once served on the commission, said the odds are still against a successful third-party candidate in 2024, but far more voters likely would be receptive to one than at any other time in U.S. history. Daniels said third parties haven’t done well in the past because the two major parties could draw large numbers of centrist voters.

“I don’t think it’s valid to say that there just can’t possibly a credible, maybe even a successful, third option,” he said.

Daniels said he most wants readers to take away an appreciation for Purdue University and the role of higher education more broadly in the United States. He said higher education has allowed too many people to question its value, particularly given the cost of tuition. Daniels famously froze tuition when he took the reins at Purdue in 2013, a policy that remains in effect to this day. He said much of the student loan debt crisis could be averted if colleges simply didn’t charge students so much. He said a good idea might be to charge schools for a portion of any defaulted debt on federal loans.

Daniels also addressed the legacy of longtime Indiana University men’s basketball coach Bob Knight, whose death at age 83 was announced Wednesday. He said Knight’s legacy will be not only his wins, but also the standards he upheld and the ways in which he cared for his players, many of which Knight did not publicize.

“College athletics has some problems, big ones, right now, and it would benefit from a lot more people with the character and standards of Coach Knight,” he said.

“All INdiana Politics” airs at 9:30 a.m. Sunday on WISH-TV.