Papa John

In a special meeting Thursday, the Ball State University Board of Trustees reversed their controversial support for “Papa John” Schnatter.

The board approved a motion renaming of the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise and the return of funds donated by the John H. Schnatter Family Foundation.

For the last two weeks, students, staff and alumni of Ball State have been reeling from the Board of Trustees' previous backing of Schnatter. Aug. 3, the board announced they would “continue our support of the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise.”


“John Schnatter sincerely values his relationship with his alma mater, Ball State. He looks forward to continuing the tremendous work being done by the Institute,” read a statement sent to NUVO by the John H. Schnatter Family Foundation last week.

Schnatter and the Charles Koch Foundation's $3.25 million in funding for the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise, housed in the Whitinger Business Building, was first announced March 2, 2016.

Schnatter, a Jeffersonville native and 1983 Ball State graduate, resigned from his positions as Papa John's Pizza board chairman and University of Louisville Board of Trustees member July 11 after Forbes' Noah Kirsch reported he had used a racial slur during a conference call in May.

“Colonel Sanders called blacks n-----s,” Schnatter said, before complaining that Sanders never faced public backlash, reported Kirsch.

Unlike Ball State, Papa John's Pizza, the University of Utah and U of L have immediately sought to publicly distance themselves from Schnatter after the scandal broke. Aug. 1, the University of U announced the Papa John's Pizza franchise in the student food court was replaced July 20. U of L announced the name of their football stadium would change from Papa John's Cardinal Stadium to just Cardinal Stadium. Papa John's Pizza quickly moved to remove Schnatter's image from their future advertising and marketing materials.

Aug. 6, Geoffrey S. Mearns, Ball State president, issued his own separate statement. The Ball State English Department's blog now has an entire section dedicated to open letters titled “Let's Talk About John.” A petition started by the “Concerned Alumni of Ball State University” calling for Schnatter's name to be removed now has around 2,700 signatures.

Later the same day of Ball State's initial announcement, the Purdue Board of Trustees said that the university’s economics center, the John H. Schnatter Center for Economic Research at Purdue, should revert to the Purdue University Research Center in Economics. Purdue also offered to return $8 million in funds associated with the naming.

When asked last  if their decision was based what Ball State did, the Purdue board told NUVO they had no further comment on the matter.

Here is the full statement issued Thursday by the Ball State Board of Trustees:

Statement from Ball State Board of Trustees about Aug. 16 special meeting

Ball State University’s Board of Trustees approved a motion today during a special meeting to remove the name of John H. Schnatter from the school’s Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise and return funding to Mr. Schnatter’s Family Foundation.

The Board approved the following resolution:

“While we sincerely acknowledge Mr. Schnatter’s generosity in providing the 2016 grant funding, it is proposed that the name John H. Schnatter be removed from the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise as well as the related Distinguished Professorship appointment; and the Institute be referred to as the Ball State University Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise. Accordingly, the funding from the original grant will be returned to Mr. Schnatter’s Family Foundation.

Also, the Board issued the following statement:

“The Board of Trustees strongly condemns racism, both implicit and explicit. Our condemnation extends to include John Schnatter’s comments that are the subject of controversy and have no place in our society.

“The Board had hoped that the situation would provide a learning opportunity regarding race relations and critical thinking. We respect and appreciate that John desired to engage with our students and campus community and otherwise continue to be supportive of Ball State. From the Board’s perspective, our University was presented with a chance to have a healthy and open conversation that could lead to better understanding of issues facing our society.

“Notwithstanding the Board’s strong belief in the power of conversation, President Mearns has advised us that such discussions with John and other good faith gestures would not be well received or effective, as long as his name remains on the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise.

“Unfortunately, the response from some on campus and the current political climate in our nation makes the meaningful progress we desire very challenging. At the same time, the Board does not wish to risk that others will have a false impression that Ball State is not fully committed to a welcoming and inclusive campus for all.

“Accordingly, the Board voted today to remove John Schnatter’s name from the Institute. While the office suite signage in one of our buildings has changed, the troubling issues facing our nation still exist. The Board encourages the Ball State community to engage in constructive dialogue as we collectively work towards solutions.”

Rob Burgess, News Editor at NUVO Newsweekly, can by email at, by phone at 317-808-4614 or on Twitter @robaburg.