Ex-World Bank leader introduces himself at Purdue, as faculty proposal asks him to step down
A Q&A as David Malpass, former World Bank president, makes his initial rounds at Daniels School of Business. Meanwhile, University Senate considers a statement asking him to leave
In a session last week meant to help launch his recently announced appointment on campus, former World Bank president David Malpass offered 75 guests at a Purdue University Research Center in Economics lunch-and-lecture a deep read on fresh World Bank projections that growth in the global economy would slow for a third consecutive year.
The situation in a world economy expected to gain 2.4% this year, down from 2.6% growth in 2023 and 3% in 2022, Malpass said Wednesday, meant terrible news for developing countries facing unsustainably high debt and “a grim outlook for the hundreds of millions of people living in countries that don’t have a path to debt relief or growth.” The U.S., Malpass said, “can’t be oblivious to this.”
“I think there’s such an opportunity for Purdue, as a university, to be part of global development (and) for global infrastructure,” Malpass said, introducing himself in a role meant to weave those aspects into the university’s interdisciplinary approach to finance at its Daniels School of Business.
Getting to the lectern, maneuvering that day around the edges of the third-floor commons area of Rawls Hall, Malpass was stuck asking one lunch guest to allow him to pass, given the layout of the tables. It turned out to be David Sanders, a Purdue biologist, a West Lafayette City Council member and a faculty senator who happened to be pressing a University Senate proposal to have President Mung Chiang and Daniels School of Business Dean Jim Bullard withdraw Malpass’ appointment.
Sanders, no stranger to agitating the Purdue administration, presented the proposed statement to the faculty-led University Senate in November, with a vote possible as soon as Monday afternoon. (The University Senate meets virtually at 2:30 p.m.)
In November, Chiang announced that Malpass – who had stepped down from his World Bank post in June 2023 – would open 2024 as a distinguished fellow of International Finance and as the inaugural fellow of Global Business and Infrastructure at Purdue@DC, the university’s presence in Washington, D.C. The university reported that Malpass would split his time between Purdue’s campuses in West Lafayette and Indianapolis, as well in Washington, D.C.
Malpass, appointed by then President Donald Trump to head the World Bank in 2019, spent four years there, leaving with one year remaining in a five-year term at a post that oversees billions of dollars in lending to developing countries. Chiang called Malpass “a truly impactful leader of international finance, infrastructure and business.” And he was the latest, high-profile hire for the new Daniels Schools of Business, following the recruitment of Bullard, former president and chief operating officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, who started at Purdue in August.
The University Senate proposal raises several issues, including criticism Malpass endured in his final year at the World Bank by the White House and others for declining to say whether he accepted scientific conclusions about fossil fuels and their impact on global warming. (Malpass later said in an interview with CNN International: “I’m not a denier.”)
The University Senate proposal’s wording calls the appointment an “unnecessary, ill-defined and political-featherbedding position” and that Malpass should step down. The university has offered little commentary beyond saying it sticks by the appointment and referring to a university release when the job was accepted. (Chiang was not immediately available for comment late last week.)
With that backdrop, here are excerpts from a Q&A session with Malpass and local media after last week’s talk. (This version of the Q&A has been edited for clarity and length.)
Question: Why Purdue? What was the draw here? And how were you recruited? Who were the players?