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Purdue offers refuge to Ukrainian profs, Ph.D. students
Mitch Daniels: ‘It just seemed like the sort of thing we had to do if we had a chance.’ Plus, GOP sets debate for two Statehouse seats. And a new document emerges in the Delphi murders case
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An emerging plan to open Purdue as refuge, of sorts, for 20 faculty members and Ph.D. students at Ukrainian universities bubbled up from various parts of the West Lafayette campus, as Russians invaded Ukraine five weeks ago, Purdue President Mitch Daniels said.
“It wasn’t ever a matter of whether it’s a good idea,” Daniels said Friday.
“It's the practicalities, which will probably be tough,” Daniels said. “Can these people get out? If they're out, can we get them in here without trouble? Which I think we can. … We’ll just have to see. It just seemed like the sort of thing we had to do if we had a chance – bring them here until it’s safe to return to their home.”
Purdue announced Friday that it would create the Ukraine Scholars Initiative to host professors and students working on their doctorates to spend a year continuing their academic work in West Lafayette. The Purdue program would make room for the visiting scholars to do their own research or to support research being done on campus. Each would be matched with a tenure-track professor as a mentor and adviser.
The Ukrainian professors and Ph.D. students would be able to bring their spouses and children, with Purdue covering visa and round-trip transportation costs, plus offering the university’s health insurance benefits.
“Our goal here is to help Ukrainian scholars whose research has been disrupted by the invasion,” Mike Brzezinski, dean of international programs, said. “Our faculty and deans have already been in contact with their academic colleagues in Ukraine and have identified scholars interested in continuing their scholarly pursuits in America at Purdue University.”
At the start of the 2021-22 academic year, Purdue’s Data Digest listed five students from Ukraine. The university also has an active Ukrainian Student Association, with a roll of 15 to 20 students, many second- and third-generation Americans whose parents or grandparents came to the United States from Ukraine. The student association has organized a march on campus, a film series and supply drives since the Russian invasion.
With one of the largest international student enrollments among U.S. universities, Purdue is experienced in working through visas and similar issues. Daniels didn’t make it sound as if this, though, would be easy while a war’s going on.
“This is a very different situation – an extraordinary circumstance,” Daniels said.
Daniels said he’d reached out to U.S. Sen. Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, to see what help Purdue could get.
Jay Kenworthy, a spokesman for Young, said: “Sen. Young is willing to do what he can to help relocate these scholars to West Lafayette. We have reached out to the State Department, but we are still in the information-gathering phase.”
Kenworthy said Young’s office hadn’t heard from other universities in the state. But Daniels said he didn’t expect Purdue would be alone in offering a place for Ukrainian faculty and others.
Daniels said the 20 number tied to the initiative “was pretty arbitrary.”
“I’d like to think we can find that many,” Daniels said. “If we can, we may decide we want to take more.”
As for the one-year duration announced for the initiative?
“The honest, earnest hope is that in a year, or maybe less, people could resume the lives they were leading,” Daniels said. “But we don't know that. … I think when (Provost Jay Akridge) and others said, let's make this a one-year appointment, it was with that sort of in mind. If these folks come here and can't get back, we'll probably be glad to have them stay with us.”
NEW DELPHI REVELATIONS: A transcript of an August 2020 conversation between police and Kegan Kline, a Peru man jailed on a host of child exploitation and pornography charges, made the rounds this week, after hosts of a podcast called “The Murder Sheet” discovered it temporarily unsealed on Indiana’s court document system. The 194-page document has police pressing Kline – behind a fake social media account called “anthony_shots” – about connections between the profile used to lure women and girls and what the detectives told him was one of the last contacts with Libby German. Libby and her friend Abby Williams were killed in February 2017 while hanging out on the Monon High Bridge Trail near Delphi. Their murders remain unsolved. In December, police called out for information from anyone who’d had contact with the “anthony_shots” account. In court documents filed with Kline’s 2020 charges, he was identified as the creator of the account, though court documents suggest there could have been others using that account. Kline has not been charged in connection with the murders. In the transcript, Kline denied killing the girls. He faces his next court hearing April 14 on more than 30 counts of child porn and related charges. For more, including links to the transcript, here’s a link to a report from WISH-TV reporter Demie Johnson.
GOP STATEHOUSE RACE DEBATE: Republican candidates running in two Indiana General Assembly districts will debate Monday night in Lafayette. On tap in debates hosted at Duncan Hall by the Tippecanoe County Republican Party and Republican Women’s Club:
House District 41: Three Republicans – Richard Bagsby, Mark Genda and Shane Weist – are running in a redrawn district that includes the eastern part of Tippecanoe County and parts of Clinton and Boone counties. The winner in the May 3 primary will face Democrat Greg Woods. No incumbent is running, after Rep. Tim Brown, a Crawfordsville Republican, announced he planned to retire after this term.
Senate District 23: In another seat without an incumbent, four candidates – Christian Beaver, Paula Copenhaver, Spencer Deery and Bill Webster – will be on the Republican ballot. The winner in the primary will face Democrat David Sanders in the November general election. Senate District 23 covers all or parts of Tippecanoe, Vermillion, Parke, Fountain, Warren and Montgomery counties. It will essentially be an open seat, after state Sen. Phil Boots, a Crawfordsville Republican, was drawn out of the district and has since announced he plans to retire at the end of this term.
The hourlong debates start at 5:30 p.m. Monday, March 28, at Duncan Hall, 619 Ferry St. in Lafayette. House District 41 will be first, with the second hour going to Senate District 23.
Questions will come from WBAA reporter Emilie Syberg, WLFI anchor Jeff Smith and me.
Thanks, again, to today’s sponsor, the Long Center for the Performing Arts. For details about upcoming events at the historic downtown Lafayette theater, click on the link below.