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Future of Purdue's armory remains in question

Cadets say they want clarity from Purdue President Mitch Daniels, but Daniels says nothing has been decided yet.

Posted: Apr 26, 2019 7:03 AM
Updated: Apr 26, 2019 9:28 AM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — The future of the Purdue Armory is being questioned by the university's administration, and that's leading to even more questioning from member's of the ROTC program.

Cadets say they want clarity from Purdue President Mitch Daniels, but Daniels says nothing has been decided yet.

In March, an idea cadets say wasn't shared with them, or their instructors, was presented at the University Senate meeting. Daniels presented an idea that would "repurpose" the armory, and the students say they found out about the possible plans in the student newspaper.

Daniels was quoted as saying the Armory is "a fabulous building in a fabulous location right at what's being the heart of campus." Rumors started flying when ideas, such as turning the armory into residential dining and retail, were floated.

"We heard from one of our instructors that got an anonymous tip with a slide show saying 'hey they're turning the armory into a food court,'" said Army ROTC Cadet Ian Curtis. "And I'm like, 'Really? A food court?'"

"That's been the most frustrating part, everything's been rumors and word of mouth," fellow Cadet Jordan Labelle echoed. 

Daniels said he must keep the interests of an entire campus in mind, not just the 300 in ROTC.

"The other night I was asked this question by a student, a member of ROTC," Daniels said about what the future of the armory held. "I told him, 'One day you will be a Lieutenant and you will be responsible for the success of an entire unit, not just your favorite private or your favorite corporal. You will have to think about the entire enterprise. We do too."

The cadets have taken their concerns in writing to the president and all received the same responses.

""We're not tearing down the armory and Purdue is very supportive of the DOD [Department of Defense]. Yours truly,'" Curtis described of the email he got. 

An opinion piece in The Purdue Exponent caught Daniels' attention.

"People probably shouldn't write letters before knowing all the facts, but it's an emotional subject and I understand that," said Daniels "The conversations have been real positive and constructive. You can go ask the Department of Defense. There's not a university or a current administration in the country more supportive of ROTC than Purdue is."

Military training has been at the university since its inception as part of the Morill Act. The armory was built to house the ROTC in the late 1910s and in those times, males were required to take military training and thousands were in the program. Daniels said that's just not the case anymore.

However, it's not just the 300 cadets that would be displaced. The Purdue Shooting team, Cricket Club and other organizations regularly call the Armory home. In fact, most Purdue graduates are familiar with the space.

"This building has been used to stage for graduation of every graduating class that has ever come through Purdue," said Army ROTC Cadet Brian O'Leary.

If the repurposing idea progresses, cadets say they're unsure where the program would go. Daniels said they could even stay in the armory, as nothing is final. According to the president's office, conversations have been held with Commanding Officers and Executive Officers of the ROTC branches. Daniels said the open dialogue will continue and input from student cadets and midshipmen is sought and welcomed as well.

"We will do that in a way, as Purdue has through its history, that is not just respectful but supportive of ROTC."

The students say they can't speak on behalf of their instructors. They say the faculty's hands are tied about commenting.

News 18 also reached out to Representative Jim Baird, who an alum of the ROTC Program. He released the following statement:

"The Armory certainly has a long history and a lot of students have taken courses there. I have every confidence that the appropriate steps will be taken by the administration and President Daniels to find a solution to workout this situation."

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