Purdue staffer steps down after social media controversy over purported rape threats
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Feb. 15, 2016) – A Purdue University staff member resigned Monday amid a social media firestorm involving a pro-life group and purported rape threats.
According to a statement from Purdue, the resignation of Jamie Newman, an accompanist in Purdue’s Division of Dance, is effective immediately. The university called his resignation “the appropriate outcome” and described him as a part-time staff member.
The move followed a tumultuous week on Purdue’s campus with students, parents and alumni calling for Newman’s firing based on comments he made on social media. Those comments were directed at the Facebook page for Purdue Students for Life and fliers the group plastered around the Purdue Black Cultural Center earlier this month.
Members of the group accused him of threatening them with rape in comments he left on social media accounts. According to the Journal & Courier, a Purdue University Police Department investigation found no criminal intent.
The university didn’t fire Newman, citing free speech policies. University attorney Steve Schultz said Friday that the free speech policy was the only reason Newman still had a job, telling the newspaper:
“The disruption we’ve endured as a community is entirely due to Mr. Newman’s online posts. Anything other than a full apology and explanation from him about the intent of his statement will be insufficient to cure the harm he’s done.”
In turn, Newman sent Schultz a letter saying the claims were fabricated and that he was owed an apology. He also said he’d been threatened with violence.
The controversy surrounded “Hands Up, Don’t Abort” fliers and chalk messages posted at the Purdue Black Cultural Center. The fliers themselves stirred controversy on campus, and the group that posted them later wrote an open letter apologizing for the campaign. The letter said, in part:
First and foremost, we would like to apologize for the pain this campaign has caused. It was never our intent to shame or condemn any group of people, either the black community or post abortive women, or to make any person feel discriminated against. Rather, we sought to draw attention to how abortion inflicts disproportionate harm onto the black community (including both its born and unborn members) through factors such as misinformation, targeting from the abortion industry, discrimination, and racial inequality.