In a statement on February 11, Purdue University announced that it was closing its investigation of Jamie Newman – an accompanist at the Purdue Division of Dance – despite allegations that he had threatened to rape women who hold contrary views. University spokesman Brian Zink said that Purdue police interview Newman about the allegations and the exchanges he had with pro-life groups on social media. As a result, said Zink, the university “did not find sufficient evidence to take action.” Purdue’s statement read, “As far as the university is concerned, the speech was repugnant and inconsistent with Purdue values…We don’t condone it, but at this time no personnel action is intended.”
When students asked the Purdue University police department to investigate the alleged threats, the university responded: “Obviously, a threat of rape is outside the bounds of any definition of protected speech.” An investigation ensued as parents and others expressed alarm.
Debate on the internet was inspired by pro-life fliers directed at African American students by Purdue Students for Life two weeks ago. When “Hands Up, Don’t Abort” fliers were distributed on February 4, Newman posted a number of comments directly to the Purdue Students for Life’s Facebook site. In one, Newman wrote: “You folks are vile, racist idiots, who richly deserve all the opprobrium that will be heaped on you as a result of this unbelievably thoughtless, stupid escapade.”
Newman claims that his comments were taken out of context from an exchange on a news site. He said that claims that he threatened to rape anyone were “false and defamatory” and “a complete fabrication.”
Kristina Hernandez, director of communications for Students for Life of America, said the group linked Newman’s comments at the Purdue chapter’s Facebook page with online exchanges at LiveActionNews.org. A screen capture made by Students for Life of America had Newman writing: “Oh, I’m sorry. So, let me make my intentions quite explicit: I did in fact offer to rape Tom’s wife/daughter/great grandmother. Free of charge, even. I’m generous that way.”
“He doesn't exactly threaten anyone by name on the Purdue campus,” Hernandez said. “But you put those two things together, if I was a student on campus, I would totally be watching my back. Because you have no idea who this is. What if this guy carries it out and no one said anything and we saw these comments? … It raised a red flag in the minds of our students.”
Newman said the allegations made against him are a form of defamation. “As for the idea that I actually threatened to rape some random stranger's wife and children — well, that's also a complete fabrication, but one built on a fragment of a much longer conversation,” Newman said. “You could view the whole conversation over at liveactionnews.org, except they took down my side of it. Makes it so much easier to spin when all relevant context is removed.”
Pro-life activists are asking Purdue University to consider releasing Newman from his campus job. Anna Held, who is a regional coordinator of Students for Life of America, said “They can’t have someone on the payroll at the university who is publicly talking about raping women.”
Purdue University has forwarded the campus police findings to the Tippecanoe Count prosecutor’s office.
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