At Trustees Meeting, Purdue Students Demand University Address Campus Sexual Assault
Purdue University students demanded the school address campus sexual assault during Friday’s board of trustees meeting.
Roughly 100 students packed the boardroom and spilled out into the hallway - calling for a zero-tolerance policy on sexual assault. The call comes after several allegations of sexual assault connected to university Greek life in just the past week.
Sarah Whitaker is a Purdue senior who helped organize the protest.
“We’ve all been through situations like this and clearly with the turnout we’ve had this is clearly an issue,” she said. “We’re here because after all those allegations were made we’re sick and tired of staying silent.”
Purdue sophomore Hannah Miller said policies have to change.
“I think there is a lot of victim-blaming and pressure to pressure other girls into reporting so the statistics are accurate, which is honestly doing nothing,” she said.
Miller was part of a group that met with trustees ahead of Friday’s meeting.
“They heard us out but progress is still being made,” Miller said. “We just keep hearing ‘we hear you,’ but it has been years. So now is the time.”
Students had a specific list of demands that included a zero-tolerance policy on sexual assault, amnesty for students who report assault but may have been engaged in activities such as underage drinking, and the firing of Purdue employee Brandon Cutler.
Students claim that when assault complaints were taken to Cutler -- who is the Director of Fraternity, Sorority, and Cooperative Life -- he told them that if the university’s alcohol rules had been followed, the assaults would not have happened.
Charlotte Russell also helped organize the protest. She said after hearing about those comments from several sorority members, she felt action needed to be taken.
“We would like to see him terminated from his position,” she said. “That’s not ok to say those types of statements to anybody regardless of if you’re the head of all fraternity, sorority, and cooperative life.”
A Purdue spokesperson did not respond when asked to comment on Cutler’s alleged statements.
Russell said it’s not enough to hear that the board is listening to students.
“We’re not going to stop at ‘we hear you,’ we want to see action and we’re not going to stop until we see action being taken,” she said.
Several board members stepped out of the meeting to tell students they supported efforts to address campus sexual assault.
JoAnn Brouillette is a Purdue Trustee.
“We hear you. We’re grateful for you being here. We support your efforts in terms of trying to eradicate all sexual assault,” she said.
Students shouted back at Brouillette, asking what the university plan was to address assault, and accusing her of “pandering” to students without doing anything.
Trustee Don Thompson also told protestors he supported their cause - but advised against going after particular personnel.
“Don’t jump to those things first,” he said. “What happens if one person is gone but by the same token all the issues remain? Doesn’t do us any good.”
“That’s why it’s only one of our action items but we have a whole list,” a protestor shot back.
Grace Brewington is a Purdue junior who said she was frustrated by much of what she saw from the board Friday.
“They acknowledge that this has been going on for many many years now but say that it takes many many years in order to see change,” she said. “If they acknowledge that they have seen this problem going on this long and haven’t done a single thing about it, well… that’s on them.”