Last week, I told you about Purdue University staff member Jamie Newman, who was alleged to have made online comments about raping the female members of a pro-life individual’s family. He was also verbally abusive towards Purdue Students for Life on their Facebook page, calling them “vile, racist idiots who richly deserve all the opprobrium that will be heaped on you as a result of this unbelievably thoughtless, stupid escapade.”
It seems that in terms of opprobrium “heaped” for an “unbelievably thoughtless, stupid escapade,” Mr. Newman miscalculated where the greatest accumulation would be.
I just received a statement from the President’s office at Purdue University. It was short and to the point:
Jamie Newman, a part-time staff member at Purdue University, has resigned from his position, effective immediately on Feb. 15, 2016. The University has accepted the resignation and believes this is the appropriate outcome.
In a curt statement given to the Lafayette Journal & Courier, Newman said:
“Yeah, I just quit,” Newman, an accompanist in Purdue’s Division of Dance, wrote in an email to the J&C. “Tell the world.”
A previously published statement from Newman to the Purdue Legal was also published by the LJC. His distinctive rhetoric is evident throughout – particularly when he says,
If anything, you owe me an apology — indeed, you should probably be begging my forgiveness — for facilitating the dissemination of fabricated and defamatory statements about me, and for failing to vehemently denounce the effort made of Students For Life to destroy my life and career. I’m not planning to hold my breath waiting for one.
I have no idea what, if any, pressure was brought to bear. I do know that the University’s legal counsel released a statement to me last week that made very clear their displeasure with Mr. Newman:
As we’ve already indicated, a threat of rape is outside the bounds of any definition of protected speech. And if it appeared that Mr. Newman had any such intention, he would have been terminated immediately. But the police investigation tells us that there was, and is, no real threat to the campus community. That finding does not foreclose the possibility of other employment-related actions based on Purdue’s internal complaint processes.
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.
It’s fortunate for Mr. Newman that he works at a public university both obligated under the First Amendment and committed by principle to protect free speech — even speech as abhorrent as his. Had he uttered such an outrageous and vulgar statement while working for a private college or other private employer, he would almost certainly have been fired on the spot. Mr. Newman’s obnoxious rhetoric is an embarrassment for Purdue, but our special obligations as a public institution impose a much higher threshold before condemnation can be extended to punishment.
This ended the way it should have, but it also highlighted the vulgarity and vitriol that pro-lifers routinely deal with – an ugliness that was accentuated over the weekend when many people went online to publish profanity-laden celebrations of pro-life Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death.
Please say a prayer for the conversion of Mr. Newman, and that his mind will be opened to see the horrible truth about abortion. I suspect it’s the last thing he would want, which is exactly why it’s so needed.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.