Purdue reviews free speech policy, says it has nothing to do with Newman incident

Purdue University’s free speech policy is under review by the University Senate, but faculty on the senate say the review has nothing to do with a recent scandal on campus in which staff member Jamie Newman harassed the school’s pro-life group.

[RELATED: Purdue staff member calls pro-life students ‘vile, racist idiots’]

“It actually gave us more room to deal with the issue appropriately,” Chairman Kirk Alter told WLFI. “So free speech was alive and well during that situation, and quite frankly, I think the situation resolved itself fairly well.”

Alter insisted the review was in the works long before Newman’s resignation.

[RELATED: Purdue staff member who harassed pro-life students resigns]

President Mitch Daniels, who spoke at the University Senate meeting on Monday, defended the university’s decision to ask Newman to apologize, but said his comments were protected under the school’s free speech policy.

“If we had not changed the policies, the speaker would have been fired summarily,” Daniels said. “Only because of the liberalization of that policy did that person get a chance to explain himself and persuaded the law enforcement people that he was just spouting off, that he really had no intent to do exactly what he said he wanted to do. Personally, I think that was a better outcome.”

Daniels, however, did call Newman’s comments “the most explicit threat [he’s] seen in [his] three years at Purdue.”

Last spring, Purdue adopted a free speech code known as the “Chicago Principles,” which bars universities from attempting to “shield individuals from ideas they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or deeply offensive.”

The policy adopts principles from the University of Chicago’s Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression. Purdue was the first public institution to adopt the “Chicago Principles.”

Daniels has praised Purdue’s robust free speech policy and even called his campus “a proud contrast” to the academic environments of Mizzou and Yale, where the extent to which professors and students can speak freely on campus has been called into question.

“Last year, both our undergraduate and graduate student governments led an effort that produced a strengthened statement of policies protecting free speech,” Daniels wrote to his campus. “Today and every day, we should remember the tenets of those statements and do our best to live up to them fully.”

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