Group of students oppose preachers | Campus


Preachers and anti-abortion protesters are commonplace on the Purdue campus. Usually standing outside the Wilmeth Active Learning Center or near the Memorial Mall, these protest groups broadcast messages using signs, flags or just their voices, often trying to involve students on the way. Classes.

Sometimes, however, students have said that these groups can get too aggressive by shouting obscenities at women, using inflammatory language, and even following people into their classes.

This semester, an additional concern about the presence of preachers on campus is contracting the coronavirus, with many preachers neglecting to wear masks. Several Protect Purdue violations have been documented in the Purdue University Police Department crime logs by students reporting visitors.

Purdue spokesperson Tim Doty said Protect Purdue guidelines require people to wear masks only when they are indoors or unable to maintain a distance of six feet from others outdoors.

“In the case of campus preachers, this social distancing is usually ensured when they assume a high speaking position,” Doty said. “Of course, it’s also incumbent on passers-by to keep a social distance from anyone who can exercise freedom of speech on a campus.”

PUPD officers also appeared at the scene before asking the counter-protesters to disperse because they were too “loud and disruptive,” according to Brian Lee, a sophomore at the College of Engineering.

“They’re more worried about how we react to hate than the actual hate on campus,” Lee said. “And they’re more concerned about how strongly we oppose hatred than actual hatred. What this tells us is that we weren’t strong enough and we need to be stronger.

Lee and Patrick Marcum, also a sophomore at the College of Engineering, decided to take matters into their own hands and do something for preachers on campus earlier this semester.

Lee noticed a man outside of WALC on September 1 in a neon green shirt with the words “PRO LIFE” printed in large black text. The shirt, however, was not what Lee disagreed with.

“He was holding a sign about four and a half years, five feet tall, with a bloody, fabricated depiction of an abortion,” Lee said. “It was extremely graphic, extremely gory and just not the sort of thing that should be displayed on a public campus as people try to walk to class.”

Lee said he decided to make his own makeshift cardboard sign that read, “HIS BODY, HIS CHOICE.” Lee stood next to the anti-abortion protester with his sign for several hours.

“Silence is complicit,” he said, “and I think in this case the silence is approval. If you’re part of one of those communities where your identity, your very existence on this campus as a human being is challenged, and you walk by and don’t see anyone stand up for you, it makes you feel like that the campus does not welcome you, it gives you the impression of not being in your place.

Over time, more and more people joined Lee, all with their own signs. At the end of the protest, the group decided to form a small discussion group on Instagram.

“From there, as the preachers kept showing up, more and more people came in to help engage with these preachers,” Marcum said. “After a while it got too big for a simple standard Instagram group chat, so we created a GroupMe.”

Group chat now contains over 160 people. Marcum said the group chat is a place to alert others when preachers or protesters are on campus and discuss whether their messages are being delivered with respect or not.

Lee said the group was not trying to infringe on anyone’s right to free speech.

“We don’t agree with the beliefs they spread, but they have the right to spread them. When we get involved is when spreading their beliefs … causes students on this campus to remember traumatic experiences, when it makes students on this campus feel disabled, dehumanized, as if they are worthless. nothing, ”Lee said.

Marcum added that the aggressive tactics of preachers and protesters are not new.

“These people are used to harassing and directly following people in class. For us, this is unacceptable, ”he said. “Being followed in class, being called bitches, bitches, they’re going to hell… it’s extremely disruptive to the community here at Purdue and to the people who are trying to learn here.”

Dean of students Katie Sermersheim said Purdue had educated students during Boiler’s gold rush on free speech since 2016 with various skits, including one featuring an uninvited preacher.

She also wrote a letter to The Exponent in 2015 in which she said that while Purdue does not necessarily tolerate the messages or behavior of preachers, the University is committed to free speech.

Marcum and Lee said preachers and those with anti-abortion signage rarely wear masks unless asked.

“I don’t think I ever saw the preacher wearing a mask when we get there,” Marcum said.

Students who show up to counter protest will offer groups masks upon arrival, he said, or simply do their best to drown out what preachers say until they agree to put on masks. masks.

According to Marcum, some administrators approached preachers and protesters and urged them to put on masks a few times. Otherwise, it’s up to the students to ask these groups to cover themselves up, a notion that doesn’t suit Lee, he said.

“As students, we shouldn’t have to be the ones doing this,” he said. “The fact that students have to risk their own health to ensure that other students are protected is certainly something to be condemned.”

Lee said other students noticed the group’s actions and protests against the preachers.

“People came to us directly and told us that they were more comfortable walking in these areas… because of what we were doing,” Lee said. “I think that in itself is an indication that we have already succeeded.”

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