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‘Boiler up. Putin down’
Students march at Purdue to support Ukraine. Plus, Black students work behind scenes to address policing while waiting for investigation results into a Feb. 4 arrest that went viral on social media
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The Ukrainian Student Society continued its press this week at Purdue to rally against Russia and its invasion of Ukraine, this time with a march Wednesday through the West Lafayette campus.
As about 250 students and community members circled a large part of the main campus, carrying blue-and-gold Ukrainian flags and chanting, “Boiler up, Putin down,” sophomore Anthony Paige joined ranks.
“I’m in,” Paige said. “I mean, screw that guy, Vladimir Putin.”
Minutes earlier, standing on a retaining wall along the Engineering Fountain ahead of the march, Catherine Sawicky, a senior and among the organizers of the March for Ukraine, thanked a swelling crowd for being there Wednesday to stand with Ukraine and against Russia.
“It means more than you think,” Sawicky said.
The rally just outside Hovde Hall was part defiance …
Sasha Marcone, a senior and among the organizers, said: “We are at the end of day seven, and the people of Ukraine have shown without doubt that they will not go down without a fight.”
Part plea for help …
Tanya Masnyk, a freshman engineering student from Ukraine, asked: “How much more can our politicians wait before I return back to my home country and none of it is recognizable anymore? How long shall we wait for these numbers to keep growing and more children being killed before politicians step in?”
And part call to action …
Ksenia Lewyckyj, president of Purdue’s Ukrainian Student Society, asked those at the march to write to their members of Congress to ask them to support Ukraine. She said the group also would organize a drive this weekend for supplies to help in humanitarian aid. (Details would come later this week, she said.)
Purdue President Mitch Daniels came from his office at Hovde to meet briefly with students before the afternoon rally started.
He said Purdue officials had been reaching out to students from Ukraine – the university’s Data Digest says Purdue started the school year with five from the country – and students with family or anyone directly affected in Ukraine, “just to see if there’s anything the university can do.”
After Gov. Eric Holcomb this week issued an executive order that calls for a review of Indiana’s financial connections with Russia, Daniels told WBAA reporter Ben Thorp that Purdue hadn’t found any on the university’s end.
“We checked immediately. We have no research arrangements or funding arrangements,” Daniels said. “We’ll continue to watch, but to my knowledge we have no ties, and we’d sever them if we did.”
BEHIND THE SCENES, AS PURDUE WAITS FOR INVESTIGATION RESULTS INTO VIRAL FEB. 4 ARREST …
As an investigation into allegations of excessive force used during a Feb. 4 arrest of a Purdue student nears the one-month mark, Black students on campus say they’ve been working for weeks with law enforcement and university administration on new expectations for the way Purdue polices the West Lafayette campus.
Nigel Taylor, vice president of Purdue’s Black Student Union, said students are close to finalizing a list of demands that already have been seen, in draft form, by President Mitch Daniels, Black alumni, other university officials and the leader of the Indiana State Police.
After a town hall-styled forum Tuesday night in Purdue’s Class of ’50 Lecture Hall, Taylor said students are working on something spurred by the one-minute video clip of junior Adonis Tuggle’s arrest on a campus street. But he said what they’re hashing out with Daniels and others is something more than just about happened Feb. 4.
“We don’t just want this to be students being enraged and saying random things,” Taylor said Tuesday night. “We want reform that’s actually going to help impact not only students but also faculty and staff on campus and part of this community. We want this to be transformative and really set an example of policing on a college campus. …We think Purdue can become a model.”
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Tuesday night, a Purdue official echoed much of what Taylor said, saying that Daniels has been “deeply involved” in the conversations and prepared to make moves as a university, no matter what a special prosecutor decides.
At issue: Police say Tuggle was arrested for resisting arrest after they were called to a south campus street for a report of a woman being held against her will. On Feb. 9, Tuggle posted a one-minute video, shot by his girlfriend, showing Purdue Officer Jon Selke wrestling him into a pile of show, at times pushing his elbow and forearm into Tuggle’s face and neck. The video received hundreds of thousands of views and prompted outrage on campus and beyond. As of Wednesday, the video didn’t appear on Tuggle’s Instagram feed.
Since then, Selke was put on administrative leave, Tuggle’s family attorney say the student has been trying to go get through the semester and Purdue police and Indiana State Police have investigated.
On Feb. 22, Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington asked Circuit Court Judge Sean Persin to appoint a special prosecutor to review state police findings, “to avoid the appearance of impropriety.” Persin appointed Rodney Cummings, the Madison County prosecutor, to consider charges “as to any and all criminal actions.”
As of Wednesday, no update had been filed with Tippecanoe Circuit Court, according to court’s office.
The question will be what happened leading up to that one minute of video and what happened after, when Tuggle was arrested for resisting arrest and taken to the Tippecanoe County Jail before bonding out that same evening.
John Gates, Purdue’s vice provost for diversity and inclusion, told students at Tuesday’s town hall that the special prosecutor would determine whether there “was a violation … of the general orders under which the police function.”
Gates said the university was anticipating a decision later this week or early next week.
“It may be that the officer operated within general orders. Could be,” Gates said. “That, in and of itself, doesn’t negate the fact that what we saw was pretty horrible. None of us felt good about it. And none of us ever want to see it happen again on this campus.”
Gates told students the university has body camera footage from Selke, along with body camera and dashboard cameras of the other officers who arrived on the scene. He said the university will release that footage, along with the initial 911 call, once allowed by the prosecutor.
“The university is committed to absolute transparency,” Gates said.
Gates said after the meeting that no matter what the special prosecutor says, “expect in due course a response from the university.”
Gates’ message was woven into a broader presentation about what the university was doing to increase Black student enrollment, faculty hiring and campus features and feel. Gates said a lot was riding on the university’s Equity Task Force, created in 2020. That included questions of policing and how that fit in with how to make Black students, faculty and staff – which make up a combined 2.8% of the campus community – feel at home on campus.
Some of which came out in the questions posted on notecards during the forum. One read: “It feels like no one in a higher position actually cares.”
Gates said: “Way too many Black alumni will say, ‘I love my Purdue degree, but I did not love my Purdue experience.’ That is something that needs to change.”
After the forum, Gates defended the police department and Purdue Police Chief John Cox.
“I know where he’s coming from,” Gates said. “And I know what his intentions are. … I know that he would not tolerate misconduct from any member of the police force here.”
Taylor said that before Tuggle’s arrest and the video that followed, he believed the Purdue police “had a very good connection with the community.”
“There will be an occasional incident, but they usually addressed it pretty swiftly,” Taylor said.
Taylor said the demands being finalized now – he thought they’d be out by the end of the week – would address ways to get better, using the Feb. 4 arrest as a reference point rather than the whole reason.
“To us, police aren’t necessarily the sword and sabre of our community,” Taylor said.
“We’re one of the safest campuses in the U.S. So, we don’t necessarily have to have policing that is treating us as if it’s Indianapolis,” Taylor said. “We understand those police have different tasks and different duties. However, we believe Purdue can approach policing in an innovative way and set an example for the rest of the country … kind of be the future for college campus policing.”
Even then, Taylor said, students were waiting for the investigation into Tuggle’s arrest.
“People want to know the story,” Taylor said. “They want to take the edge off of not knowing what happened and why.”
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