Several individuals involved in protesting preachers on campus and the Black Lives Matter demonstrations have organized a sit-in at 4 p.m. today outside Hovde Hall in response to an error in reported suicides on the Purdue University Police Department’s website.
Though the numbers now reflect zero suicides, there have been three attempts in October, and seven total since July this year. The PUPD report drew attention after one student was found by officers to have died by suicide this past weekend.
“We’re at a breaking point as a campus,” Noah Smith, a junior in the College of Engineering, said, referencing both his grief over the student who died and a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
The students plan on having someone outside 24/7, regardless of whether inclement weather strikes.
Despite the police department updating its numbers, the sit-in will go on. The organizers said the stressful conditions that may have contributed to the attempted suicides have not changed.
“It’s just absolutely disgusting that rather than addressing the root causes that are pushing people to that point in their lives, they’d rather turn it around and blame the students for trusting the data that they gave us,” Brian Lee, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, said. “We haven’t gotten much transparency from the University, but the transparency we got, we trusted them.”
The group expressed mistrust in the numbers. Lee said they were watching it change on Tuesday night. Smith said this mistake also “calls into validity the rest of the data.”
Lin Silver, a junior in the College of Science, said one suicide was “too many.”
In a meeting Wednesday evening with the dean of students and the vice provost for student life, group members noted that PUPD reported an inaccurate figure because the PUPD report is generated from information received in police dispatch calls, not from the eventual outcomes of those calls.
Lee was skeptical of the explanation, citing the separate row for attempted suicides. Ethan Chang, a freshman in first-year engineering, added that the statistics are updated monthly, which should have provided the department an opportunity to correct the inaccurate amount.
Xavier Sullivan, a freshman in the College of Engineering, said when he asked the administrators about the high number of people who wanted to go online but were unable to, administrators said Purdue was “geared for a residential campus.”
“There is a lot of issues with people, you know, not being able to feel safe and comfortable while they learn,” he said. “I think that’s a big issue that needs to be addressed.”
The group gathered testimony via a Google Form from various students about Counseling and Psychological Services, some of whom were told their problems were “not severe enough,” or that CAPS was full.
“In the phrasing of the administrators we met with, it wasn’t that these students were turned away, but they had the perception of being turned away,” Lee said. Many perceived they were being victim-shamed, he said.
The only actions the administrators said they would take, according to Smith, shifted the focus to next semester.
“Like we’re not still in the middle of this semester,” he said, “and like there’s not finals week coming up.”
Chang said the administrators, “acknowledged that indeed the semester was different, and that they could not make false promises or commitments at the time.”
Smith, who has been involved in the organization of several Black Lives Matters protests, said the administration reached out promptly regarding the protests. He noted the timing of Purdue’s response coincided with flyers posted around campus that read, “Purdue does not give a f- — about us.”
“I think it really shows that the only thing Purdue really cares about is its press,” Smith said, “and not its students.”