West Lafayette, IND. (WLFI) - An evening of fun before classes begin quickly turned sour.
Purdue students left in the middle of comedian Andy Gross's show Saturday night at the Boiler Gold Rush (BGR) closing ceremony.
His performance followed the monologue of a female student who shared her story of sexual assault on Purdue’s campus. Students say there was an air of love and support in the Elliott Music Hall theater following her speech.
But that feeling changed once Gross started his act with a female volunteer.
“He was less than supportive in that he sexually harassed a student on stage,” said freshman Seth DeMoss, who attended the event.
Videos are going viral on social media showing Gross telling the student to move closer so their backsides were “cheek to cheek.” He also told her to put her hand on his leg so he could feel her “vibrations.” Students in the audience say she was visibly uncomfortable by this touch. When he got the magic trick wrong, some speculate on purpose, he said “at least I got a feel out of it.”
At this point, people say they were not laughing anymore at his jokes.
"He kept referencing like the voice in his pants and it was so gross," said freshman Brynne Hunt.
This is when students in the audience started leaving in protest.
“It just made everyone very uncomfortable,” said Hunt. “He was sexually harassing a female on stage in front of 7,000 people and after that everyone was very uncomfortable.”
“I was offended by it, I know my whole row was,” said DeMoss. “Everyone in the audience was like does he realize what he is doing? And I think we all got the memo and that’s why we decided we should leave."
Many were physically upset by what they were seeing on stage, so they decided to stop watching.
"I was tearing up, people around me were tearing up just having to sit there and watch," remembered Hunt. “We all wanted to stand in solidarity with the student who had to go up on stage and be harassed by this gross, Andy Gross is gross, man. And then we all stood up and left."
She said given the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses around the nation, Gross's show was not ok.
“For someone who has a platform to influence people, to come up and normalize sexual harassment, especially in front of a huge audience of college students, is so inappropriate,” she said.
She says she doesn’t blame the university for what happened, saying those who organized the show had seen his act before and it didn’t include the part that offended so many.
By the end of the bit, students say the female volunteer, who wishes to remain anonymous, was in tears as she left the stage. They also say that nearly 80% of the audience left the show with her.
While this was a very upsetting incident for many at the show, the students turned to each other for support.
"We came back to my residence hall and sat in a lounge and talked out our feelings,” said Hunt. “So there was definitely a big group of support."
Another student, who wishes to remain anonymous, shared via Instagram direct messages that her team leader was sending their group text messages during the show saying, “This guy does not represent BGR or any of the staff. It isn’t the same guy as last year and they had no idea this was going to happen. That being said, we are all here for you and would love to end BGR on a high note together after the ceremony is over.”
“I’m proud to be a part of this community and how we reacted to it, being able to stand up, tell him no and walk out,” said DeMoss.
Purdue issued a statement saying:
“On Saturday night, a comedian performed as part of our BR student orientation closing session. Accounts differ as to what exactly happened on stage, but some portions of the performance were clearly inappropriate and contrary to the university’s values of respect and support for all. We will not work with this comedian again and are proud of our students who are standing up and voicing their concerns about the performance.”
Concerns that have been shared all over social media. Tweets including #AndyGrossIsGross started circulating after the show.
Gross is supposed to be featured on Jimmy Fallon’s late night show. Many of these tweets are directed at Fallon, asking him to cancel Gross’s appearance on his show.
After being contacted by students about the show, The Center of Advocacy, Response, and Education (CARE) at Purdue tweeted Saturday night saying:
“If you were impacted by this evening’s event and need to speak with someone, please remember that support is available 24/7 by calling CARE at 765-495-CARE (2273).”
Gross’s various social media accounts have not shared any kind of statement or apology regarding the show. Something that some feel they deserve.
“At the very least apologize or make some sort of gesture to try and make up for what he did because it was very rude and disrespectful,” said DeMoss.