Some Purdue professors experience wave of harassment

Some professors at Purdue University said they are worried about their safety after a recent string of what they believe are targeted cyber threats.

Posted: Oct. 18, 2018 6:28 PM
Updated: Oct. 19, 2018 9:03 AM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Some professors at Purdue University said they are worried about their safety after a recent string of what they believe are targeted cyber threats.

It's an issue Purdue Police are taking seriously. Purdue professors do research on all kinds of topics, some of which are controversial.
That's why professors said they are no strangers to harassment and even threats.

But lately, they said the messages have become personal.

"People saying things like I hope you die," said Alice Pawley who is a professor in the college of engineering. 

"This is not what I signed up for as an academic. I should be clear though, this is not just about me, it's a broader issue but no one should be subjected to that in their job," said Pawley. 

The harassment she and her colleagues are experiencing is coming in various forms. She's received threats through phone calls, emails and on social media.

The problem is, it's not so easy to track down who is behind it. Chief John Cox said his department is aware.

"We absolutely do take it seriously. You don't know what you don't know right?" said Cox. 

He said these cases are tough to deal with because too often, people wait until it happens a few times before reporting it.

"We need to have those reported and we need to have them in a timely manner and the evidence, the digital evidence, they need to save it," said Cox. 

Pawley understands police can only do so much, but she believes there should be more support and resources for people experiencing this.

"I'm angry that the university, our university and other universities...tend to adopt a strategy of starving it of oxygen," explained Pawley. 

She only sees these types of attacks getting worse, that's why she hopes over time ramifications for people committing them will increase too.

"They can do it and there is no consequence...except to us," said Pawley. 

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