Former Butler University professor arrested on child pornography charges

Tiberiu Popa, a former associate professor of philosophy, has been arrested for child pornography.  

ELLIE ALLEN | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF | emallen2@butler.edu

Content warning: references to child pornography

On Jan. 27, Butler University sent an email to students, faculty and staff announcing that professor Tiberiu Popa had been arrested on multiple felony charges related to child pornography. Popa is no longer employed with the university.

Popa was an associate professor of philosophy and the chair of the philosophical and religious studies department at Butler. He worked at the university for 17 years.

Popa was charged with 10 felony 5 charges of possession of child pornography with an aggravating factor — meaning the content was more exploitative. 

On Jan. 21, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department was alerted by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children — a nonprofit organization that provides services related to abduction and sexual exploitation of children — of a case of sexual exploitation of children on the Internet. IMPD officers found that Popa’s Butler email address was associated with 24 uploaded files. 

Search warrants were granted for Popa’s residence, vehicle and office in Jordan Hall. Several other files were found on Popa’s laptop. 

Popa initially denied viewing or saving any of the material, but later admitted to viewing it on his laptop. 

Sydney Sutherland, a sophomore creative media and entertainment major, had Popa as a professor last semester for an honors class. Sutherland said she was shocked and horrified after learning that Popa had been arrested.

“That class was a class where we spoke mainly on morality and ethics and to know that was who was teaching me those things, I took a lot of time to reflect,” Sutherland said. “One of the things we talked about was like does doing bad things make you a bad person … it just put things into perspective.”

Sutherland said the news put a lot of the conversations she had in class in question for her.

“Looking back now, I’m wondering if it had any reflection on what he was thinking at the time,” Sutherland said. “It just is a little worrisome, like was this email being used while I was a student of his?”

Shortly after Butler’s campus wide announcement, the department of philosophical and religious studies sent out an email to all students within the department that stated Stuart Glennan, a professor of philosophy, would be taking over Popa’s classes and Chad Bauman, professor of religion, had been named interim department chair. The email also made times available for students to meet with both professors to discuss questions and concerns.

Please be reassured that our department’s programs will endure, and we fully expect to remain at full strength in terms of both faculty and classes,” the email stated. “We also intend to do absolutely everything in our power to provide for your academic needs during this period.”

James McGrath, a professor in the department of philosophical and religious studies, said in an email to The Butler Collegian that the news of Popa’s arrest came as a shock.

All I can say is that it is such a shock to work in close proximity to someone and then have something like this come to light,” McGrath said.

Junior pharmacy major Celine Kwan took an ethics class with Popa in the spring of 2020. Kwan said she was also surprised when she found out the news.

“I was honestly shocked when I saw that because I thought he was really nice and friendly,” Kwan said. “I went to his office hours too. I never would have expected it from him.”

Butler University stated in their email that they have no reason to believe that Popa had any inappropriate relationships with minors or students during his time at Butler. 

“We are deeply disturbed by these allegations of such an abhorrent crime,” the statement said.

Sutherland said she believes Butler should have put more care into the email sent to campus.

“They could have given a bit more of a trigger warning and also worded it in a way that was a little more sensitive to victims of sexual assault and violence,” Sutherland said. “This was something that was unexpected so the whole day yesterday I was distracted by it … I was anxious about it all day, but I can’t imagine how someone would have felt when they had a really close relationship.”

Popa has been released on bond and will appear in court on April 7.

The IMPD will be leading the investigation of Popa with the assistance of Butler University Police Department.

The Butler Collegian will continue to investigate and update this story. If you have any information please email emallen2@butler.edu.

This story was updated on Jan. 28 at 4:25 p.m.

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