Pennsylvania Governor Wolf announced the launch of “It’s On Us PA” – the first statewide campaign to address the crisis of sexual assault in schools and on college campuses.
Building on the national “It’s On Us” movement launched by Barack Obama and Joe Biden in 2014, “It’s On Us PA” will engage education leaders from school superintendents to college presidents as well as students, teachers, families, and communities to make a personal and public pledge to play a role in preventing, addressing, and responding effectively to sexual violence.
“Pennsylvania is home to some of the best schools in the country, and sexual assault should not be part of any student’s school or college experience. Ensuring our students’ safety and well-being is paramount not only to their success, but the success of Pennsylvania as a whole,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “I’m proud to be joined by over 40 college and university presidents and school superintendents from across the state – including those standing with me today – to make a commitment to recognize sexual assault as a serious problem in our schools and on our campuses and to take concrete steps to address this epidemic.”
The specific goals of “It’s On Us PA” are to:
- Improve awareness, prevention, reporting, and response systems in schools, colleges and universities to better serve all students.
- Remove/reduce barriers that prevent survivors from reporting and/or accessing vital resources by creating a more consistent, empowering reporting process for student survivors of gender based violence.
- Demonstrate significant, proactive, and sustainable leadership to change campus culture by challenging Pennsylvania’s education leaders – including college and university presidents, superintendents – as well as students, teachers, faculty, staff, families, and communities to pledge to improve their institutions’ climate.
Governor Wolf was joined at the event, which took place at Elizabethtown College, by Kristin Avery from the national “It’s On Us” Campaign, as well as Kristen Houser from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) and the following college presidents and school superintendents:
- Elizabethtown College President Carl Strikwerda
- Franklin and Marshall College President Dan Porterfield
- Lebanon Valley College President Lewis Thayne
- York College President Dr. Pamela Gunter-Smith
- East Stroudsburg University President Dr. Marsha G. Welsh
- Butler County Community College President Nicholas Neupauer
- Holy Family University President Dr. Maureen McGarrity
- West Chester University Interim President Dr. Christopher Fiorentino
- Moravian College President Bryon Grigsby
- Mansfield University President Francis L. Hendricks
- Widener University Commonwealth Law School Dean Christian Johnson
- William Penn School District Superintendent Joseph Bruni
- Harrisburg School District Superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney
- Elizabethtown Area School District Superintendent Michele Balliet
- Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs
- Lancaster School Distric Superintendent Damaris Rau
- Steelton Highspire School District Interim Superintendent Travis Waters
- State System of Higher Education Chancellor Frank Brogan
"We are very pleased to have been selected as the host college for Pennsylvania's "It's On Us" launch,” Elizabethtown College President Carl Strikwerda. “I thank Governor Wolf for bringing increased awareness to the problem of sexual assault on college campuses and for bringing college and university presidents and administrators together for honest and open dialog. Sexual assault is a problem that has troubled higher education and the lives of young people for far too long."
The initiative builds on an important dialogue sparked by the Pennsylvania Commission for Women, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and PCAR in November, which brought together educators, advocates, students, and policymakers for a screening of The Hunting Ground documentary. "Today, Governor Wolf sends a strong message to parents and students that sexual violence will not be tolerated and the young women on Pennsylvania's college campuses will be supported and cared for," said PA Commission for Women Chair Randi Teplitz. "The Commission is proud to have had an active role in starting this discussion and looks forward to working with the Governor and other community leaders in spreading this message statewide."
Today’s launch kicks off a year of action, in which the Wolf Administration will work with community leaders and stakeholders from across the commonwealth to develop state-level policy recommendations to address the pressing issue of sexual assault in our schools and postsecondary institutions. The PA Department of Education will develop and share new resources, including webinars, data, and digital toolkits for secondary and postsecondary institutions that help inform policy, research, and practice.