It was announced on Jan. 9 that Lafayette, along with 37 other colleges and universities in Pennsylvania, will receive a state grant dedicated to combating sexual assault. The grant is for $30,000, which is the maximum amount colleges could be awarded, according to Title IX and Educational Equity Coordinator Jessica Brown.
The announcement of these grants comes weeks after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed rules from the Department of Education that would narrow what cases of sexual misconduct colleges and universities must investigate and boost the due process rights of the accused.
Founded in 2014, It’s On Us is a national campaign aimed at ending sexual assault, according to the It’s On Us website. The campaign came in response to recommendations made by the White House Task Force to Prevent Sexual Assault to “engage everyone in the conversation to end sexual violence,” according to the site.
The statewide campaign specific to Pennsylvania “It’s On Us PA” was launched on Jan. 29, 2016, by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. The Pennsylvania campaign is also aimed at fighting sexual assault, “building off the momentum of the national movement,” the campaign’s website explains. Following the launch of It’s On Us PA, Wolf announced that colleges and universities could apply for state grants that would go toward efforts to combat sexual assault.
“I think it’s great that the governor’s office is recognizing that this is a huge issue,” Brown said. “I think they’re recognizing that this is somewhere that we need to put focus and try to implement training and education in these areas as possible to tackle this issue.”
According to Brown, she began grant application in the fall, working with the Development Office to complete the process.
“The biggest focus of the application is basically [explaining] what we’re requesting funds for and how we would use the requested funds to help combat sexual misconduct on campus and increase knowledge about and or access to the reporting process,” said Brown.
The grant awarded to Lafayette will go toward “increased programming and increased training” regarding sexual assault and the reporting process, according to Brown. This will be a “multi-step process,” Brown said.
The first step in this process will be to institute a campus-wide survey on sexual violence to gather baseline data that can be used to “influence future programming and get a better idea of where we are,” according to Brown.
Brown’s goal is to implement this survey sometime this spring, she said.
After the survey, the next step in the process will be to increase programming and education initiatives, Brown said. This will include bringing in an organization with a bystander intervention program to “train the trainer” and prepare students, faculty and staff on campus to give bystander intervention workshops “as early as the next school year,” Brown said.
The last step in the multi-step process will be to increase training for staff members that deal with the reporting process and making sure that everyone involved in the sexual misconduct process at the college is “up to date on best practices” and “has the best training available,” Brown said.
Brown said she hopes that “the community as a whole” will benefit from the grant funds and is taking a “holistic view” to make sure that all community members’ needs are addressed.