The Vice Provost for University Life and the Vice Provost for Education have spearheaded efforts to address sexual violence at Penn by raising awareness, engaging the community, and creating new strategies to combat the issue. | Courtesy of Francis Bourgouin/Creative Commons

When the results of the Association of American Universities sexual assault climate survey were released on Sept. 21, Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price addressed the student body in an email, promising to initiate change on campus based on the “deeply troubling” information revealed in the survey.

A month later, the offices of the Vice Provost for University Life and the Vice Provost for Education have spearheaded efforts to address the issue.

Vice Provost for Education Beth Winkelstein, who is leading conversations among Penn’s deans, confirmed that “conversations already started the day the survey was released, with all constituencies.”

The conversations will address questions regarding how students can be better informed about Penn’s policies and resource centers, which areas need more efforts and whether or not there are aspects of the situation that the administration is not considering.

The survey indicated that Penn students are less likely than their peers at other Ivy League universities to understand their school’s sexual violence policies or trust their ability to handle incidents. Penn students also reported higher-than-average rates of sexual violence, with 27 percent of Penn women reporting nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching.

“We will be arranging meetings across campus to discuss additional steps that we, and everyone who can address these important issues, are prepared to take,” the administration’s email read. “These meetings will entail outreach to Penn’s many student groups and leaders including those associated with College Houses, fraternities and sororities, cultural groups, athletic teams and student government, both undergraduates and graduate and professional students.”

Winkelstein said that after a few weeks of brainstorming and discussion, students and administrators have made progress in developing ideas but details about the ideas won’t be shared until they are fully formed.

“Many people are giving this a lot of thought and partnering with administrators and students to attack this,” she said. “And even two weeks in, there are some really concrete things that are starting to bubble to the surface.”

Winkelstein added that Penn plans to communicate and share ideas with its peer institutions.

While Winkelstein and the office of the Vice Provost for Education are concentrating on conversations with deans and other academic leaders, VPUL is focusing on student outreach.

Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs Hikaru Kozuma said in an email Wednesday that VPUL has met with sexual violence awareness groups like Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention and Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault, as well as the Penn Association for Gender Equity.

Executive members of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, the Asian Pacific Student Coalition and the Undergraduate Assembly Steering Committee have also been included in the conversations, and meetings with the United Minorities Council, the Penn Latin@ Coalition and greek leaders are in the works.

Gutmann explained that the conversations are designed to include as many voices as possible.

“The Provost and I charged Vice Provosts McCoullum and Winkelstein with coordinating conversations across our campus on sexual violence,” she said in an email. “The aim includes engaging everyone in our community to work together, raise awareness, build on existing strategies and identify additional ones to combat sexual violence and misconduct.”

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