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Various representatives combined forces to organize "Call to Action" on Wednesday night. From left to right: Brittany Harris, Associate Director of Penn Women's Center; Jessica Mertz, Director of Sexual Violence Prevention & Education; Hikaru Kozuma, Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs.

Credit: Alex Fisher

When the results from the Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey were released, Penn students and faculty were determined to take action.

On Wednesday, a public discussion about the findings of this survey was held in Houston Hall as a safe space for a dialogue about sexual and interpersonal violence.

The AAU survey found that only 10.7 percent of Penn students polled were very/extremely knowledgeable about how the university defines sexual assault and sexual misconduct, as compared to the national average of 24 percent.

“Sexual and interpersonal violence affects us all," Vice Provost for University Life and Associate Vice Provost Dr. Hikaru Kozuma said. "Whether you’re a survivor, a witness, an active bystander — this is a community issue that we need to address on campus.”

By talking about issues of sexual violence in a full group discussion, the event was intended to help advance the narrative on campus surrounding the problems facing the average college student as proven by the AAU survey. 

Event coordinators also provided those in attendance with information about confidential campus resources in relation to sexual violence on campus to a diverse audience, including members of Penn greek life, Penn Women’s Center representatives, and Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault members.

“I think a lot of these instances occur in social settings, and since greek life facilitates a lot of Penn’s social situations, greek life often becomes associated with situations of sexual violence," Interfraternity Council President and Wharton senior Jacob Wallenberg said. "But this affects everyone — greek life or not. It is our duty to participate in this conversation and to educate students about this information.” 

The event then broke up into smaller group discussions, allowing undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and staff alike to discuss what they felt were the most pressing issues on campus in relation to the survey's results. Members of the public dialogue offered possible solutions such as increasing availability of resource guides, adding more educational opportunities on campus to understand how consent, sexual harassment and other key terms are defined and to add possible empathy training.

“This is an important community-building process," School of Arts and Sciences graduate student Protusha Dey said. "If we witness or know victims of sexual violence, we have the ability to be there for someone and to be knowledgeable about sexual violence. And I think that’s a very noble thing."

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