Penn Violence Prevention is moving to a new office in the the same building that houses Student Health Service due to limited campus space, administrators said. However, some students involved in PVP groups are saying the relocation puts constraints on their advocacy work.
In the new office on the mezzanine level of 3535 Market St., PVP will be sharing a floor with Alcohol & Other Drug Program Initiatives as well as Campus Health. From November 2016 to May 2019, PVP was located in the second floor of 3539 Locust Walk, which is a former fraternity house.
The office was used as a space for PVP staff, as well as a meeting space for PVP student groups, such as Penn Anti-Violence Educators and Men Against Rape & Sexual Assault. Other groups are looking to occupy the PVP's former location on Locust, but it's unclear which group will take over the space, said College senior and PVP work-study student Sarah Hahn-Du Pont.
Du Pont added she and other students involved in PVP are “deeply upset” with the administration’s decision to relocate the office.
“I think primarily, number one, it signifies a clear rejection of the acknowledgement that sexual violence is a serious problem on this campus,” Du Pont said. “Also, having it be on Locust Walk sort of signifies that Penn takes sexual violence and sexual education as a problem that they're willing to work on.”
PVP Interim Director Malik Washington said the Locust Walk location was a temporary solution, and staff at PVP were aware that the address would change at some point in the future. Washington said they will host an open house later in the semester.
The new office includes offices for PVP staff, meeting rooms, confidential rooms, and student spaces. The student spaces in PVP will be open 24 hours a day. Unlike the Locust Walk office that was on the second floor and had no elevator, this location on Market is ADA accessible.
In a written statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian, Chief Wellness Office Benoit Dubé said he thinks the relocation will benefit PVP programming.
“This relocation give[s] PVP a permanent home and furthers our mission to promote holistic and integrated approaches to health and wellness,” Dubé said in the statement. “By bringing Campus Health, PVP and AOD together, we will see synergies resulting in new, innovative, and impactful programming.”
Du Pont said that even though PVP will now be closer to other student health resources, by moving the office away from the rest of campus, the University is creating a divide that makes PVP less accessible to students.
PVP is still in the process of moving to the new office, all while being understaffed due to the search for a new director. The most recent PVP Director, Jessica Mertz, left Penn in May after a decade on campus.
Washington said PVP students groups are currently not meeting in the new location because the meeting rooms are not completely furnished yet. In the meantime, student groups such as PAVE are holding meetings in the Penn Women’s Center.
Melissa Song, a College senior and the chair of Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention, said she was not aware the location had changed until she returned to campus for the new semester.
Song, who is also co-chair of the Consent Collaborative, said the move was frustrating because she thought the University would focus on the group more and move them to a location that was more accessible to students.
“At this stage it’s sort of like PVP is not only missing a director, we’ve now been transitioned to another location that’s farther off campus, really tucked away,” Song said.
Washington said the location further from campus may allow the office to be a “respite from the day-to-day bustle of Locust Walk,” but the response to this change is ultimately up to the students.
“We really want to emphasize that it’s for students to decide how they feel about this and how they want to use the space,” Washington said. “It’s really up to them, and we’re going to respond to them in the best way that we can.”