Students criticized top administrators at a University Council meeting Wednesday over the lack of change between the last Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct in 2015 and the report that was released earlier this month.
At the meeting, Provost Wendell Pritchett announced new initiatives in response to the AAU survey, which showed that there was only a slight decrease in unwanted sexual contact among women on campus. Pritchett said the University plans to expand staff members for Penn Violence Prevention and create a series of focus groups to analyze the survey responses.
"President [Amy] Gutmann and I, of course were, as we said in our message, troubled to see very little change from the last survey in 2015, in a number of students who reported unwanted or nonconsensual sexual contact," Pritchett said.
The 2019 AAU survey, released on Oct. 15, found that 25.9% of Penn undergraduate women reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact, a slight decrease from the 2015 number of 27.2%. The percentage of transgender, non-binary, and genderqueer undergraduate students who experienced unwanted sexual contact since entering college rose to 21.5%, up from the 19% reported in 2015.
When the meeting opened up to new business from University Council representatives, student representatives from Penn Association for Gender Equity and Penn Wellness expressed disappointment with the University administration on the lack of change from the last survey.
“There was no statistically significant change from the numbers reported four years ago. Data shows that our current efforts are not enough, and this is unacceptable,” said College senior Maggie Zheng, who was the representative from PAGE.
Penn Wellness Advocacy Chair and Engineering senior Kathleen Givan read a statement from Penn Wellness, PAGE, and Consent Collaborative, listing four demands from these organizations. The demands include mandatory assault prevention and consent training for freshmen during New Student Orientation.
“Data shows that Penn freshmen are disproportionally impacted by sexual assault. It is obvious that the one hour 'Speak About It' presentation is simply not enough in protecting our incoming students from harm," Givan said.
Givan said the groups also called for further transparency and accountability regarding fraternity training on assault prevention.
“In 2017, only five out of 27 fraternities completed the mandatory new member education requirement regarding sexual assault prevention," Givan said. "Penn must ensure that fraternities receive appropriate training or face significant repercussions in response to this critical issue."
Other demands include a response to violence specific to transgender students and a switch to the third-party online assault reporting system Callisto, which offers the opportunity to anonymously report sexual assault without pursuing action.
“Even if a victim chooses not to go through with action, they can still be notified if someone else submits a report about the same person, allowing them solidarity and an opportunity to pursue action together," Givan said. She added that many survivors and student groups have shown increased interest in Callisto, demanding a switch to that reporting system or detailed reasoning for why the University refuses to do so.
Pritchett told The Daily Pennsylvanian after the event that it is too early to give further information about the actions the University will take in response to the survey.
Pritchett did not provide more information about the new PVP staff members. He said the student focus groups will be designed to help the University learn more "about the experiences of Penn students" and seek to understand the "best ways to provide information and resources and training on campus."
After the event, Givan told the DP that the student groups will wait to see if the administration reaches out to them in response to their demands and they will update the Council at their next meeting in December. She said it was frustrating for her to see administrators put forth new programs when they have yet to comply with the basic demands these groups have made.
"We have already done the work for them in identifying what needs to change, and in addition to what they’ve proposed we feel that these demands are a must," Givan said.
“All four demands we presented should be immediately pursued by the University as they represent the lowest bar. They represent things that should have been done already. They represent easy, immediate to-dos," she added.
The Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct was a nationwide college sexual assault survey conducted by the Association of American Universities, which collects data on the unwanted sexual contact students experience on campus. Penn took part in the survey along with peer institutions such as Harvard University, Yale University, and Brown University.
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