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The Penn Violence Prevention office is located at 3535 Market Street. Credit: Seavmeiyin Kun

Penn set concrete plans to establish new initiatives after the release of the recent sexual misconduct survey's results, but many students say the new initiatives will do little to combat sexual misconduct on campus.

Since the survey results were published, the University added an associate director position to Penn Violence Prevention, expanding the office to a total of four staffers. Penn will also increase the center's budget, which Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum said will go toward staff, programming, and peer support groups.

After the release of the survey findings, Penn also filled the PVP director position left open by Jessica Mertz's departure in May 2019.  On Nov. 13, Penn hired PVP Interim Director and Associate Director Malik Washington for the job. Now, the University is looking for two PVP associate directors — one to fill Washington's previous position and another to take on the new associate directorship. 

The new initiatives result from the October 2019 survey from the Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, which studied unwanted sexual contact at universities nationwide.

The 2019 AAU survey 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.

While students welcomed the expansion of PVP and Washington's hiring, many argue that Penn must move PVP back to campus and provide more anti-violence training for students and staff. 

Credit: Zoey Weisman

Malik Washington was named the permanent director of PVP on Nov. 13.

Penn Association for Gender Equity, the student group that works closely with PVP, would like PVP to move back to a permanent location on Locust Walk so that it's more accessible to students, PAGE Chair and College senior Tanya Jain said. PVP relocated to 3535 Market St. at the beginning of this semester. 

College senior Margaret Zheng, the political chair for PAGE, said she also wants to see Penn to be stricter with policies surrounding frats and sexual violence prevention.

Zheng said PAGE would like to see more transparency and accountability with fraternities and their education requirements for sexual violence prevention. She said the fine for fraternities not attending their sexual violence training or not having enough members attending is about $250 — a minimal amount.

Second-year Communication Ph.D. student and Lambda Grads Interim President Kelly Diaz said she would like the University to be more transparent with its initiatives, especially for graduate students. 

Diaz said students like herself would like to hear more directly from the University about increased funding and other new initiatives and that the funding will be used effectively.

“I am hoping that the money won’t just put a band-aid on the problem and that it will go to lasting institutional change," Diaz said. "It is important that, as these initiatives take off, grad students are continually looped in.” 

Zheng said PAGE wants mandatory anti-bias training for Penn staff members. However, she said administrators told her it would be difficult to get tenured faculty members to participate in such training. 

"The administration seems to be doing just about the bare minimum," she said.

News Editor Manlu Liu contributed reporting. 

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