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Former Director of Penn Violence Prevention on Nov. 13, 2019. Credit: Zoey Weisman

Penn is planning to search for a new director for Penn Violence Prevention after Malik Washington left the position two years into his tenure. 

Washington left PVP, a program under the Division of the Vice Provost for University Life, in January. VPUL's Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives Michael Elias wrote in an emailed statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian that Associate Vice Provost for University Life Sharon Smith and PVP's Associate Director Reema Malhotra are currently leading PVP. 

“The goal is to begin a national search for the Director of Penn Violence Prevention during the Spring ‘22 semester,” Elias wrote. “The new director will be responsible for developing a strategic vision for Penn Violence Prevention.”

Elias added that students will be included on the search committee for the next director of PVP. He declined to comment on why Washington left the University. Washington did not respond to multiple requests to comment.

In January, Washington began a new role as senior project manager of The Village of Arts and Humanities, a community development organization in Philadelphia.

Penn appointed Washington to the role of PVP director in November 2019 after a seven-month search for someone to fill the position. Washington was PVP’s associate director from summer 2016 to May 2019, when he was named interim director after Jessica Mertz departed the program.

Washington began his tenure at PVP as the program expanded its staff following the 2015 Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. While he was director, Washington was tasked with finding two new staff members at PVP and expanding initiatives such as the Penn Anti-Violence Educator Program.

Malhotra, who is leading PVP with Smith after Washington’s departure, was one of two associate directors that Penn appointed to the program in April 2020. Rae Chaloult, the other associate director who joined with Malhorta, is no longer listed as an associate director on the PVP website.

In an emailed statement sent to the DP, Malhotra called Washington’s departure “bittersweet” and noted that the two “built a great working relationship and friendship.”

“I started my role here during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, so there were times when Malik was the only person I was seeing on a regular basis,” Malhotra wrote. “I feel honored to have worked with him and learned from him during our time at PVP, but am glad that he is finding joy in other opportunities outside of Penn."

College junior Martins Gatavins, a member of the Penn Anti-Violence Educators program, which is associated with PVP, praised Washington for his advice and leadership, though they noted that they did not frequently interact with him during his tenure.

“There were a lot of things moving and new staff being hired,” Gatavins, who joined PAVE in May, said.

Gatvins added that they hope the new director is able to further integrate individual PAVE programming and presentations into PVP. They said that they and other PAVE members hope the scope of PAVE is expanded to talk about topics beyond violence intervention.

“I think right now we are touching a really important area, but it's certainly curious how that can be sort of expanded into also talking about other topics that I think a lot of people in PAVE are interested in,” Gatavins said.