UPUA #1 Sept. 15, 2021

Members of Penn State Schreyer Honors College's Gender Equity Coalition spoke at the University Park Undergraduate Association's meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.

Penn State's University Park Undergraduate Association unanimously passed Resolution #11-06: Supporting the Schreyer Gender Equity Coalition’s Open Letter About Campus Climate Surveys and Campus Anti-Sexual Violence Effort during its Wednesday night meeting.

Penn State President Eric Barron announced in 2014 the creation of a Task Force on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment intended to conduct regular surveys every three years on the climate of sexual assault at the university.

According to the university-wide survey data released from the task force’s report on Jan. 23, 2015, approximately 2.6% of undergraduates who experienced sexual misconduct went to campus or local police and approximately 3.3% reported the incident to Penn State’s Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response.

However, the 2018 report has not been publicly released, and there has allegedly been no public comment about a survey in 2021.

The Gender Equity Coalition released a letter Sept. 6 addressed to Damon Sims, vice president of Student Affairs at Penn State, urging the university to release the results of the 2018 sexual misconduct survey by Oct. 1 and commit to conducting future surveys.

“Students’ inability to access basic data about the prevalence of sexual misconduct at Penn State — data that Penn State already committed to compile and release — indicates that Penn State’s 2015 commitments lacked the institutional support and long-term implementation plan to make them more than a positive-publicity effort,” the letter said.

Students from the coalition Sonika Kohli, Nora Van Horn, Lahari Peruri, Caroline Sliver and Sacha Smith all spoke in support of the resolution.

Kohli (sophomore-biomedical engineering), head chair of the Gender Equity Coalition, said she believes sexual violence is deeply engraved within Penn State's culture, which is “unacceptable."

Another student, Van Horn (senior-philosophy), highlighted how the Gender Equity Coalition has reached multiple times regarding the data but were left with little to no response.

Sliver (sophomore-marketing and journalism) said the UPUA and Gender Equity Coalition has the same mission — to work to make a better Penn State. She then said she believes Penn State's sexual violence climate challenges that mission.

Peruri (senior-biobehavioral health) said she believes current university infrastructure does not hold space for a safe and secure environment for BIPOC individuals.

She is the co-founder and president of Lotus, a student organization which advocates against sexual misconduct within BIPOC communities on campus and seeks to expand reporting resources to accommodate people of color.

While sexual assault occurs within all different demographics, Peruri said she believes oftentimes marginalized communities are easily silenced and dismissed.

"We must direct ourselves away from the separation of gender and race when discussing sexual misconduct.”

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