At the October University Council meeting, between presentations on Penn’s Climate and Sustainability Action Plan and University programs for faculty development, Provost Wendell Pritchett addressed attendees on immediate actions being taken in response to the most recent Association of American Universities’ Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct.
The results of the survey, released last week, showcased the incidence of unwanted sexual contact for students on college campuses, not only around the country, but also at Penn.
“President Gutmann and I, of course as we said in our message, were troubled to see very little change from the last survey in 2015,” Pritchett said, talking to faculty, staff, and students of the Council. “This is an issue of the highest importance to us. It does require all of us to work together to lower these numbers in the years ahead.”
Immediately, Pritchett said, he and Gutmann are taking two specific actions, which include: Expanding, very soon, the staff at Penn Violence Prevention, under the leadership of Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum. Gutmann and Pritchett also plan to form focus groups of students throughout the next few weeks, to get a deeper understanding of the survey responses and the implications of them.
The focus groups, noted Pritchett, will help administrators at Penn learn more about the experiences of Penn students, as well as to better understand ideal ways to provide information, resources, and training related to eliminating sexual misconduct on campus.
Pritchett also reminded the Council that the University, after a year of consultation, changed its reporting and investigative policies with regard to sexual violence and sexual harassment “in ways that I am confident will contribute to us continuing to make progress in this area.”
“We are all, particularly President Gutmann and I, strongly committed to a safe and respectful campus, on which we all can thrive,” Pritchett concluded. “We have work to do but I know we’re going to get there.”