From the lofty heights of last year’s It’s On Us paper chain signed by 4,200 Pitt students and faculty, Student Government Board member Arlind Karpuzi wants to take the campaign to a more intimate level this fall.
This year, the campaign to decrease sexaul assault on campus will involve T-shirts and encourage students to open up about personal experiences and thoughts concerning sexual assault. The campaign will also encourage students to respond to discussions It’s On Us will host by using markers to draw on T-shirts given to each participant.
Participants can respond to prompts written on the shirts like, “What do you think consent is?” or share personal experiences and reactions.
“You draw on the shirt whatever comes to mind,” Karpuzi said. “Whether it’s a personal experience or something like, ‘No means no.’”
Pitt’s It’s On Us campaign launched in Sept. 2014 in response to the White House’s nationwide campaign. It’s On Us aims to prevent sexual assault and provide a supportive environment to survivors of sexual assault.
Last year, Pitt’s It’s On Us campaign asked students and community members to sign their names on slips of paper in a pledge to help stop sexual assault on campus. The 4,200 slips of paper formed a paper chain approximately 800 feet long.
At Pitt, more than one in five women said they have experienced some form of sexual assault during their four years on campus. According to Pitt’s report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, this breaks down into 10.1 percent of participating female undergraduates who said they had experienced nonconsensual penetration and 15.6 percent of female undergraduates who said they had been victims of sexual touching.
The survey also found that 55.2 percent of participating Pitt students believed that it was very or extremely likely that other students would support a victim of sexual assault.
In April, Vice President Joe Biden visited Pittsburgh and spoke in the Petersen Events Center to promote the It’s On Us campaign, leading hundreds of Pitt students and community members in a pledge to end sexual assault on campus.
While the paper chain emphasized awareness on campus, this year’s event will focus on students sharing actual experiences and help the campaign to take a more personal tone, according to Karpuzi. The It’s On Us task force will hold two sessions, one on Oct. 18, and one on Nov. 9, discussing the campaign, handing out T-shirts and providing ideas to start conversations.
Jasmine Butler, a member of the It’s On Us task force, said the focus this year is on fostering conversation and openness.
“It starts with a discussion and an exchange of thoughts,” Butler, a senior anthropology major, said. “Questions like, ‘What does consent mean to you?’ or, ‘What are your boundaries?’”
The It’s On Us campaign also emphasizes the role student organizations will play in combatting sexual assault. The idea is to have student leaders pass the shirts on to members of their organizations and encourage discussion within clubs.
Student leaders taking charge of passing out the shirts will also add to the more personal tone of the campaign. Having a student organization facilitate discussion — instead of a member of the It’s On Us task force — will lead to more productive conversation, Karpuzi said. These conversations will hopefully produce a culture on campus that condemns sexual assault and holds others accountable.
Ultimately, the campaign will end with a gallery late next semester displaying the shirts outside and sharing the thoughts and stories of students involved with the campaign.
“It will hopefully be both therapeutic for survivors and make an impact on anyone who takes part in the campaign,” Butler said.
For incoming students, Karpuzi and SGB Academic Affairs Chair Ricky Hollenbach are working on including Title IX information about sexual assault in first-year program events or classes. Hollenbach is not sure how the information would be presented, whether in events or as part of the freshman seminar classes.
James Kirwan, president of Students Engaging in Conversations about Consent and Sexuality, suggested the addition to the information Freshman Programs already offers first-years. This would help make first-years aware of the actions they can take when they are sexually assaulted or are aware of sexual assault.
As of Feb. 2015, incoming Pitt students are required to take an online sexual assault training module called HAVEN. They also participate in Bystander Intervention Training at orientation.
Hollenbach said he plans to talk to SGB President Natalie Dall about the proposal then discuss the initiative with Freshman Programs.
“Freshmen get so overloaded with information,” Hollenbach said. “It might be helpful to present this a couple weeks into the semester, and make sure they’re aware.”
In a separate project, Hollenbach is also working on gauging interest in and the possibility of creating a psychology minor. The Academic Affairs committee released a link to a five-question survey last week to get a better sense of how many students would be interested in pursuing the minor.
“It initially just came up from talking with a lot of my friends,” Hollenbach said. “They took a lot of psych credits but not enough for a major, so those credits wouldn’t really count towards anything.”
There is a subcommittee of Academic Affairs in place to meet with professors and the heads of the psychology department after analyzing the data from the survey. They have already met with a couple professors to see if it was worthwhile to pursue, according to Hollenbach.
“We’re optimistic, but I can’t say for sure yet,” Hollenbach said. “There does seem to be good overall interest.”
FORGE: Facilitating Opportunities for Refugee Growth and Empowerment requested $4,957.59 for honorarium to bring in the Vietnamese refugee and poet Ocean Vuong. The board approved the request in full.
Hindu Students Council: The Hindu Student Council requested $1,769.79 to fund their annual Navratri Garba event. The board approved $1,685.79.
Steel City Bhangra: Steel City Bhangra requested $3,807.26 for transportation, lodging and registration to attend a competition. The board approved $3,667.26.
First Class Bhangra: First Class Bhangra requested $1,747.42 for a fall competition. The board approved $1,537.42.
Student Dietetic Association: The Student Dietetic Association requested $1,237.04 for lodging for the Food and Dietician Expo held in Boston this year. The board approved the request in full.