Joe Biden to visit Pitt

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Morehouse College during a three-college tour to mobilize students to take action to prevent sexual assault on campuses on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Atlanta. (TNS)

On a nationwide tour of three universities, Vice President Joe Biden will visit Pitt next week as part of the It’s On Us campaign, a White House official announced Tuesday.

According to a release, Biden will travel to Pitt April 5, then move on to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the University of Colorado Boulder, to address the importance of preventing sexual violence on college campuses.

University spokesperson Shawn Ahearn said in an email Wednesday that admission to Biden’s speech will begin at 10:15 a.m. at the Petersen Events Center. Undergraduate and graduate students can reserve free tickets online between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. Thursday, and faculty and staff can reserve free tickets between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. Friday. Ticketholders must pick up their reserved tickets at the William Pitt Union ticket office between 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Friday, and any leftover tickets will be released to the general public.

In addition to Biden’s speech about the It’s On Us campaign, a campaign fighting to end sexual assault on college campuses nationally, Ahearn said. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion Pamela Connelly and Vice Provost and Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner will speak at the event, as well.

Biden’s visit will be a part of the It’s On Us Week of Action, which is April 3-9. During this week, students at college campuses around the country will host events to engage their campuses in supporting survivors of sexual assault and preventing future assaults. The Week of Action occurs during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Bonner said it was an honor for Biden to choose to come to Pitt and that his visit recognizes the University’s work to fight sexual violence on campus.

“Having Vice President Biden choose to come here to support our efforts, and launch our own Sexual Assault Week, is validation that we are on the right track, but we also realize that there is much work to do to eradicate sexual harassment and assault from our campus,” Bonner said in an email.

Officials from the White House launched the It’s On Us campaign in September 2014 to increase awareness of sexual assault on college campuses. More than 200 universities are currently involved in the campaign, which urges students to sign pledges to help prevent sexual assault and promotes bystander intervention.

On Feb. 22, Pitt’s It’s On Us campaign displayed Pitt’s commitment to preventing sexual assault with the reveal of an about 800-foot paper chain of more than 4,000 signatures from Pitt faculty, staff and students. Student organizations such as Let’s RAVE and PantherWELL have trained peer educators in giving presentations on sexual assault and domestic violence. Pitt’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Education program offers counseling and medical services for victims of sexual assault.

Sharon George, the national It’s On Us campaign representative on the It’s On Us Student Advisory Committee, said Biden’s visit shows that Pitt has been grabbing national attention for its efforts to prevent sexual assault on its campus.

“I think it shows that Pitt has a really bright future ahead of it,” George said. “It definitely won’t be slowing down anytime soon.”

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