Governor awards university with Title IX grant

Written By Jordyn Hronec, Editor-Elect

Governor Tom Wolfe granted 36 colleges and universities in Pennsylvania, out of 164 four-year colleges and universities across the state, with the “It’s on Us” Title IX program grant. Point Park University was one of them.

Point Park received $30,000, the maximum amount that a school can receive for the program grant. The last time that the university received the grant was during the 2017-2018 school year.

“It’s On Us” began as a national movement to end sexual assault under the Obama administration in 2014.

“The mission of ‘It’s On Us’ is to combat college sexual assault by engaging young men and changing campus culture,” the “It’s On Us” website reads. “We achieve our mission by teaching prevention education, training the next generation of student organizers and disseminating large-scale creative campaigns. Our prevention education work is focused on three key areas: bystander intervention, consent education and survivor support.”

The university’s 2019 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report records that four cases of rape were reported in 2018, with two occurring on campus and two occurring on “public property.” The report also states that five cases of fondling were reported in 2018 and three cases of dating violence were reported.

According to Director of Title IX and Diversity, Vanessa Love, as well as a press release put out by the university, this year’s grant will be used to:

  • Increase the frequency of Green Dot Bystander Intervention training
  • Pilot a Sexual Assault Awareness Peer Educator Program in the Athletics Department
  • Expand programming during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April)
  • Develop and disseminate detailed procedures about anonymous reporting for any member of the campus community and accommodations provided to survivors
  • Pilot a student assistance program to create a culture of consistent mental health support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence
  • Reissue a campus climate survey on sexual and gender-based violence

Green Dot Bystander Intervention Training

According to Love, part of the grant money will go towards facilitating more Green Dot Bystander Intervention training sessions.

“The idea [of Green Dot training] is to address social norms to give three steps, so you can directly get involved, create a distraction or delegate,” Love said. “It’s built around violence against women, so they’ll give you different scenarios. Some of them can be you see two people, and they look like they’re fighting. You’re not sure if they’re in a relationship or not, but it looks unsafe. What could you do? The program is built around each person getting to pick who they are, so if I’m not a person who directly gets involved in things, then I don’t have to directly get involved.”

Maeve Johns, a junior animation major, participated in Green Dot training this past summer.

“I was a Pioneer Ambassador, and all of the Pioneer Ambassadors are required to do multiple different diversity trainings, and one of the trainings they have us do is Green Dot training,” Johns said. “I actually think it’s really good that they are expanding the Green Dot training program, because I think that one is more oriented towards bystander intervention, so it’s more oriented towards students.”

Johns also highlighted the importance of in-person training sessions.

“I know that even though we have, like this past winter break in December, they had us do another sexual assault and diversity training online, and those are good things,” Johns said. “But I feel like actually going into a Green Dot session and being there with the person who facilitates the sessions, and having someone be there who’s also super involved and participatory, and being able to ask questions and get your hands in, and think ‘okay, what would I do in this situation?’ would be really, really good for students…just to have something that’s a little more practical in their tool belt as aside to sitting down and watching videos.”

During the Fall semester, student leaders across campus were selected to participate in Green Dot Bystander Intervention trainings and were able to sign up for one of several available training sessions.

Sexual Assault Awareness Peer Educator Program in the Athletics Department

Love stated that part of the grant would go towards re-working an existing program in the Athletics Department.

“Coaching Boys into Men” is a program through the Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR), which, according to PAAR’s website, “guides high school coaches to talk to their male athletes about stopping violence against women and girls.” The website also stated that both Robert Morris University and Point Park use adapted versions for collegiate sports.

“It’s [Coaching Boys into Men] cards and scenarios and usually it’s coach led,” Love said. “We got feedback from the coaches that they’re not comfortable having the conversations, but PAAR builds on that relationship, that coach player-to-player relationship, so we talked to PAAR about changing that model.”

Love stated that she was looking to implement a new model, where student athletes could educate and lead discussions amongst their peers, while still using the materials and scenarios provided by PAAR.

Xavier Stephens, a senior business management major and captain of both the track and field and cross-country teams, experienced “Coaching Boys into Men” sessions during his freshman and sophomore years.

“I think it’s a good idea, but I feel like sometimes the guys just kind of take it as a joke,” Stephens said.

He said that a peer educator model may also not be taken seriously by athletes.

“Just knowing my teammates, we wouldn’t take it seriously,” Stephens said. “I think it’s overall a good thought, but personally for the track team, there’s a lot of people who wouldn’t take it seriously.”

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual Assault Awareness Month will take place in April. Each year, the campaign for the month is created by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC).

“While each campaign has a different theme, they all share same common goals: to raise visibility about sexual assault and share how it can be prevented, whether that’s through education about healthy sexuality, consent or bystander intervention,” the NSVRC website said.

Love stated that the idea for programming for Sexual Assault Awareness Month came from the desire of student groups to get involved.

“We got feedback from a graduate student who was working and went and talked to different student groups,” Love said. “The feedback that was [received] was that student groups wanted to be more involved, so we are creating a survey to the student groups to see if they want to partner with different activities for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.”

Student Assistance Program

Love stated that, with the funds from the grant, the Office of Title IX would be trying to launch a new counseling model for students in need of immediate help.

“At a lot of the forums, a lot of the feedback we were getting was that the mental health model is just not working here,” Love said. “I see that even more when it comes to people coming to my office for specific incidents. So we want to pilot for September, October and November a Student Assistance Program, and that would be something where you could call into or video chat with a licensed psychologist and have either a three session model or a six session model.”

Love clarified that she would prefer a six session model.

According to the article “Preferences for Online and/or Face-to-Face Counseling among University Students in Malaysia” in the journal “Frontiers in Psychology,” in a survey of 409 college students across six different schools in Malaysia, it was discovered that the opinion of both in-person and online counseling was “somewhat positive.” It was also discovered that there was a “small, but statistically significant” preference for in-person counseling, with 145 of the 409 participants expressing a preference for in-person counseling, ranging from slight to strong.

The American Psychological Association states that “the explosion of smartphone users has created new opportunities for app-based companies to offer more accessible and affordable therapy.”

“You can actually have that immediate interaction with a counselor,” Love said. “Which is what I know people that come to my office are requesting. So we will pilot that for three months, and if students use it, we will look for long-term funding for that.”