Title IX talks street harassment in round table discussion

Written By Nicole Pampena

Students, faculty and various club organizations gathered on Monday, Sept. 12 to address the issue of street harassment and its presence on campus at Point Park.

The meeting, set up as a roundtable discussion, strongly focused on brainstorming ways to raise awareness regarding the commonly overlooked cases of street harassment and the frequency at which they occur.

Assistant professor of history Jehnie Reis decided to raise the problem to a level of greater importance after the topic came up in her Foundations in Feminism class this past spring. 

“One of my students actually brought it up when we were talking about current events,” Reis said. “When I asked how many of them have experienced this at some point, almost every student in the classroom raised their hand.”

Despite following everything victims are told to do in the situation of street harassment, such as not walking alone or not making eye contact, its presence ensues.  This mainly stems from Point Park’s downtown location and susceptibility to street harassers as opposed to a more secluded campus.

This is especially true for students who live off campus such as Brianna Wuenschel, a freshman cinema production major.

 “I came [to the meeting] because I am a commuter,” Wuenschel said. “I use public transportation, I have a night class from six to nine.” As a result of this combination, students are left vulnerable and lacking in bystanders.

Yet even with bystanders playing a factor, as mentioned during discussion, the largest problem the community faces is their failure to speak up or report to the police. Officer Bogdanski from Point Park’s Department of Public Safety offered a solution.

 “It’s hard to be at the right place at the right time,” Bogdanski said. “One thing I hope everyone knows about is sending an anonymous tip to our dispatch center.”

 The speakers also spoke about considering potential awareness campaign methods that not only deter the perpetrator, but also encourage bystanders to help alleviate the confrontation.

Clubs present at the meeting such as HerCampus, Strong Women Strong Girls, The Feminist Collective and Confluence have joined forces in order to plan a campus-wide campaign against street harassment. Further action is expected to be explored after the Health and Wellness Fair held during the first week of October.

“I feel like this is something that needs to be brought to life,” Reis said. “To let [students] know this is more universal … without naming names or putting faces on anyone.”

No statistic was readily available at the meeting to demonstrate how often street harassment is reported on campus, let alone occurs. 

Reis plans on looking into methods of tracking future statistics after setting out the combined efforts of student organizations and faculty. Ideas ranging from creating a tally system in Village Park to starting a hashtag on social media are currently up in the air.

“A long term goal would be how to take this off campus and deal with it on a larger scale,” Reis said. “We want to spread the message that it happens to everyone.”