PPU culture encourages assault, silences survivors

Written By Jake Dabkowski, Co-News Editor

“Point Park University takes all allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating and domestic violence, and gender-based harassment very seriously.”  That’s how University President Paul Hennigan started a statement in conjunction with the Title IX office. What followed was four paragraphs of fluff pretending to address one of the most serious issues facing our university.

On social media, people from all departments and backgrounds are sharing their stories of abuse and assault. These people are incredibly brave. I’m not one of these people, so why am I the one writing this article? Because I don’t think that someone should have to publicly detail their trauma for our so called “progressive” University to do something about their rampant culture of sexual and emotional abuse.

Multiple students have said that their Title IX claims were ignored. Despite going through all of the proper channels, their reports were seemingly forgotten about.

One survivor wrote on twitter that the counseling center had asked them if they were “sure they said no.” The replies to this tweet were full of people saying the same thing had happened to them. 

Think about that for a second. These people were violated, and the one place the university tells them they can turn to not only failed them, but the first thing that they asked was not “are you okay?” or “what can we do to help?” It was “are you sure you said no?”

I do not know if this is because the Title IX office is underfunded, under-resourced or if the University just doesn’t want to lose another paying customer by expelling a rapist, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. These people received no justice.

Rape culture is defined as “a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse.” It is blatantly obvious that Point Park fits that definition. During the Pioneer Week orientation portion dedicated to education surrounding abuse and assault, multiple students in my group (a majority of which were men) treated it like a joke, cracking one-liners and providing Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque commentary for the educational video. Pioneer Ambassadors (most of whom were juniors or seniors) were openly hitting on incoming freshmen, many of whom were years younger and alone in a new city for the first time in their lives.

The first thing most women are told when they arrive is to avoid specific people and to stay safe. COPA has had countless students accuse the program of fostering sexual and emotional abuse, and then gaslighting students after harm had been done.

A COPA student recounted to me that after he was assaulted the Title IX office almost dismissed his claim because he spoke about it with people who had witnessed the incident. After the assaulter was found guilty, the Title IX office came up with a new solution: they would be allowed to take classes together but one would be forced to change their major. This was against the university’s protocol, but the Title IX office seemingly just didn’t care. Had his assaulter not transferred, he told me that he would not be going to Point Park next year.

Other COPA students have acknowledged that the environment is toxic. Many have pointed out that their parties encourage binge drinking and older students pressure younger students into drinking more than they can handle.

This is a tactic the sports teams seem to love. A former student wrote on twitter that the very first thing they were told when arriving for orientation was not “welcome to college!” but was “avoid the baseball house at all costs.” They then said that when they asked freshman baseball players about the house they struggled to give answers.

But most of all, the group most surrounded by rumors is the Rugby team. A name so synonymous with sexual assault, it’s become a punchline for jokes and twitter memes. The sheer number of people who’ve spoken out about a member of the Rugby team, and the sheer amount of people on the Rugby team, especially younger members, who’ve witnessed this culture and admitted to friends and roommates that something was not right, is astronomical. It is insane to me that this has been allowed to continue so openly for as long as it has, and it disgusts me that the University has failed on every level to do something about it.

But at the end of the day, it seems the University just doesn’t care. If Point Park was really took “all allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating and domestic violence, and gender-based harassment very seriously” then they wouldn’t be having Al Franken, who resigned from the United States Senate in shame following sexual misconduct allegations, speak at the Playhouse.

We, as the students of Point Park, must demand that the school take a more serious stance on sexual abuse. We must demand that the Title IX office properly investigate claims, and we must demand that the university stop enabling abuse. Survivors should not be forced to see their abuser in the hallway, or in the classroom. If you rape someone, you shouldn’t just be kicked off the baseball team, you should be expelled.

At the end of the day, we pay their salaries. If Point Park doesn’t begin to seriously acknowledge this dangerous culture, students should consider other options. If the Title IX office and the school’s administration don’t reconsider punishments for those found guilty of abuses and reevaluate how they respond to claims, then they are truly a lost cause.

Lastly, to those of you sharing your stories, thank you. You are all incredibly strong.