Leaders from local colleges and universities met last week to pledge protection for sexual assault victims amid national concerns about the fate of Title IX under the Trump administration.
Some advocates have said they worry that Title IX enforcement, including language outlining protocols for accused offenders, could be rolled back under the new administration. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has skirted questions as to whether she’ll uphold a 2011 Obama-administration guidance on handling campus assault.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one-fifth of all women will experience sexual assault while in college, although incidents are highly underreported. Among Pittsburgh four-year universities, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh had the most reported assaults between 2013-15, the most recently available data. In that time, CMU, which has approximately 13,000 students, reported 22 rapes that occurred on campus property. Pitt, which has approximately 34,000 students, reported 43 rapes on campus property in those three years.
Point Park University President Paul Hennigan said student safety is paramount and local colleges will not abandon their standards of education and prevention.
“The 10 Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education Schools will remain committed to all of these education efforts with regard to alcohol abuse and sexual misconduct regardless of the enforcement approach that the federal government takes,” Hennigan said.
Hennigan said that federal mandate is not the driving force of university policies combating sexual assault.
“My experience with my colleagues throughout the country is everybody is taking it seriously,” Hennigan said. “Not because it’s a requirement of the federal government, but because it’s about basic human respect and dignity.”
Hennigan spoke at Pitt on Thursday during a rally sponsored by the southwestern Pennsylvania chapter of "No More," a national initiative aiming to raise public awareness and engagement around ending domestic violence and sexual assault.
Hennigan delivered an outline of collaborative practices regarding campus sexual assault. The outline, endorsed by the ten PCHE schools, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office and Bureau of Police, includes training for individuals who first come into contact with victims, as well as the creation of a Title IX sub-committee.