Wilkes University joins national efforts to combat sexual assaults “It’s on Us” video promotes awareness of sexual assault on college campuses


Sarah Bedford

From right Ryan Wood, Todd Oravick, and Jeremey Tomaine. Wood and Oravick prepare for the next scene of “It’s on Us” with a line reading by Tomaine, the freshman class president.

Through collaboration with Wilkes University Student Government, Student Development and Fenner Productions, the family of Colonels has made a stance against sexual assaults on college campuses.

Joining the “It’s on Us” campaign as part of President Barack Obama’s September 2014 initiative, Wilkes has joined a list of universities nationwide working toward the cause.

“Being a part of the ‘It’s on Us’  video meant so much to me,” said junior marketing and management major Val Woods.  “I’ve seen videos and movements like this at larger schools so seeing Wilkes join the efforts makes me very proud to be a student here. We’re a small school doing big things.”

Dr. Philip Ruthkosky, associate dean of student development, explained that Student Government President Anthony Fanucci reached out to him to take part in the movement.

“As an institution, Wilkes is committed to being proactive and engaging students on the topic of sexual misconduct,” Ruthkosky said. “So I was delighted when Anthony approached me and expressed an interest in getting Student Government involved.”

“I hope students will see exactly where we stand as Colonels, and I hope students will feel safe and protected at our university,” Fanucci said. “It truly is on us as students to take a stand because our generation is heavily affected by the crisis that exists.  I hope that students will have a realization just like I did, one that makes them realize they aren’t doing enough, but it isn’t too late to take action.”      The video features approximately 40 Wilkes students reciting lines such as, “It’s on us to be more than a bystander,  because when someone is sexually assaulted it’s not ‘that guy’ or ‘that girl’ it’s one of us. A Colonel.”

Fenner Production’s Ryan Wood and Todd Oravick, both Wilkes alumni and members of the class of 2013, explained that the idea for this video came from a bystander intervention training video created over a year ago. The award winning video was titled “Colonels Don’t Stand By.”

“The award we were given was in recognition of the university’s overall approach and training program on matters related to sexual misconduct,” Ruthkosky said. “The name of the award is the NASPA Grand Gold Excellence Award recognizing excellence and innovation in Student Affairs programs and initiatives.  More specifically, we were presented with the Grand Gold Award, which is the top national honor.”

In regards to the “It’s on Us” video, Wood explains that the video was a simple way to share a bigger message and an important one.

“We’ve seen some other university’s videos of this.. It’s a very simple, direct way to get the message out there,” Wood explained.

Rachel Constant, a P2 student, agreed.  “I love the way each one of us came together as a whole to speak up and promote awareness for such a huge topic in today’s society.”

“It’s an ongoing problem and it tends to be a quite problem,unfortunately,” said Oravick.

While participating in the video is one way students can be involved in the movement, there is also a pledge available online for students to sign.

The pledge states, “This pledge is a personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault. It is a promise not to be a bystander to the problem, but to be a part of the solution.”

Other resources exist with the movement like a tip page discussing consent and rape as well as other outreach videos large universities across the nation have created as well as celebrities.

While Wilkes is not the largest university to join the movement, the student body had a lot of enthusiasm.

“We have this small, tiny, little, private institution in Wilkes-Barre Pa. and a ton of students were on board and not just on board for it but pumped,” Wood said.

Ruthkosky explained that it gives him hope for students when such excitement is shown to support a cause.

“It gives me great pride and optimism when I see students wanting to participate in initiatives such as this and the Bystander video,” Ruthkosky said. “Students have the opportunity to make a profound impact.”

The Wilkes University “It’s on Us” video will be available to view later in the semester and will likely be shared with the campus community on Wilkes Today.

To sign the pledge or find out more on “It’s on Us” visit itsonus.org. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, visit www.notalone.gov.