On Jan. 28, Wilke University was awarded a $30,000 “It’s On Us” grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Wilkes is one of 38 colleges and universities to receive the funding, and this is the second time Wilkes has received the “It’s On Us” grant.
During the Obama administration, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden established the “It’s On Us” initiative nationwide. Governor Tom Wolf and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania became the first state to set up the “It’s On Us” initiative at a state level, allowing for grants like these to be established and distributed to colleges and universities.
Title IX coordinator, Samantha Hart, said, “The Red Flag Campaign uses a bystander intervention strategy to address and prevent sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking on college campuses by encouraging friends and other campus community members to say something when they see red flags in friends relationships. It is a program that helps us promote health relationships and reduce social norms that facilitate violence.”
Hart broke down where the $30,000 will be going into three sections/programs. The first is the Red Flag Campaign which was first started last spring. The event last spring was set up by Title IX, Student Government, Reslife, and student athletes. The event plans to be held again this spring, and a portion of the grant will be going towards funding aspects of the Red Flag Campaign.
“Every year we evaluate the programs we have in place and sit down and make sure that our message is consistent throughout. The Red Flag Campaign is a continuation of the messages we put out through bystander intervention programs here on campus. We wholeheartedly believe that teaching students is what makes these programs successful. Putting money towards the Red Flag Campaign benefits other programs as well based on the message being continuous and consistent in each of our programs,” said Hart.
While funding has not been designated to other specific programs on campus other potential programs and events are being considered for the future.
“RAs have a lot of flexibility in what they are able to program, however based on the curriculum we do have a focus on support services as a themed month,” Debbie Scheibler, director of residence life said. “There are a lot of programs I would love to see here on campus, but you have to build up and ease into events. One project is the clothing-line project where you string ropes between trees and hang up shirts that survivors of sexual misconduct have decorated. It serves as a way to promote visibility and tell stories as a cathartic process for survivors. Another program is “Take Back the Night” which is an event that allows for survivors and supporters to feel empowered through a march.”
Another aspect that will receive funding from the grant is a climate survey across campus to access the prevalence and perceptions on campus about sexual violence. The goal is to evaluate how well the current process succeed or fail in preventing and responding to sexual violence. It also will allow students to anonymously share experiences or concerns through the survey.
Hart said, “This will allow us to provide better responses and insure confidence in our protocols here on campus. I think there is always a concern about students not coming forward and reporting sexual violence, but I think that doing a climate study will give students a different avenue to come forward anonymously. I think this will heighten awareness and communication about this on campus.”
The final section that will be receiving funding are the training programs for first responders who help implement the sexual misconduct protocols on campus. First responders on campus consist of public safety, residence life, and RA’s on campus as well as other faculty members on campus.
A major aspect of the Title IX programs here at Wilkes is bystander intervention. The bystander intervention presentations are presented to Wilkes students freshmen year in their FYF courses by Deputy Title IX Coordinator, Philip Ruthkosky.
Ruthkosky said, “The mission of the bystander program is to empower students to be change agents, to look out for each other and make profound difference. We do that by educating students about how to recognize signs and signals that indicate that an individual is at risk, and this can apply to sexual violence but also bullying, dating and domestic violence.”
The structure of the bystander program is that faculty present the information to students about myths and truths regarding violence and sexual misconduct. The bystander program than presents the students with a video that showcases what they can do to help others in potentially dangerous situations.
Ruthkosky said, “One of the most effective and profound ways to make differences on college campuses is to have students out in front and as champions in these movements. Each year we have ten to twenty students who have the courage to be apart of this program and speak to their peers. We always welcome and support students when they are passionate about something, one example is “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” coming up this spring, a student leader came to speak to me about it and we will support that student in any way.”
“It is important for our campus community to realize that our administration has really dedicated and committed to Title IX. I think it is great that both students and the administration has embraced these programs,” said Hart.
At Wilkes there are both internal and external sources for students that can be confidential for them to turn to if need be. Students can report incidents or problems to campus counseling and health services in Passan Hall in a confidential manner. They can also go to public safety, any faculty in association with Title IX. Students can contact outside sources like the Victims Resource Center.