TSG visits White House

The “It’s On Us” campaign seeks to end sexual assault at colleges nationwide.

Temple Student Government and student athletics are working to bring the “It’s On Us” campaign to Main Campus, an initiative that the White House launched this September as a public service announcement to prevent sexual assault.

“[TSG is] trying to frame it all together and make it make sense to students,” Student Body President Ray Smeriglio said. “We’re figuring out how to make this a university-wide issue.”

TSG visited the White House on Oct. 29 to speak with the White House Liaison to Young Americans about the issue of sexual misconduct on campus and talk with other student governments about implementing “It’s On Us.”

Other universities represented in the discussions included the University of Delaware, Carnegie Mellon and Penn State.

“We stood out at the White House as a university that is doing everything to address the problem head on,” Smeriglio said.

Blair Alston, vice president of services, said part of the conversation involved the TUnity statement, which was released Oct. 28, and comments on diversity at Temple.

“We brought it to the table as our idea of how we can program and address the issue,” Alston said.

Last week, the athletic department filmed a series of PSAs featuring student-athletes, administrators and student body leaders taking the “It’s On Us” pledge. These PSAs are scheduled to debut on the scoreboard at the Nov. 29 football game against Cincinnati.

Assistant Director of Compliance and Student-Athlete Affairs Kristy Sromovsky said she and Jessica Gray, coordinator of compliance and student-athlete affairs, “felt really passionate about getting student-athletes involved.”

“We came across it on social media and did a lot of research into the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign and thought it was a really important cause,” Sromovsky said.

“As an athletic department, we thought it was on us to take part in it,” Gray said.

The athletic department is planning a major social media campaign to promote the initiative.

“I hope that [‘It’s On Us’ is] something our students and our student-athletes will continue to talk about,” said Sherryta Freeman, senior associate athletic director of compliance and student-athlete affairs. “I hope it becomes a mantra, not just for the current moment, but all the time.”

Stephanie Ives, the dean of students, said the administration has also been active in implementing new ideas.

President Theobald has assembled a task force to make recommendations about how the university can address the problem of sexual misconduct on campus.

Ives said she appreciates the fact that the conversation about sexual misconduct has “risen to a new level.”

“It’s On Us” stresses the importance of bystander intervention, calling upon people to speak up when they witness suspect behavior.

“[It’s On Us emphasizes] the role of people to intervene when they see something that they know is wrong, or when they see something that they think is heading in the wrong direction,” Ives said. “It’s very empowering and there’s a sense of ownership.”

“Being a bystander, you can ultimately have an impact on what happens in a current situation,” Alston said. “It’s recognizing and showing that if you see something wrong, you need to step up and say something.”

The Office for Civil Rights visited Temple this past week, since Temple was named last May as one of 55 universities under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for possible violation of Title IX.

The OCR led a series of focus groups to gather information about the climate on campus from students, faculty, and staff.

“It’s [the students’] climate, it’s our campus and we should take charge and take action,” Alston said. “The only way other things are going to change is if we empower each other to.”

Lian Parsons lian.parsons@temple.edu and on twitter @Lian_Parsons     

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