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It's On Us PA

Tuesday, January 17, 2017 - 11:00am

Having recently earned a $30,000 grant from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s “It’s on Us PA” campaign to protect students from sexual violence, Mercyhurst University is readying the start of several new programs on both its Erie and North East campuses beginning next month.

For years, Mercyhurst has been proactive with alcohol awareness and sexual assault awareness programming, but this grant is an opportunity to ramp up the latter, said Dr. Judy Smith, executive director of wellness at Mercyhurst. “This gives us the opportunity to take a more comprehensive approach toward creating a culture in which the campus community, particularly our students, understand what sexual assault is and what their unique role and responsibility is in trying to prevent it,” she said.

The initiative is being directed by Mercyhurst Title IX Coordinator Alice Agnew, who added, “We are looking at everything from working with IT to create a web presence that is more informative and more functional; in other words, what to do in the moment if something happens to you or a friend; to presenting new interactive training for students, faculty and staff.”

Efforts begin in February with the 3rd Millennium Classrooms survey to assess campus community perceptions and attitudes about sexual assault, the number of surveyed students who have experienced sexual assault, and bystander intervention values and behaviors. Data will be analyzed for planning academic year 2017-2018 initiatives that will foster an improved campus culture, Agnew said.

Also in February, the university will present “Sex Signals,” an evidence-based 90-minute training session for students and others in the college community. To encourage attendance, three sessions will be offered on Monday, Feb. 27, at the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center: at 1, 4 and 7 p.m.

The Crime Victims Center and Erie Police Department also will assist with training opportunities for university staff, particularly first responders, like the Erie and MNE offices of police and safety, residence life and the counseling center.  

The university is on the cusp of launching the “Coaching Boys to Men” program with the baseball team, coached by Joe Spano. The Center for Disease Control & Prevention’s Division of Violence Prevention rates this particular program as promising based on research evidence, Agnew said. It centers on the relationship between coaches and players to changes social norms and behaviors.

Several other programs are in the works, Agnew said, including curriculum development for the university’s current “Step UP” bystander program that will focus on “What is Consent?” to increase the goals of increased awareness and prevention.

Assisting Agnew on the project are counseling’s Dr. Judy Smith, Police Chief D.J. Fuhrmann, Director of Residence Life Megan McKenna, Director of Application Services (IT) Amy Skarzenski, and Associate Athletic Director Lauren Packer Webster. Advancement’s Sheila Coon, director of sponsored research, wrote the grant. Anyone wishing to help with the project is invited to contact Agnew: 814-824-2362;

The “It’s On Us PA” campaign was launched in January 2016 as Pennsylvania became the first state to launch an “It’s On Us” campaign, building off the momentum of the national campaign launched in 2014 by President Obama and Vice President Biden.