The PAGE Center coordinator is seeking to provide a safer campus by preventing sexual assault with the help of Title IX and the campus police.
Sahara McGrath, a recently appointed coordinator for the Shippensburg University Pride and Gender Equity Center (PAGE) worked to get rid of the prohibition of pepper spray on Shippensburg’s campus to prevent sexual assault and harassment. She was successful in this endeavor, and students are now allowed to have pepper spray for self-defense purposes.
The movement is still in its early stages according to McGrath, with the first steps being speaking to the school’s leadership teams.
“It’s basically meeting with a lot of different people, mainly the SU police. I’ve just been making my case,” McGrath said.
She has also been working to get better lighting on campus, especially for the flight of stairs facing Richard Avenue, where many tragic events have occurred.
In the Fire and Safety Report, provided by the Shippensburg University Police Department, six instances of sexual misconduct occurred in 2021, four of those being rapes. John Burnett, Shippensburg Title IX Coordinator/Compliance Officer, said that the Title IX office saw a decrease in sexual misconduct allegations in recent years, but that it was mainly due to students taking online classes during COVID-19.
“We saw decreases due to COVID because students were not on campus, but that doesn’t mean that there was a decrease in sexual assault. There was probably a decrease in reporting,” Burnett said.
Burnett said some victims will report sexual misconduct but don’t want to pursue further action.
“I think some people just want it on file, they don’t want to go through the process because for whatever reason it could be too traumatic, it could take too much time, or they might feel like nobody’s going to believe them,” Burnett said.
There has been a lot of progress in the last decade of Title IX, according to Burnett. Due notice, balanced board hearings and cross-examination have helped to increase the effects of Title IX and protect students in the process of reporting. Title IX has been extended out of the realm of athletics and can be used for all students on campus, regardless of status.
Education aimed at the prevention of sexual violence is provided by the PAGE Center frequently. Topics such as consent, safe sex and respect are often themes in programming offered on campus.
Sexual misconduct and assault are an issue for colleges and universities nationally. The Association of American Universities reported that 13% of college students experience nonconsensual sexual acts. This is not just a women’s issue, with 6.8% of undergraduate men reporting sexual violence, including rape. Male college students are more likely to be assaulted than their non-student counterparts, according to RAINN.
In 2018, Dr. Larry Nassar was convicted of the assault of over 300 women at Michigan State University. Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison, and 60 additional years for possession of child pornography. This case pushed university faculties to continue the prevention of sexual assault on a national level throughout the last four years.
Resources for students that have experienced sexual assault can be found at the PAGE Center in the Ceddia Union Building, the Title IX Office in Old Main and the Shippensburg University Police Department.