By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis

Earlier this month, Lafayette College was among four Lehigh Valley-area colleges to receive “It’s On Us” grants of up to $30,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Governor’s Office. The grants fund programs that improve awareness, remove barriers to reporting, and work on changing campus culture around sexual assault. 

Since 2016, the statewide campaign has awarded 150 grants totaling almost $4 million to more than 70 postsecondary institutions. It aims to support postsecondary institutions’ efforts to create environments in which all community members work together to end sexual violence, the rights of survivors are protected, and appropriate resources and accommodations are available. Lafayette won the grant once before, in 2018.

According to Amanda Hanincik, Lafayette’s director of educational equity and Title IX coordinator, the College is proposing that the grant be used for the “Helping to Create a Safe, Equitable, and Inclusive Lafayette Community” project, which involves new training and innovative programming to address today’s greatest challenges in combating campus sexual assault. 

“The 2021 grant project will build upon the success of the 2018 initiatives to create sustainable and institutionalized change on campus,” says Hanincik, who coordinated the College’s grant application efforts. “Open communication is essential for raising awareness about the harsh realities of sexual violence.” 

Three key components will be addressed through this grant project, she explains:

  • Partnering with Ending Technology-Enabled Abuse (EndTAB) to provide training for students, faculty, and staff to better understand, stimulate conversation, and implement prevention programming on the relationship between sexual violence and technology.
  • Enrolling staff members in training by the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA)—including hearing officer training, hearing chair training, and adviser training sessions—to improve the response and support system for survivors.
  • Partnering with Crime Victims Council of the Lehigh Valley and Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley Inc. to provide training sessions for Pards Against Sexual Assault (PASA), a peer educational group on campus, to increase awareness and prevention of sexual violence and harassment. 

This year’s round of “It’s On Us” funding, effective through May 2022, benefits 37 Pennsylvania institutions, including Lafayette College, East Stroudsburg University, Muhlenberg College, and Penn State University, which has a Lehigh Valley campus.

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