Penn State and South Hills School of Business & Technology are among 36 colleges and universities to receive a combined $1 million in grants for 2020 from the It's On Us Pennsylvania program to combat campus sexual assault.
Pennsylvania adopted in 2016 the first statewide campaign for It's On Us, a national initiative established by the Obama White House.
“Every student, teacher, administrator and visitor to our campuses deserves a safe environment free from harassment,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a press release. “This is the fourth year that my administration will be working with students, schools and communities to build programs to raise awareness about and stop sexual assaults. We must never tolerate this behavior on our campuses or a culture that allows it.”
Penn State previously received a $30,000 grant in 2016, which the university's Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response used to develop a series of videos about sexual assault prevention and response.
The new grant of $30,000 will be used to translate the It's On Us videos and other materials into six languages — Arabic, Mandarin, Korean, Spanish, French and Malay — commonly spoken by international and non-native English speakers at the university.
"In doing so, we hope to show the non-native English speaking community that we are here to support them and that we are prepared to help them navigate both their cultural concerns as well as help them connect with resources available to them through their association with Penn State," Penn State's grant application said. "We hope to increase visibility and accessibility; and with it, see an increase in reporting and engagement."
According to the grant application, the university has made strides in providing a clear process for receiving reports and handling sexual assault cases, including implementation of an online reporting tool and hotline for making anonymous reports, that have yielded increases in reports. But as Penn State has seen year-to-year increases in reporting of sexual violence, university data suggests international students are two to three times less likely to make a report.
For the 2018-19 academic year, international students comprised nearly 12% of all resident Penn State students, but only 4.27% of all cases reported to the university named an international student as a complainant or survivor. Through the first half of the fall 2019 semester, reports were up 10% overall, but international students made up only 3.58% of all reports received.
"We don’t believe that international students are uniquely protected from sexual violence," the application said. "Rather, international students are often considered a vulnerable population in large part due to language and cultural barriers."
Videos and other materials will be translated to "use language that is based on cultural norms in their native languages," and will be made available online and at all 24 campuses. Videos will be revised with actors speaking in native languages.
For fall 2019, 7,636 international students were among the 46,723 students enrolled at University Park. Including Commonwealth Campuses, 10,002 international students were among the 81,721 students enrolled.
South Hills will use a $14,000 It's On Us grant to expand its current sexual violence education program and reporting system.
"We will be using the funds to make our current sexual violence education program more robust in the way of online training platforms for employees and students, an online reporting platform (includes the ability to report anonymously), and other resources to help sexual violence prevention and education," spokeswoman Misty Frederick-Ritz said in an email. "We were very pleased to be selected."
Since 2016, It's On Us Pennsylvania has awarded nearly $4 million in grants to colleges and universities for programs including campus-wide training for students, faculty and staff and institutional campaigns to raise awareness of reporting processes and resources available to survivors of sexual violence.
“Keeping our colleges and universities safe places for students to learn is paramount, and these grants will help Penn State and South Hills School of Business Technology implement and build upon prevention programs and services to educate students, teachers and administrators, but also provide the vital resources and services to help survivors of sexual assault,” state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township, said in a news release.