Amid allegations of universities across the country failing to manage accusations of sexual assault and violence, the White House announced the “It’s On Us” campaign to combat future instances of sexual assault on campuses.
USF will join over 200 colleges nationwide to bring the campaign to campus with the goal of embracing a community that recognizes preventing acts of violence as everyone’s responsibility.
Following President Barack Obama’s unveiling of the campaign Sept. 19, USF administration received emails inviting them to take part in the campaign.
“I think it’s a good message that it is on all of us. I think that the development of community at USF is very important,” USF Dean of Students Michael Freeman said. “Any time there is an opportunity to underscore that one of our primary goals here is to take care of each other is important.”
As part of the campaign, students are encouraged to take the pledge on ItsOnUs.org. Students can expect to see campaign posters and videos popping up in residence halls, department websites and buildings on campus.
On Thursday afternoon, two students from each Greek council took the pledge and posed for posters that will display members in their letters accompanied by campaign slogans. Posters will feature student leaders and role models promoting the message of community.
“I think fraternities need to voice their positions because, on college campuses, a lot of what you hear is associated with fraternity and sorority life, and with drinking,” Freeman said. “They get a bad (reputation) — deservedly or not — and if it’s not there, then it’s in athletics. I’m looking for ways to showcase fraternities as a positive, that there are men of character that have standards, that value women and don’t degrade others.”
Greek life and athletics are not the only groups that will take part in the campaign.
Nanci Newton, director of the USF Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention, said the campaign should feature student groups that are often overlooked as role models, such as international students.
“Most of the problems are being done by a very small number of people that give everyone else in a particular group a bad name,” Newton said. “A way to combat that is to show the good ones, to show good people. That’s part of what the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign does.”
The campaign was introduced in the midst of claims that colleges and universities nationwide are violating Title IX policies.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination in any educational environment that receives federal funding on the basis of sex, including sexual harassment, sexual battery and sexual assault.
Most recently, an alleged Title IX violation occurred at Columbia University when student Emma Sulkowicz garnered national attention for carrying her dorm mattress around campus in protest of the school’s failure to punish her accused rapist.
Additionally, Obama reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act last year, for the third time in its 20-year existence. It was also strengthened with the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, which protected victims of sexual assault and violence on campus.
“We have a man in the White House who has two teenage daughters who also cares about these issues, so they are in the center of the arena right now,” Newton said. “They’re making this issue a priority, so they’re finding ways to inspire people to come up with ideas.”
The “It’s On Us” campaign is not USF’s first involvement in raising awareness and fighting domestic violence on campus. The USF N.I.T.E. student organization is a student-run group that aims to protect victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence and human trafficking.
In addition to regular campus-safety inspections and service projects, N.I.T.E. organizes Walk A Mile In Her Shoes, a men’s walk to end violence against women.
USF also hosts bystander education programs that aim to cultivate a more aware and active student body.
Freeman said he feels the “It’s On Us” campaign correlates with the message that USF already embodies.
“Students are here to get an education and set themselves up for success in the future. The reason I work on a college campus is because I care about students and I want to help them get to where they want to go,” he said. “Faculty are here because of their learning and their willingness to share … the degree to which we recognize and reinforce that notion; we really become a community that takes care of each other.”