Attorney General Josh Shapiro Unveils Campus Safety Report

August 29, 2018 | Topic: Criminal

Report Provides Recommendations for Colleges and Universities to Better Address Substance Abuse, Mental Health Issues and Sexual Assault on Campus

PITTSBURGH —Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced a new campus safety report providing recommendations for colleges and universities to better address drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues and sexual assault on campuses across Pennsylvania.

“All across Pennsylvania, parents are taking their kids to college,” Attorney General Shapiro said at a press conference at University of Pittsburgh. “When they drive away from campus, of course they should be sad to leave them, but they shouldn’t be worried about their children’s safety. These institutions are responsible for keeping students safe and we’ve pulled together ideas from experts across our Commonwealth to help them do that.

Last August, Attorney General Shapiro announced his campus safety initiative, which is culminating in this report. His office held five roundtable conversations to discuss four key campus safety concerns that require the attention and involvement of the entire community to address – drug addiction, alcohol abuse, mental health awareness and sexual assault prevention.

These community-based roundtables brought together students, victim advocates, survivors, local law enforcement, college and university staff, and experts from different fields to identify strategies and promote responses that are survivor-centered and trauma-informed. The roundtables took place over the course of the 2017-18 school year, and were hosted by:

  • Dickinson College
  • Lincoln University
  • Slippery Rock University
  • Drexel University
  • University of Pittsburgh

Pennsylvania is home to 750,000 students at 200 colleges and universities. In 1986, student Jeanne Clery of Lehigh University was raped and murdered, leading to passage of the federal Clery Act, which requires colleges to be more transparent about crime that occurs on their campuses.

“There is great work that has gone before us,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “We want to build upon that work, and by talking directly with students, university leaders, advocates, and law enforcement, we hope that our institutions will undertake these new ideas to improve safety for every student on every campus in Pennsylvania.”

Attorney General Shapiro was joined at today’s press conference by University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, Gov. Wolf’s Executive Director of Asian Pacific American Affairs Tiffany Lawson Chang, University of Pittsburgh senior and student leader Sarah Stone, and a host of other university officials, students, and safety advocates.

“This report outlines clear guideposts for colleges and universities throughout the commonwealth—and it will help inform our work moving forward,” says University of Pittsburgh’s Title IX Coordinator Katie Pope. “Equally important: It has helped fuel important conversations around sensitive issues—and it’s a discussion that we are grateful to continue with Attorney General Josh Shapiro, his team and our colleagues throughout the state.”

The four key campus safety concerns are inter-related and often build upon each other.  Sexual assault is a critical topic in the report, as college-age students are at higher risk for sexual violence than other age groups. Eleven percent of all college students experience rape or sexual assault, including 23 percent of female students.

Campus sexual assault is directly impacted by alcohol abuse, with nearly 70 percent of sexual assaults involving an intoxicated perpetrator and 43 percent involving an intoxicated victim. Additionally, 1,700 college students die each year from alcohol-related injuries.

Drug use is also a growing concern on campus. 862 Pennsylvanians between the ages of 15 and 24 died from drug overdoses in 2016, and overdose deaths in Pennsylvania continue to rise. Addressing drug use on campuses is critical to keeping students safe.

One in five young adults also experiences a mental health condition. In addition to suffering the direct impacts of these conditions, students often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. In fact, 1 in 12 college students admit to making a suicide plan at some point in their young lives.

“All of these issues are connected – drug and alcohol abuse, mental health and sexual assault,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “To address one problem, we have to address them all as one community. We must reduce the stigma for victims and survivors: it’s not your fault, and we’re here to support you and get the help you need. We hope colleges and universities will use the best practices identified in this report to have broad, open discussions about campus safety and how to promote key initiatives that work for their individual campuses.”

To view the report, please click here.

For more information on campus safety, please visit the Office of Attorney General website.

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