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Penn State students hold 'Untimely Warning' protest demanding better support for victims of sexual assault

A crowd gathered at the Allen Street Gates to protest sexual violence at Penn State on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. The event was hosted by Students Against Sexist Violence.
Becky Marcinko
A crowd gathered at the Allen Street Gates to protest sexual violence at Penn State on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. The event was hosted by Students Against Sexist Violence.

The organization Students Against Sexist Violence hosted a protest on Friday against sexual violence at Penn State. The group presented a list of demands for the university, including supporting victims of sexual violence and banning fraternities.

More than 50 chanting people marched from the Allen Street Gates to campus and finally ended at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house on campus, better known as “Fiji.”

Charlie, a member of Students Against Sexist Violence, said the group decided to plan the protest after a member of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Fiji chapter allegedly raped a 17-year-old. That fraternity is now suspended.

Charlie, who would not give a last name out of concerns over backlash and was the designated speaker for the group, said another reason for the protest was the apparent increase in reported sexual assaults at Penn State this semester.

“Penn State does not do anything to protect victims, so we’re here to demand justice for that,” Charlie said.

The "Untimely Warning" protest — a play on the Clery Act required Timely Warning alerts for sexual assaults on or near campus — featured speakers, like student Nora Van Horn of the Schreyer Gender Equity Coalition, who touched on topics like how the university only recently released the results of a 2018 sexual misconduct survey.

“We asked [Penn State] to fulfill basic, low-bar commitments in private conversations,” Van Horn said. “They did not. In response, we wrote an open letter, and Penn State, two weeks later, released the survey report… They released the survey report to do the bare minimum, and they failed to reach even that benchmark.”

Some students also elected to share their experiences with sexual violence during the event.

In a guest post on Penn State president Eric Barron’s “Digging Deeper” blog, vice president for Student Affairs Damon Sims wrote Sunday about the university's “commitment to addressing sexual misconduct.”

“Even as we point to substantial University resources and leadership committed to these purposes, including a relatively new Title IX unit within Affirmative Action and a separate, but related, Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response focused acutely on these concerns, we acknowledge that sexual assault and harassment still vex our community,” Sims wrote.

Sims said numbers of sexual assaults this year were similar to post-COVID years. In the first six weeks of this fall semester, he said there have been 20 rapes and sexual assaults at University Park, the same as in 2019.

The ultimate goal is zero cases, according to Sims, who also outlined training and reporting resources at the university.

He said the administration can create these resources, “But every student, as well as every faculty and staff member, shares a duty to one another to live their lives in ways that give no space for sexual misconduct of any kind.”

Becky Marcinko is a fall 2021 news intern for WPSU.
Emily Reddy is the news director at WPSU-FM, the NPR-affiliate public radio station for central and northern Pennsylvania.