Cam­pus goal: Keep every­one safe

A.G. rolls out round­table to tackle cam­pus prob­lems, sex as­saults

The Phoenix - - NEWS - By Bill Ret­tew bret­tew@dai­ly­lo­cal.com

It’s not just stu­dents and par­ents who have thoughts and con­cerns about head­ing back to col­lege cam­puses. Penn­syl­va­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Shapiro is se­ri­ous about pre­vent­ing drug and al­co­hol abuse on cam­pus, while at the same time ad­dress­ing men­tal health is­sues and sex­ual as­sault.

Dur­ing a Thurs­day press con­fer­ence at West Ch­ester Univer­sity, the state’s top cop told a packed meet­ing room about a new cam­pus safety ini­tia­tive.

Shapiro un­veiled plans for a se­ries of round­table dis­cus­sions across the Com­mon­wealth will in­volve the in­put of stu­dents, law en­force­ment per­son­nel, vic­tim ad­vo­cates, teach­ers and other staffers to iden­tify strate­gies to pro­mote public health and safety is­sues.

The round­table will take place dur­ing the cur­rent aca­demic year at Dick­in­son Col­lege, Lin­coln Univer­sity, Slip­pery Rock Col­lege and the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh.

The state’s high­est rank­ing law en­force­ment of­fi­cer talked with those at West Ch­ester about his role as a fa­ther, a hus­band and at­tor­ney gen­eral.

Shapiro noted that his daugh­ter will be­come a col­lege fresh­man next year. He talked about drop­ping her

off at her new home.

“When par­ents drive away from cam­pus it’s very ap­pro­pri­ate to be a lit­tle sad, but they shouldn’t be wor­ried,” the at­tor­ney gen­eral said. “We will en­sure that these par­ents have to worry a lit­tle bit less.”

Shapiro said that the team will lis­ten to stu­dents about the chal­lenges they face. Penn­syl­va­nia is home to 750,000 stu­dents, at 200 col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties.

Al­co­hol abuse is tied to sev­eral public health is­sues. Nearly 70 per­cent of sex­ual as­saults are al­co­hol-fu­eled by an in­tox­i­cated per­pe­tra­tor and 43 per­cent in­volve an in­tox­i­cated vic­tim.

Some 1,700 col­lege stu­dents die each year from al­co­hol abuse and 862 Penn­syl­va­ni­ans be­tween the ages of 15 and 24 per­ished from drug abuse in 2016.

Dis­trict at­tor­neys from Ch­ester and Mont­gomery coun­ties, and Philadel­phia, sup­port the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s ini­tia­tive.

“A gen­tle­man never does any­thing that a lady does not want to do,” said Tom Ho­gan, Ch­ester County dis­trict at­tor­ney. “If you are that type of man … you are not aman – not a gen­tle­man – you are a beast.”

Ho­gan said that fe­males also have a re­spon­si­bil­ity, suggest­ing they should not be alone and drunk in a frat

house base­ment at 2 a.m.

Philadel­phia Dis­trict At­tor­ney Kel­ley Hodge told the au­di­ence that we should “en­gage” in con­ver­sa­tion and make sure to fo­cus on what is nec­es­sary.

“This re­quires a lot of lis­ten­ing … you have to do a lot of home­work and record­ing,” Kel­ley said. “We send our chil­dren off to col­lege to learn and hope­fully make them a well-rounded and bet­ter per­son.”

Mont­gomery County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Kevin Steele also at­tended.

“This is where we need to go, where we need to work to­gether,” Steele said. “We can pre­vent this through ed­u­ca­tion. I’m en­cour­aged that we’re mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion but we have a long way to go.”

Stu­dent leader Sab­rina Glass is seek­ing to com­pletely abol­ish sex­ual as­sault on cam­pus, with a fo- cus on healthy mas­culin­ity and un­healthy mas­culin­ity.

State Sen. Andy Din­ni­man, D-19 of West Goshen, said that while solv­ing prob­lems, those prob­lems have to be ad­dressed within the context of the in­sti­tu­tion.

Shapiro took a ques­tion from the au­di­ence.

He said that vic­tims re­port­ing a crime de­serve re­spect and to not be stig­ma­tized.

“When they come for­ward and re­port, that com­plaint should be fun­neled through an ap­pro­pri­ate process,” Shapiro said. “They need to have con­fi­dence in that process.

“We will not tol­er­ate ad­min­is­tra­tors sweep­ing this un­der the rug. It’s not your fault. We have to sup­port you and­make sure re­sources are here to sup­port you.”

WCU was near the top of a list rat­ing the na­tion’s safest col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, as de­ter­mined by a trade as­so­ci­a­tion of home se­cu­rity pro­fes­sion­als. It­was only one of two Penn­syl­va­nia col­leges to be in­cluded on the list.

Carolyn Comitta, D-156, watched the pre­sen­ta­tion from the first row.

“It’s a good start and West Ch­ester Univer­sity is a leader in many ar­eas,” Comitta said. “I’m so proud they’ve earned the recog­ni­tion as one of the safest uni­ver­si­ties.

“Keep­ing our ci­ti­zens safe, es­pe­cially our young peo­ple, is the num­ber one job of elected of­fi­cials at ev­ery level.”

BILL RETTEWJR. – DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

A stand­ing room only au­di­ence at West Ch­ester Univer­sity heard Penn­syl­va­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Shapiro fo­cus on pre­vent­ing drug and al­co­hol abuse, sex­ual as­sault, while ad­dress­ing men­tal health is­sues at Penn­syl­va­nia col­leges.

BILL RET­TEW JR. – DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Penn­syl­va­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Shapiro ad­dresses safety is­sues, while fo­cus­ing on drug and al­co­hol abuse, sex­ual as­sault and men­tal health, Thurs­day dur­ing a fo­rum at West Ch­ester Univer­sity.

BILL RET­TEW JR. – DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

West Ch­ester Univer­sity Pres­i­dent Christo­pher Fiorentino greets Penn­syl­va­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Shapiro dur­ing Thurs­day’s press con­fer­ence at the univer­sity.

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