Senator Judy Schwank, PASSHE respond to assaults on Kutztown University campus

Responding to the series of assaults on Kutztown University’s campus, Sen. Judy Schwank sent a letter to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education on March 15.

In her letter to the PASSHE Board of Governors Chair Guido Pichini, Schwank notes that while she is confident that KU Police in cooperation with State Police will do their best to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice, Swank expresses her concern.

“I am concerned that these incidents in and around KU represent an alarming and growing trend of criminal activity, which endangers students, especially female students, and local residents alike,” wrote Swank.

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“While Kutztown University has been placed in the spotlight by these recent incidents, I have received anecdotal evidence that other universities in the PASSHE system are experiencing similar issues,” she wrote. “And if this is not an issue on all campuses now, it is likely to become one in the not-so-distant future.”

Schwank requested to hear Pichini’s perspective on the issue of student safety and campus crime. She wishes to “discuss concrete steps we can take to get at the root causes of crime and better protect our college students.”

The Senator also noted in her letter to PASSHE that she had convened meetings in October and early this month with borough officials, local and state law enforcement, state agencies and KU officials to discuss ways to work together to deal with underage drinking, deter criminal activity and improve safety in Kutztown.

“The results of these meetings were encouraging,” wrote Schwank.

Potential funding resources were identified. They discussed opportunities for interagency cooperation and collaboration. She also noted educational and outreach efforts were planned.

“These efforts should yield positive results,” wrote Schwank. “However, I believe that we must address the issue of student safety and crime on campuses from a larger, system-wide perspective.”

Speaking from the System level, Kenn Marshall, Media Relations Manager, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, provided a general statement related to their efforts to address student safety.

“Student safety on all of our campuses is of paramount concern. Protecting our students from becoming victims of crime is a top priority. When incidents such as those that occurred on the Kutztown campus happen, our initial concern is for the victim,” said Marshall.

Marshall noted that PASSHE campuses are diverse environments similar to any municipality. He said they partner with local, state, and federal law enforcement “to provide a safe adult living and learning environment on and around our campuses.”

“We use an organized, high-visibility approach including an aggressive crime prevention program with training for students, faculty and staff. Our university public safety departments are staffed with commissioned, trained and fully equipped police similar to any municipality,” said Marshall.

In addition to the police presence, he said they also attempt to provide students options to avoid danger and protect themselves. When crimes occur, they use a rapid response model to assist victims and investigate crimes. And they are always looking to improve upon what they are doing.

“We will continue with all of those efforts and more in order to ensure our campuses remain as safe as possible,” said Marshall.