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March 3, 2016

It’s on us


Topher Hoffmann and Alia Gehr-Seloover, graduate student assistants in Student Health and organizers of the It’s On Us paper chain initiative, listen as Chancellor Patrick Gallagher calls upon the University community to stand together in finding sexual violence unacceptable.

Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink and white, a 4,152-link paper chain one-and-a-half times the height of the Cathedral of Learning was unveiled Feb. 22 in the William Pitt Union.

Each link bears the name of a member of the Pitt community who has taken the “It’s on Us” pledge not to be a bystander, but to be part of the solution in creating a campus environment where sexual assault is unacceptable. Pitt’s paper chain was started in October 2014 as part of the University’s participation in the nationwide “It’s on Us” initiative against campus sexual assault (

“This paper chain serves as a metaphor that the University community stands together against sexual assault and harassment. Like an actual chain, each link works together to create something bigger than any individual link,” said chain campaign co-coordinator Topher Hoffman. Said co-coordinator Alia Gehr-Seloover: “By signing this pledge, you pledge to recognize that nonconsensual sex is sexual assault, to identify situations in which sexual assault may occur, to intervene in situations where consent cannot or has not been given and to create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.”

As part of the unveiling event that included comments by a sexual assault survivor, members of the Pitt Police and the Title IX office, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said sexual assault “is something that is counter to our very purpose. There just can’t be a place for sexual assault, sexual violence or sexual harassment in a place that’s designed to welcome us, to provide opportunity and to be a place of learning and growth.”

He commended participants for taking a public stand and creating a powerful representation of the message.

“This is about our identity as an institution. This is about our identity as a University community,” Gallagher said, noting that the paper chain represents individual and collective commitments.

“It calls us out to all individually commit; to look at ourselves and our own behavior and how we can all play a role in creating a campus culture that doesn’t support sexual violence,” he said.

“It’s also the case that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. It’s more than our responsibility to ourselves for our own behavior; it’s our responsibility to each other.

In the end, if we’re going to succeed and make a big difference, we actually have to act as a community.
“We’re going to have to create a value where this is simply unacceptable behavior and that we collectively take action to back that sense of value.”

The chain is on display this week in Alumni Hall; then it will be broken up and displayed at various offices around campus, Title IX coordinator Katie Pope told the University Times.

To arrange to display the chain in your area of campus, contact Hoffman at

—Kimberly K. Barlow 

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