A petition calling for the establishment of a Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center (SARPC) at Richmond has resurfaced after two Westhampton College students criticized the university's handling of their Title IX cases.

Gemma Pansch, WC '15, and Whitney Schwalm, WC '15, created the online petition in the spring of 2015 to bring attention to the need for a rape crisis center on campus. Once the petition reaches its goal of 5,000 signatures it will be sent to numerous members of the university's administration, the Board of Trustees and President Ronald Crutcher among others, according to the online letter.

The petition currently has 2,763 signatures.

“My sophomore year I was going through a lot personally regarding sexual assault, not only with my own experience but with experiences of other people that were very close to me," Schwalm said. "From then on, I knew I wanted to write a proposal at this time that would make a real change at Richmond."

Pansch and Schwalm created the petition their senior year as part of their theses for their healthcare studies class. The petition is a part of the proposal they wrote outlining a three-year plan to gradually create a fully operational SARPC by the fall of 2018.

“It was from personal experience and friends’ experiences not only at Richmond that it hit close to home," Pansch said. "So when I heard Whitney was doing it, I said that I would help."

Recently, the petition has circulated all over social media, with many students and alumni sharing the link on Facebook. Cecelia Carreras, whose articles on the Huffington Post contributor networked sparked the latest conversations about sexual assault, linked to the petition at the end of her second article. 

“It’s something that is not surprising to me, but it is very encouraging to me to see that this discussion has taken on such an intensity and has created such a passion within the community for change,” Schwalm said.

Not everyone is as encouraged as Schwalm though. Freshman Sara Messervey shed some doubt about the petition's timing.

“It’s great that we are trying to make this difference but that fact that we are pulling it from another year shows that we are just trying something again that hasn’t worked before,” Messervey said. 

Sophomore Benedict Reomer supported the petition for a SARPC on campus. 

"Now, more than ever, people are starting to see that we do need some sort of new center or foundation to regulate the way these cases are dealt with on campus."

Contact news writer Stephanie Hagan at stephanie.hagan@richmond.edu

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