Obama Chief of Staff Tina Tchen: Sexual Assault Prevention as a Community Issue

Ms. Tchen discussed White House’s “It’s on Us” campaign at the 2015 International Town & Gown Association Conference.

Tina Tchen
Assistant to President Barack Obama and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama Tina Tchen gave a keynote speech at the International Town & Gown Association (ITGA) 2015 Conference.
June 08, 2015
Members of every community have an integral role in preventing and changing the culture around sexual assault, Assistant to President Barack Obama and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama Tina Tchen said during a keynote address at the International Town & Gown Association (ITGA) 2015 Conference
 
The ITGA conference, held this year at the George Washington University June 1-3, convenes neighbors, civic leaders, city planners, university administrators, students and faculty and offers them a chance to discuss issues in their communities.
 
“GW has been active in ITGA for several years, and the university’s community-based planning techniques have made it an innovator among its peers across the country,” Director of Community Relations Britany Waddell said. “We were proud to bring this international event to the nation's capital."
 
This year the annual conference attracted more than 300 individuals who attended sessions and workshops on community relations, campus planning models, university-city partnerships, campus safety and civic engagement among others. 
 
GW President Steven Knapp gave welcoming remarks at the conference and shared the university’s goal of promoting positive relations with neighbors on its three campuses. 
 
During her keynote, Ms. Tchen focused on what individuals could do to address the issue of sexual assualt in their own communities. Ms. Tchen, who is also the executive director for the Council on Women and Girls, said that more than 600 colleges have embraced “It’s On Us.” She added that she hopes the momentum will continue beyond university campuses.
 
“For those of you from the community… we want to keep extending this reach. We think this is a platform that works not just for what happens on campus, but for what happens in the broader community,” she said. 
 
Sexual assault prevention has gained attention on college campuses across the country after the White House launched “It’s On Us,” a national awareness campaign championed by President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. The campaign’s main message is that everyone has a responsibility in stopping sexual assault. 
 
Dr. Knapp, former Student Association President Nick Gumas, B.A. ’14, and other campus leaders attended the campaign’s launch event at the White House last September and pledged to be “active bystanders” who help stop sexual assault before it happens. 
 
Ms. Tchen said that enthusiastic college students have energized the campaign and made it “broadly inclusive” and applicable to any community. The design of the “It’s On Us” logo, for example, is purposefully customizable so that people can add their school or state colors, Ms. Tchen explained.
 
Following Ms. Tchen’s remarks, the White House’s Associate Director of Public Engagement Kyle Lierman, B.B.A. ’10, joined her onstage to answer a few questions from moderator Dick Golden. Mr. Lierman pointed out examples of university communities that have exemplified the goals of the “It’s On Us” campaign, and lauded GW’s own efforts to create awareness videos that cater to varied audiences
 
“They actually did six or seven PSAs targeted to different communities—they had athletes, they had Greek life, they had the LGBT community, they had religious communities, they had multicultural communities, making sure that people see their own faces and their own own community members. I thought that was a really effective way of getting the message across not just to one segment of people, but really to everybody,” Mr. Lierman said.
 
He added that universities shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to local partners who can also support student efforts. 
 
“If you’re a college president or a leader on your campus, you can pull a group of folks together and help stop this. If you’re a mayor, a city council member or working in state or city government, you can pull folks together and have that conversation as well,” he said.