Paper Chain, Roundtable Discussion Showcase Pitt’s Commitment to Eradicating Sexual Violence

By: Shawn Ahearn, Director of Communication, Division of Student Affairs
The University of Pittsburgh symbolically and productively showcased its commitment to addressing sexual violence on Monday, Feb. 22, as Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, members of the University’s Sexual Assault Task Force, students, faculty, and administrators gathered for the unveiling of a massive “It’s On Us” paper chain—featuring signatures from more than 4,000 members of the Pitt community who are committed to preventing sexual harassment and assault.

Shortly after the chain unveiling and presentations—including a powerful personal testimony by Kristine Irwin, a Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR) volunteer—the University hosted a roundtable discussion with community leaders convened by Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine as part of the new statewide “It’s On Us PA” campaign. Participants included State Senator Jay Costa and State Representative Dan Frankel, a group of Pitt students, and representatives from the PA Department of Education, PA Commission for Women, PA Action Against Rape, Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education, the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, six universities and seven school districts.  

The paper chain, which has steadily increased in length since it was first started in October of 2014 as part of Pitt’s “It’s On Us” campaign, is longer (over 800 feet) than the Cathedral of Learning is high (42 stories, 535 feet). Gallagher said that he appreciates the symbolism of the chain because it not only represents the importance of Pitt’s strong commitment to eradicating sexual misconduct collectively, but also the individual commitment that is needed to effectively address the problem. 

Christopher (Topher) Hoffman, a graduate student assistant in the Student Health Service and a member of the Pitt Sexual Assault Task Force, coordinated the chain project with fellow graduate students Alia Gerh-Seloover and Megan Crilly. 

“We’d like to thank Chancellor Gallagher, who actually was one of the first 50 signatures of the paper chain back in October of 2014 when we first started this campaign,” Hoffman added. “We hope it continues to spark discussion and raises further awareness of how we can all work together to promote dignity and respect for everyone.”

Marian Vanek, director of Pitt’s Student Health Service and chair of the Sexual Assault Task Force, and Pam Connelly, associate vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion at Pitt, were participants in the roundtable discussion.

“It was important to pull various community stakeholders and policy makers together to exchange ideas and deepen the cooperation among agencies,” Connelly said. “It’s important for us all to understand each other and the roles we all play, and also know the resources that are available, whether it’s through the police, PAAR, our Title IX and SHARE (Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education) offices.”

“It was also important to hear from college students,” Connelly continued. “They emphasized the importance of peer-to-peer communication which we cannot underestimate. Having government officials and school district superintendents actively engaged also helps to unify and strengthen our efforts."

Gallagher reaffirmed a message he delivered to the entire University community at the start of the school year: “There just can’t be a place for sexual assault, sexual violence, sexual harassment in a place that is designed to welcome us, to provide an opportunity and be a place of learning and growth,” he said. “So this is about our identity as an institution, this is about our identity as a University community.”

To participate in the "It's On Us" paper chain campaign, contact Topher Hoffman at or 412-624-6174. To learn more about Pitt’s Office of Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education (SHARE), visit
Roundtable discussion with community stakeholders
Costa, Connelly, Levine
Pictured: Senator Jay Costa, Pam Connelly, and Dr. Rachel Levine
Costa, Connelly, Levine
Pictured: James Kirwan, Kelly Boyle, Sharon George, Jasmine Butler, Alia Gehr-Seloover, Topher Hoffman, Kristy Rzepecki, and Marian Vanek
To participate in the "It's On Us" paper chain campaign, contact Topher Hoffman at or 412-624-6174.

To learn more about Pitt’s Office of Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education (SHARE), visit
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