Sexual assault prevention on college and university campuses has been the focus of a national conversation over the past year, raising questions and debate about how best to address this critical issue.

Many agree that student-led solutions may be as effective, if not more so, than institutional programs. Washington State University is fortunate to have quality offerings on both fronts. We have a comprehensive cadre of innovative sexual assault prevention programs offered through the Office of Student Affairs and through Health and Wellness Services. In fact, WSU is one of just a handful of universities in the country to receive a Department of Justice grant for developing best practices for addressing this issue.

We also have strong student leaders who are taking the initiative to develop peer-to-peer solutions. “It’s On Cougs” is the student led, WSU adaptation of the “It’s On Us” sexual assault prevention campaign launched by the White House earlier this month. Long before the national campaign, however, our students were spearheading an effort among all Pac-12 institutions to tackle this issue. At the Pac-12 summit last spring, WSU student representatives initiated a conversation that led to a Day of Action in which all Pac-12, and now all Washington universities, would participate. That Day of Action is today.

Student leaders will brave the cold on the mall outside the Compton Union Building to raise awareness about the role every student plays in preventing sexual violence. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., they will be distributing information, asking students to sign a personal pledge to do what they can to prevent sexual assault, and feeding a social media photo campaign.

The students also will be registering those who want to participate in a longer student-led dialogue, called “Talk to Us”, being held on the Pullman campus this Saturday. Details are available at http://www.aswsu.wsu.edu/. A primary goal of that program is to pull together a team to plan a larger, institution-wide campaign next spring.

The work of ASWSU officers and other student leaders has attracted national attention. In a telephone call earlier this month, White House officials called what WSU students have created a model for other colleges and universities. It is a point of pride for the entire Cougar Nation that our students understand the damaging nature of sexual assault on campus and feel responsible and empowered enough to take action.

Please join me in congratulating WSU students for, once again, leading the way.