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October 29, 2015

Title IX office works to raise awareness

Pitt’s Title IX office is working to raise awareness among University employees and graduate students in response to the Association of American Universities (AAU) campus climate survey of student attitudes and experiences regarding sexual violence and harassment.

“Everybody’s aware that when we’re talking about Title IX, we’re talking about rape, sex assault, stalking, domestic violence, intimate partner violence,” Pitt Title IX coordinator Katie Pope told the University Senate student admissions, aid and affairs committee in a recent presentation.

“We’re also talking about sexual harassment. One of the things that we saw in particular with the AAU survey data is that sexual harassment is often very much underreported,” Pope said. “Folks maybe don’t know that they can report it, or don’t know how to respond to it.”

AAU data show that attention to these issues in orientation and first-year experience activities has raised awareness among incoming undergraduates over the past two years. “Still there’s much more we can continue to do” as part of the University’s focus on reporting and resources, she said.

Pope noted that the University has convened a sexual assault task force in response to the AAU survey, using the Pitt data “to improve what’s already happening and lay new groundwork here on campus.”

Subcommittees are examining ways to include males in prevention and reporting processes, how best to educate faculty and staff, and a “junior year reboot,” in response to the unexpected finding that juniors reported the second-highest rate of incidence, she said.

Pope encouraged members of the campus community who are interested in serving on the task force to contact her.

Pam Connelly, associate vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, who oversees the Title IX office, said that although incoming undergraduate students are more aware that sexual violence and harassment fall under Title IX’s prohibition on gender-based discrimination, graduate students are behind the learning curve.

“And for faculty and staff, it’s a real radical change,” given that Title IX historically had been associated with women’s access to athletic programming.

“In the next two months, our top priorities are going to be developing customized, Pitt-specific training to (employee and grad student) populations,” she said.

Graduate students, given their multiple roles on campus, “are at the crossroads of all of this,” Connelly noted. “They could have a student-on-student issue; they could have one of their students have an issue with them; they could have a student report something to them; or they could have an issue with their faculty, their PI or adviser. They’re in the heart of all of it, so that’s definitely a priority for us.”

Connelly said many faculty and staff already have completed an online training module on preventing discrimination and sexual violence (available under the “education” tab at “I really recommend taking it if you haven’t,” she said.

Pope said anyone on campus can make a report to the Title IX office, adding that “responsible employee” expectations apply to faculty and staff. “When an incident of sexual violence or sexual misconduct is reported to you, a responsible employee of the University, it’s expected that will be shared with the Title IX office. (See

Pope noted that the release of the AAU survey ( has prompted inquiries to her office over how the reporting processes work. “It has increased the conversation,” she acknowledged.

Connelly agreed, adding that the issues being raised — particularly with regard to harassment — dovetail with diversity and inclusion.

“It’s making people take a step back and look at how we interact with each other,” she said.

“That’s been a big reaction, because I think the harassment data was surprising. People may complain of a politically correct world, but the AAU climate survey does not support that.”


In other business at the student admissions, aid and affairs committee’s Oct. 15 meeting:

• Members heard a plea for clarification on Pitt’s policies regarding undergraduate student volunteers in University laboratories by psychology faculty member Sybil Streeter, who oversees the department’s experiential learning placements. Some faculty find students are discouraged from volunteering in labs, she said, in favor of paid or for-credit opportunities only.

• In response to issues raised recently at Senate Council by Graduate and Professional Student Government (GPSG) President Joseph Kozak, committee co-chair Robin Kear said the committee will look into reports that some graduate students feel disconnected from the University.

Kear said she has been in communication with Alberta Sbragia, vice provost for graduate studies, and hopes to invite her to an upcoming meeting. She also plans to raise the issue at the University Senate expanded executive committee meeting.

“Maybe some centralization may alleviate some issues,” she said.

Committee co-chair Cho Cho Lin commented that despite many graduate student services here, “Pitt and students are not connected — and how do we make the connection?”

David Gau, GPSG representative to the committee, said that although student life programming is open to all students, “I think a lot of graduate students don’t understand that,” adding that many attend GPSG events, or school-based events.

Gau added that GPSG is working to fight decentralization in the graduate schools. A lot of schools are doing duplicate things, he said, noting that one area of overlap, for example, is in career development events.

“Every school will do their own career development thing and the feedback we get is ‘not a lot of people showed up.’ We also find out that 10 of the 14 schools are doing the same event and they bring the same speakers in. We’re really trying to get everyone talking, to start, so we all know what we’re doing and maybe we can share resources,” he said.

“The system is decentralized. We’re trying to see how we can bring some parts together.”

The committee’s next meeting is set for 4 p.m. Nov. 19 in 272 Hillman Library.

—Kimberly K. Barlow        


Events addressing sexual violence

Events addressing sexual violence and related issues are scheduled in the coming weeks.

• The Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Gender and Violence: Crossing Boundaries and Bridging Divides series will feature “Global/Local: Contrasting Issues of Gender and Violence in Global and Local Contexts,” at 12:30 p.m. Nov. 2 in the Barco Law Building Alcoa Room.

Valerie Oosterveld of Western Law School in Ontario will present the global perspective, speaking on “Gendered Crimes Against Humanity.”

Presenting the local perspective will be Pamela W. Connelly, associate vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, and Katie Pope, Title IX coordinator, speaking on “Sexual Assault and Misconduct: Campus Climate and Response.”


• Lucas Gottzén, Department of Child and Youth Studies at Stockholm University, will present “Affective Atmosphere and Domestic Violence” at 4 p.m. Nov. 5 in 1228 Cathedral of Learning. Drawing on data from two qualitative studies on masculinity and domestic violence in Sweden, this lecture will address the relation between space, affect and violence.



• Pitt, in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education, will host a daylong conference, “Reducing Dangerous and Underage Drinking: Innovative Strategies for the Millennial Generation,” to foster discussion between experts and faculty, staff and administrators from area universities.

The event, set for 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Nov. 10 in the William Pitt Union, will focus on prevention and education, health and wellness, strategies for addressing alcohol consumption and sexual violence, support for special populations and effective community partnerships.

Keynote speakers are:

—Elizabeth Miller, chief of adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospital and faculty member in pediatrics in the School of Medicine, who will speak on college health center interventions. Her presentation will introduce a study of a brief harm-reduction counseling intervention to reduce sexual violence among students.

—Brian Suffoletto, faculty member in emergency medicine, and Don Taylor, CEO and founder of the population healthcare informatics company healthStratica, who will discuss a text-message binge drinking prevention program for college students.

For a full list of sessions and details on registration, visit


• The Theatre Arts Department will present “Good Kids” Nov. 11-22 in the Heymann Theater. Set in a Midwestern high school and inspired by current events, the play explores the aftermath of a sex crime and its cover-up.

Performances are Tuesday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.  Admission is free to Pitt students; $5 for other students; $12.50 for adults.

For reservations and information visit


• The Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh will conduct a training session on domestic violence issues, in conjunction with Pitt’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, 1-3 p.m. Nov. 13 in 342 Craig Hall.

Topics will include confidentiality, the impact of domestic violence, safety planning, active listening, crisis intervention and the legal system as it pertains to domestic violence.

RSVP to 8-7861 by Nov. 9.



• The award-winning 2011 documentary on sexual assault in the U.S. military, “The Invisible War,” will be screened at 11 a.m. Nov. 14 in Barco’s Alcoa Room. Discussion with attorney Susan Burke, who is featured with her veteran clients in the film, will follow at noon.




• Noel Busch-Armendariz will present the School of Social Work’s Raymond R. Webb Jr. Lecture at noon Nov. 17 in 2017 Cathedral of Learning.

Busch-Armendariz,  associate dean for research and director of the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at the University of Texas-Austin, will present “Are Children and Women for Sale? Yes and It’s a $150 Billion Industry.”

Filed under: Feature,Volume 48 Issue 5

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