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January 21, 2016

Increase in sexual harassment prevention & response training proposed

Provost Patricia E. Beeson has asked the University Senate to review and endorse plans to require faculty and staff to complete sexual harassment prevention and response training at least every four years.

Irene Frieze, Senate vice president, told Faculty Assembly last week that the request will be on the Assembly’s Feb. 9 agenda, adding that relevant Senate committees may want to discuss the proposal prior to the planned vote next month.

Currently, new University employees must complete an online course on prevention of sexual harassment, but no follow-up training is required.

A provost’s ad hoc committee, charged in March 2015 with reviewing the University’s sexual misconduct policies and procedures, is recommending the additional training.

The committee also is recommending:

• That senior administrators or responsibility center heads be given discretion to require more frequent training for certain units, divisions or departments, depending on “the nature of the unit or the climate within the unit.”

• That multiple forms of training, such as face-to-face workshops or video training, be made available.

• That the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, in collaboration with the Office of the Provost and the Office of Human Resources, coordinate the development of the training and oversee its implementation, including monitoring whether employees have completed the required training.

In response to a question on the recommendation allowing for additional training at a unit leader’s discretion, Pam Connelly, associate vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, said the aim is to allow for flexibility to request customized training or to address problem areas.

A dean might choose to take additional steps if data revealed that the school’s frequency of issues was higher than the University’s overall rate, for instance. Or, the dean might request customized training related to specific problems if data showed a pattern as to the nature of the sexual harassment — involving violence, or centered on graduate students, for example, Connelly said.

The Council of Deans approved the committee’s recommendations in November.


In a presentation outlining the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s work, Connelly told Faculty Assembly that a comprehensive sexual harassment program for students is under development, separate from the recommendations for faculty and staff training.

“The AAU climate survey results that came out this year really demonstrated to us that we needed to do more than a one-and-done type educational strategy,” she said, adding that a comprehensive four-year plan that “follows the life of the student” is under development.

Pitt was among 27 Association of American Universities (AAU) institutions that participated in the 2015 survey of student attitudes and experiences regarding sexual violence and harassment. (See

Connelly pointed out that the University’s Title IX obligations prohibiting sexual violence and misconduct extend to study-abroad programming, adding that Pitt’s Study Abroad office has been proactive in modifying its orientation and handbooks for faculty and students who go abroad. “They’ve been a model for other universities,” she said.

Connelly said the University also is developing graduate student training that will include vignettes based on real cases that have occurred here and elsewhere. “Truly graduate students are at the center of a lot of these issues because of the unique role they play here and because of their unique status,” she said. “They are a particularly vulnerable group.”

Connelly asked faculty to reach out to her office if they find aspects that need addressing. “If anyone on any of these issues sees holes or gaps … please reach out to us. While we’ve done a lot of work, I know we are not perfect in these areas,” she said.


Before the Office of Diversity and Inclusion was established in May 2015, “there were pieces of it that existed before, under the Human Resources department, but it was structurally moved and enlarged and now is part of the Chancellor’s office,” Connelly said.

“The real mission of the office is to coordinate and expand the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said Connelly, whose office also is responsible for affirmative action and Title IX compliance.

“We want to focus on a University-wide culture and partner across the different units,” she said.

“There’s been a lot happening in this area every day since May. We have done a lot of listening about the current climate; we have done a lot of learning about the current resources and the current pockets of excellence that we have. And we really have done a lot of collaboration with different groups on where do we go from here and where should we move forward,” Connelly said.


“Everything we work on is what I call cross-jurisdictional … which makes them uniquely challenging,” she said. “It’s often hard to deal with issues here that span beyond just faculty or just students or just staff.”

For instance, Title IX, which historically was thought of in the context of ensuring women’s opportunities in sports, more recently has been understood as covering every person at the University. “Title IX says you can’t be discriminated against based on gender. It applies to students, faculty and staff,” she said.

“It’s an interesting position to be in because it’s an awful lot of partnering with people to try to move the whole institution forward toward its goals.

“We really want to be a resource for a lot of different units as well. We’re responsible for equal employment opportunity compliance.”

When it comes to compliance, “Our perspective is compliance is going to hopefully be the secondary result of what we’re doing. It’s not the goal. Compliance is the baseline. … What we really want to strive for is best practices in diversity and inclusion. As a result of that, we should be meeting all our compliance requirements under the law,” Connelly said.

The establishment of the office “means we have people focused on this every single day of the year,” she said. “When I came here, I saw there were many pockets of excellence dedicated to this but often they have full-time other jobs and it’s really sometimes difficult to get as much work done as they wanted to do. So we can really help partner on this and help bring people together,” she said.

In addition, “we’re really trying to help communication across units, so we can leverage what we do to be more effective.”


Connelly said her office works extensively with Student Affairs, especially with its cross cultural and leadership development office, and with the Office of the Provost.

Other partnerships include working with the Office of the Chief Financial Officer to develop an effective supplier diversity program; with the provost’s advisory committee on women’s concerns, the University Senate equity, inclusion and anti-discrimination advocacy committee and Senate Council on the chancellor’s charge to develop a strategy for a more inclusive campus. (See Nov. 25 University Times.)

Connelly’s office also works with Pitt’s regional campuses, which are their own regional drivers for diversity, each with their own unique challenges, she said. “We want to make sure they’re included.”

She introduced new staff member Lisa Garland, who will head up efforts in cultural engagement and diversity, “which, especially for staff, has been undeveloped,” Connelly said.

Garland will facilitate publicity for diversity-related events. “We’re trying to get that centralized in one place so that if someone is looking for what’s on the menu this week, we have it in one place.”

She also will work on developing and expanding employee affinity groups, including Equipoise and a new Latino/a group. (See Sept. 3 University Times.) “We have plans to expand those groups so that they are actively engaged in community, planning events and making this a more welcoming place for everyone,” Connelly said.

“Diversity is a broad concept,” she said, adding that race is important, but religion and socioeconomic status likewise are factors to consider in increasing diversity in the campus community. She reported that efforts are being made to raise the number of veterans on the Pitt staff, and to facilitate hiring people with disabilities.


Several faculty members inquired about the impact of diversity efforts on faculty searches.

Connelly said her office offers training for search committees and can provide data, including information on the number of PhD graduates from underrepresented minorities, for instance.

She said the University’s policies and procedures for faculty recruiting already are in place, noting that the “pre-audit form” that must be filled out asks about the makeup of the search committee as well as the scope of the recruitment efforts —  including targeted recruitment of underrepresented minorities.

“If any of you have been on searches in the past year, you may know that we’ve been looking at that a lot closer in the past eight months,” she said. “That will continue.”

When the search process is complete, another required form asks about the finalists and the reasons for hire.

Some faculty expressed concern about whether the lack of a diverse applicant pool could result in a failed search.

“You can’t create the perfect candidate from thin air,” Connelly acknowledged. “In the vast majority of cases we’re going to be looking at your efforts,” she said. “In my experience, when someone has reached out in the proper way … it’s not going to be a do-over.”

—Kimberly K. Barlow    

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