Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

February 5, 2015

Chancellor to outline how to report sexual assaults

In response to news reports about on-campus sexual assaults at institutions including Duke, Brown and North Carolina State, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher plans to distribute a memo to the University community on individual and institutional responsibilities under federal Title IX and on how to report incidents and concerns.

“What Title IX is basically is an antidiscrimination law that requires institutions of higher education to create an environment where there’s no discrimination, including discrimination by sexual preference or sexual violence,” said Gallagher, noting that sexual assault, in addition to being illegal and subject to law enforcement, also falls under Title IX.

“So there are in fact two classes of responsibilities here: One are individual responsibilities for our actions and fall under the criminal; and then there’s this institutional responsibility to create this environment,” he said in his Jan. 21 report to Senate Council.

“I’m going to be putting out a note to the University community that highlights the fact that as a result of this being under Title IX, there are real responsibilities for everybody who works here,” Gallagher said.

“That’s important that you know when you’re responsible for something. The memo points out that one of those fundamental things that we must do is, if we are made aware of a sexual assault incident or concern on the campus, we must report it. Even if it’s not academic, if it’s happening and it’s made aware to you, you must report it,” he said.

“With that mandate comes help, because these are also very difficult situations and since this is an institutional responsibility, you’re not out there alone,” Gallagher said.

“If somebody makes you aware of something, it can put you in a very difficult situation,” he said, adding, “Part of the reason we want you to report it is that you can also get guidance on how to take care of it.

“The memo will basically clarify the reporting requirement, and also provide some informational resources for everybody, update you on some of the progress we’re making on training for students and other members of the community. … This is not the end of it, but this is an important step.”

Gallagher did not indicate when the memo would be sent.

Gallagher said he prefers to inform the University community early when major issues affecting Pitt are on the horizon, rather than waiting until details on the University’s response are fully formed. “I’d rather give you a heads-up when something important is coming,” he told Senate Council.

A similar issue has been developing with regard to recent state legislation aimed at protecting minors from abuse.

As of Dec. 31, 2014, new employees must obtain state and federal criminal history reports and Department of Human Services (DHS) child abuse history clearances. Clearances must be renewed every three years.

“Anyone who is an employee or is likely to have regular contact with minors must have a child protection clearance, which is basically a background check,” Gallagher said.

“This is eventually going to cover every employee and any volunteer who is working with students. Because of the nature of the organization we are, we can’t corral off those who are likely to interact with somebody under 18 and those who aren’t. We can’t draw that line and I think this ultimately means that it’s going to be uniform.”

Gallagher said the University has been “moving aggressively” to put processes in place in Human Resources to meet the state requirements.

Ken Service, vice chancellor for communications, told the University Times that the University is continuing to seek guidance and clarification from DHS “consistent with our commitment to compliance.” No additional details were available by press time Wednesday.

State appropriations news

Gallagher noted that the state budget cycle is gearing up with appropriations committee hearings in March. Budget discussions are never easy, he said. “Elected officials are under all these constraints and we have to make the case both as the-state related universities and as Pitt, why we are such a value to the commonwealth.”

Gallagher continued: “I’m looking forward to these discussions: I think we’re in a very ripe environment with a lot of new faces and new leaders and I think it’s going to be productive.”

While he expressed concern over a recently released Illinois State University analysis that showed Pennsylvania has fallen to 49th in the nation in its support of higher education, he views the transition to a new governor with some optimism.

“Like all transitions, it always starts with kind of a honeymoon of hope,” Gallagher said.

“I think that’s certainly the feeling now — a lot of optimism that despite the fact that there’s a split power arrangement with a Democratic governor and an increased majority of Republicans in the commonwealth and in the General Assembly … that they will be able to find common ground, and that common ground will be favorable to us,” he said.

“We do know the governor has consistently voiced strong support for education,” Gallagher said, adding that Wolf’s message of economic growth also bodes well for research universities.

“On many fronts I am optimistic that we’re going to have strong support from the governor’s office and I think we’re going to see stronger support from the commonwealth. I hope the stage is set to begin to reverse some of the trends we’ve seen in the current situation of poor support for higher education in Pennsylvania.”

Gallagher said: “Our focus has to remain on providing the maximum value. … It’s easy to produce a cheap education if you don’t care how good it is. We don’t want to do that. We want to provide a great education.

“I think it also focuses on managing our assets wisely. I think Pitt has had a very strong track record there: We have to really double down and make sure that we’re as efficient as possible.”

Planning ongoing

Gallagher reiterated his vision for ongoing institution-wide strategic planning. “With a new leader it’s a good time to refresh direction and take a fresh look,” he said.

“It doesn’t signal that we’re on the wrong path; it doesn’t signal that anything’s broken. It’s simply a time to refresh and revisit context — particularly in light of things outside of the University that are driving change: whether it’s national debates and concerns about the rising burden that tuition places on students; whether it’s the increasing role of technology and disruptive models for how technology can change universities. It’s a good time for us to take a look at that,” Gallagher said.

“Another reason is that it resets and strengthens our relationship with our board. The Board of Trustees is responsible ultimately for the well-being of the University. And we have been basically measuring our progress in a mode that I call ‘Are we better today than we were yesterday?’ We’ve gone for a long period where that, in fact, was the way we were assessing ourselves.

“We’ve now reached a point where we’re among the best and where we sit in the pack is a less meaningful way to measure progress than ‘Are we achieving our goals?’ This planning exercise is really a chance for us to say clearly: What kind of institution do we aspire to be? And to measure ourselves by that benchmark rather than a relative one.”

Gallagher said a wide net for input has been cast, including meetings with trustees, faculty, staff and student government and at the regional campuses, as well as with budgeting committees, senior leadership and the Council of Deans. Now University administrators must put that input into a framework.

“The participation will continue as we look at how do we implement and execute it,” he said. “Planning is not a once-and-done thing. The usefulness of a plan is actually limited because the circumstances you operate in are dynamic,” the chancellor said.

“So the real thing we’re after is the habit of planning: What I’m really after is that we do this routinely, that we put together a plan and set some priorities and work on those priorities. And then we stop and we review how we did and we refresh our plan, and that becomes a continuous improvement.

“That means we don’t have to have the perfect plan Day One: It should be a good plan and we are going to just keep improving,” Gallagher said. “I think this input and support is something that we’ll be collaborating on, on a continuous basis.”

SAC report

Lindsay J. Rodzwicz, Staff Association Council vice president of marketing, reported that nominations for SAC officers will be accepted through the staff council’s May 20 meeting. Tricia Connell of the Office of Institutional Advancement is chairing the ad hoc elections committee.

SAC’s next “lunch and learn” brown bag event is set for noon today, Feb. 5, in the William Pitt Union Assembly Room. Tom Koloc of LifeSolutions will lead a presentation on mindfulness.

SAC’s staff development seminar is set for May 19 in the William Pitt Union. Chancellor Gallagher is the scheduled keynote speaker. Samantha Stephens of athletics is chairing the ad hoc event planning committee.

Event details are posted at

—Kimberly K. Barlow