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May 14, 2015

Opinion: Making changes to make Pitt more welcoming to all

Recent events and subsequent media coverage have led some to question the University’s commitment to all members of the LGBTQIA community, specifically transgender students. In light of this, we would like to take this opportunity to share the progress that has been made over the past several years to create an even more welcoming and inclusive environment for all of our students, faculty and staff.

This progress is the result of ongoing discussions with students and others, both inside and outside the University, and consultation with colleagues at other universities and publicly available resources such as the Transgender Law and Policy Institute guidelines.  These conversations have resulted in a number of changes that are highlighted on a new website, tailored to the transgender student community, that was established in 2013 ( Though the site is directed to students, the information found there is of value to faculty and staff as well.

Some of the changes that have been made over the past five years include:

• Formation of the Gender Treatment Team in 2012 to address specialized needs of students who are dealing with gender identity transitions. This team includes professionals from the University Counseling Center and Student Health Services, who collaborate to offer a range of services and resources tailored to the health care needs of transgender students.

• Development of new approaches to student housing including working with transgender students on a case-by-case basis, recognizing that placement in a private room within the student’s preferred residence hall is often a feasible option. In addition, we are in the process of evaluating various gender-neutral housing options for students.

• Creation of a large number of gender-neutral restrooms around campus, and making information about their location readily available through a map linked to both the LGBTQIA website and the campus map website.

• Establishment of private changing rooms in all major recreation facilities, including Baierl, Trees, Bellefield and the William Pitt Union. The locations of all private locker rooms are listed on the University’s LGBTQIA website.

• Implementation of a major upgrade to the University’s data systems that has enabled students to designate a preferred name to be used in University information systems and course rosters.

As can be seen from this list of practices adopted over the past several years, the University takes very seriously the commitment to ensuring that the needs of all members of our University community are being addressed as we work to continue to enhance our welcoming and inclusive environment. The University remains committed to ongoing dialogue to address needs as they are identified and we urge all members of the campus community to work together with us as we seek to balance the interests of everyone at Pitt. We have presented this information in that spirit, so that we all begin our conversations with the most accurate and recent information on this topic.

Patricia Beeson is provost and senior vice chancellor. Kathy Humphrey is senior vice chancellor for engagement and chief of staff.