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September 29, 2016

Sexual misconduct reporting is everyone’s duty, staff group told

It’s official, Kristy Rzepecki, Pitt’s senior Title IX diversity specialist told the Sept. 20 meeting of the Staff Association Council (SAC): Everyone at the University is responsible for reporting sexual or gender-based misconduct they witness, whether it’s discrimination, harassment or assault.

Although this policy had been in effect for the past two years, Rzepecki said, it now has been issued in writing, giving everyone at Pitt “an obligation to report out to our offices” — apart from information gleaned from students in the counseling center.

Her office also has changed some procedures. Prior to this year, Title IX violation accusations were investigated by a hearing panel, but now her office will do case investigations in-house prior to a hearing. “We need to maintain a neutral playing ground,” she noted, adding that her office still will provide support services for students.

Not all complaints may prompt investigations, she said. Students may want her office to issue a no-contact order without moving forward to the investigation stage. But Title IX officials at Pitt are allowed to press forward with an investigation in cases when a situation is deemed potentially dangerous to the student or the University community.

What happens if a staff member is accused and found not to be guilty, one SAC member asked. Rzepecki said an “outcome letter” stating this result will be placed in the staff member’s personnel file in such cases.

She urged Pitt employees to request her office make longer presentations about its policies and services within individual departments, which can include deeper discussions of employee actions in more specific scenarios.

In other SAC news:

• John Kozar, assistant vice chancellor for Benefits, reported that the University’s new transgender services were put in place on Aug. 15 in compliance with new Department of Labor regulations on sex discrimination. “It’s been quiet — really not much feedback yet” concerning the use of such services, he said. Given that those just beginning a gender transition must go through lengthy counseling and hormone therapy before choosing any surgical procedures, he added: “We don’t expect, as others across the country have seen, that we’ll have a line to get this done.”

• SAC parliamentarian Fiona Seels, from the School of Education’s technology department, reported that her school’s dean search was gearing back up this fall, with the provost visiting the school to elicit suggestions from faculty and staff.

• Alex Toner of the University Library System, SAC’s external relations committee head, announced that the two-year-long University Library System director position search has been restarted, with candidate interviews anticipated for this fall.

—Marty Levine 

Filed under: Feature,Volume 49 Issue 3

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