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

June 8, 2017

University Senate Matters

Title IX and My Syllabus: Guidelines for the Classroom

The role of a “Responsible Employee” became part of Pitt’s Sexual Misconduct Policy (06-05-01) in the summer of 2016. The policy outlines expectations for faculty, graduate student instructors and staff to report incidents of sexual misconduct to the Title IX office housed in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

This part of the policy has opened many questions about what would be considered a report in classroom situations. More specifically, many instructors had questions about what to do if students share information about a previous assault in class, during office hours or in a written assignment or class project.

After their mandatory training on Title IX, many instructors had follow-up questions about their teaching not directly addressed in the training:

  • “How do I tell students about Title IX?”
  • “Can I put something on my syllabus about Title IX? Should I?”
  • “What should I do if a student talks about sexual assault in a writing assignment? Or during class?”

Instructors in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program (GSWS) often discuss gendered violence as part of coursework and the potential for Title IX questions to arise may be higher than in other disciplines. As a result, the program faculty approached Katie Pope, Title IX coordinator, of the Title IX office. GSWS Director Todd Reeser and the other program faculty wanted to open a discussion about the possibility of a syllabus statement that could be used in all GSWS courses. They wanted to convey to students in writing, from the first day of a given course, instructional practice related to Title IX, but they themselves also wanted to feel less concerned about how and when to convey information to students. A written statement for all program syllabi, they believed, would offer a standardized format to assuage their concerns while complying with University policy. Such a statement would address concerns with the Responsible Employee program while also making clear to students that the primary concern of the institution is to create a positive learning environment and to bring to attention available campus resources.

The GSWS instructors had the classroom experience and Pope had the administrative experience. Their collaborative discussions led to the creation of a suggested syllabus statement, titled Sexual Misconduct, Required Reporting, and Title IX. The statement is now included on all GSWS syllabi.

The guidelines Pope, Reeser and GSWS faculty developed attempt to address anxiety faculty might face both inside and outside the classroom. They wanted faculty to feel confident about how they should respond, and when it was appropriate and necessary to report to Title IX. The guidelines are designed to address reports to faculty that would occur:

  • in the classroom,
  • during office hours or
  • in a class assignment.

Each of these situations presents different circumstances related to whether reports should be made to the Title IX office.

  • In the classroom, if a student reports previous victimization, it may well be part of the natural course of discussion, and therefore not something that an instructor would be required to report.
  • However, if a student seeks out a professor after class or during office hours to discuss a previous assault or to ask for help due to that assault, that would be considered a request for help to a Responsible Employee, and therefore, should be reported to Title IX.
  • In a situation involving a class project or paper in which a student reveals an incident, the instructor would not be required to report to Title IX. However a student who may come forward, asking for assistance, as a result of a project or paper would trigger the Responsible Employee role.
  • The GSWS program has made these guidelines available on their website for any instructor to use. Instructors interested in adapting these guidelines should contact Pope to discuss.

The Title IX office was very pleased to engage in this discussion and process with GSWS and to have had the opportunity to work with the program on these guidelines. While these guidelines represent a positive step forward in clarifying Responsible Employee expectations for faculty and for students, the Title IX office is committed to providing ongoing training and assistance for faculty and staff who want to know more about how to have conversations with students that may report. Available resources include a video based on student feedback after reporting to a Responsible Employee. The Office is developing in-depth training that will use case studies and scenarios to facilitate practicing talking to anyone who might report, talking to that person about the Responsible Employee role and helping them to better understand what happens once a report is given to the Title IX Office.


Todd Reeser is the program director for Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (GSWS) and professor of French and GSWS. He can be reached at

Katie Pope is Title IX coordinator in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. She can be reached at

Leave a Reply