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January 11, 2018

Title IX Investigating After Concerns Raised About Department’s Climate

A blog post in Ms. magazine by former Department of Communication faculty member Carol Stabile, alleging “a climate in our department that was hostile toward women” in the early 2000s, has triggered an investigation by Pitt’s Title IX office. Title IX is federal legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in education, including sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination.

In addition to the Title IX investigation, the University has said that it will request that an external firm review the findings of an investigation into the communications department’s climate and culture that took place in 2004, which found no violations of policies.

Stabile described the environment during her time as tenured professor and said she had heard comments from others that led her to believe issues persist. She is now chair of the Department of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland.

Her blog post describes a lack of advancement by women and people of color and inappropriate sexual comments and relationships, among other issues.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher in a December statement to the University community said: “We are working to ensure that the current culture within our Department of Communication is free from discrimination and harassment. Our Title IX Office is leading a full investigation to assess the department’s present culture and practices. In addition, we will be initiating an external review of previous claims related to the department that date back more than a decade.”

He reiterated that the University’s “top priority and concern is the safety, security and well-being of our students and our employees. Discrimination and harassment of any kind are wholly unacceptable and run contrary to our academic mission and our values as an institution.”

Kathleen Blee, Bettye J. and Ralph E. Bailey Dean of the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, added in her own statement posted on the Dietrich School’s website that “my senior leadership team and I will work with faculty, staff, and students through our School Councils and department and program leadership to fashion a review of practices across the Dietrich School that will advance us further in our commitment to making the Dietrich School a welcoming, inclusive, and engaged community.”

Amber Griffith, president of the Arts and Sciences Graduate Student Organization, said she didn’t wish to comment on the investigation.

The evaluation of the climate involves working with individuals who may bring forth specific concerns or overall feedback about the environment. Issues that come to light during the investigation will be addressed, according to the Title IX office. The office is urging those with concerns about issues such as discrimination or harassment to come forward.

How to Report Incidents to Title IX

Katie Pope, the University’s Title IX coordinator, said staff, faculty and students wishing to file a complaint concerning a possible Title IX violation may do so through the office’s website or start the process via phone (412-648-7860) or email.

“Just because they talk to us doesn’t mean they have to file a complaint,” Pope noted. “We want to be able to provide them resources to help them deal with the situation.”

All reports are kept private, and the complainant is kept appraised of how their complaint is shared with anyone else involved, as proceedings warrant. Retaliation against any party in the reporting process is prohibited under Pitt’s “Statement on Confidentiality and Non-Retaliation in Connection with Investigations.”

Pope said that the Title IX office offers a variety of interim measures that may be used as temporary accommodations, from issuing a “No Contact Order” to shifting a work schedule or supervisor. Those who report incidents may also be directed to outside counseling or other services, if needed.

“We have those conversations before we even receive the who or the what” of an incident, she emphasized. “We really want folks to be able to use us as a resource. They can come in and talk through options and not feel as if they will be pressured to file a formal complaint.”


Marty Levine,, 412-758-4859


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