Pitt’s response to sexual misconduct survey taking shape

The University’s community-driven response to the Association of American Universities (AAU) campus climate survey on sexual assault and misconduct is starting to produce some concrete results.

Last week, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher approved a proposal to formally establish a centralized sexual misconduct prevention and education office within the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

In addition, 12 people were named to the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct, which will meet for the first time in February. Liz Miller, who directs the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine within Pitt’s School of Medicine, will lead the council. Katie Pope, associate vice chancellor for civil rights and Title IX, will serve as the group’s staff liaison.

Others on the council are: Deborah Brake, professor of Law; Betty Braxter, associate professor of Nursing; Jessica Burke, professor, Graduate School of Public Health; Jay Darr, director of the University Counseling Center; Rachel Gartner, assistant professor, School of Social Work; undergraduate student Kirsten Lipsky, engineering; Michele Montag, executive director for staff personnel and senior assistant dean, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences; graduate student Yemi Olaiya, School of Law; undergraduate student Mary Roche, political science and sociology; and Penny Semaia, senior associate athletic director for student life.

This new sexual misconduct prevention and education office, according to Gallagher’s announcement, will focus on four initial tasks:

  1. Partnering with groups across campus to deliver clear, consistent education that positions prevention as essential in all areas of campus life.

  2. Supporting peer educators.

  3. Utilizing best practice primary prevention programs, such as SETpoint, to deliver mandatory education programs as well as ongoing primary prevention programs to students, faculty and staff. 

  4. Collaborating with the Advisory Council on the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct to assess Pitt’s new and ongoing education efforts. 

Dedicated funding streams 

Pitt’s response to the report included creating dedicated funding streams to energize grassroots solutions. These include: A separate Pitt Seed funding cycle devoted to financing faculty and staff solutions for preventing sexual misconduct; additional grants for student groups promoting a positive culture change to prevent sexual misconduct; and grants, selected via a peer review process, to fund research on preventing sexual misconduct.

A combined $250,000 was awarded to seven Pitt Seed proposals from faculty and staff, including:

  • “Title IX/Green Dot Initiative for Pitt-Bradford and Pitt-Titusville,” Christy Clark, chief of staff to the president, Pitt-Bradford

  • “Encouraging Faculty, Staff, and Student Participation in Primary Prevention,” Sheila Confer, Academic Village director, Pitt-Greensburg

  • “Translating TGQN Campus Climate Findings into Practice,” faculty member Rachel Gartner, School of Social Work

  • “Culturally Sensitive Sexual Misconduct Prevention Programming for International Graduate and Professional Students,” Holger Hoock, Dietrich School associate dean, Graduate Studies and Research

  • “LGBTQIA+ Empowerment Self-Defense,” K. Briar Somerville, Office of Diversity and Inclusion staff member

  • “Exploring Black Undergraduate College Women’s Experiences with Sexual Misconduct: Knowledge of Resources, Barriers to Access, and Strategies to Improve Engagement and Outcomes,” Lynissa Stokes, post-doc, School of Medicine

  • “We Hear You, Let’s Talk About It,” Katie Stumpp, director of sports camps, Department of Athletics

In addition, the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Research and the Office of the Provost have approved two Pitt Momentum Fund proposals for research on preventing sexual misconduct, which will receive a combined $54,000 in grants.

  • “Safely Staging Sex and Violence for the Academic Performer,” Karen Gilmer, lecturer, Department of Theatre Arts, Dietrich School
  • “Using Environmental Scans to Guide Campus Sexual Misconduct Prevention,” faculty member Liz Miller, School of Medicine

“To be clear: These efforts are just beginning,” Gallagher said in his announcement. “The data and discoveries that we generate along the way will purposefully shape our community-driven response, and I look forward to seeing what our collective efforts can accomplish in the months and years ahead.”

— Susan Jones


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