Title IX Investigation Prompts Communication Climate ‘Rebuild’

Investigations of current and past conduct inside the Department of Communication in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences have found “a consistent pattern in which women were not as valued and respected as their male colleagues,” according to a statement issued March 22 by Kathleen M. Blee, Bettye J. and Ralph E. Bailey Dean.

The investigations discovered “an environment in which the inappropriate acts of the few were tolerated by the silence of others,” which resulted from “failures of systems and failures of character.”

Allegations of sexual misconduct from the early 2000s had resurfaced in a December 2017 Ms. magazine blog post by former department faculty member Carol Stabile. An investigation of departmental climate was subsequently conducted by Pitt’s Title IX office, which examines allegations of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination.

“Those found to have engaged in behaviors that violated Title IX and University policies have received disciplinary sanctions,” Blee wrote in her statement. “We will be vigilant in our monitoring so that such behaviors no longer place us at risk of losing accomplished and promising scholars and students. We will also ensure that all recommended actions to improve the climate are implemented.”

Blee announced that she would work with the Title IX office and the communication department to “rebuild” its administrative apparatus, institute required inclusivity and Title IX training for the department’s faculty, staff and graduate students and employ an “outside facilitator” to aid with department mentoring, focusing particularly on women and underrepresented minorities.

“My goal is not simply to put an end to the inappropriate behaviors,” she said. “It is to restore a climate of civility and collegiality that fulfills the purpose and promise of higher education…”

Blee concluded: “We should do better, and we will do better, beginning immediately.”


Marty Levine, martyl@pitt.edu, 412-758-4859