Title IX Office stopped using disputed flyer in October


As Pitt continues to respond to the results of the AAU campus climate survey on sexual assault and misconduct, members of the Pitt community have written an open letter to the Title IX Office, asking it to apologize for a flyer handed out during a campus training.

According to the letter, teacher’s assistants received a flyer titled “Are you Being Sexually Harassed?” This flyer, according to the letter, “demonstrates on many counts the Title IX Office’s failure to both legitimize the experiences of survivors of sexual harassment; and to protect the students and employees of the university who are most vulnerable to sexual harassment.“ It’s unclear who wrote the letter, and how many have signed it in support. “Edited” copies of the letter appeared in Posvar Hall.

“The Title IX office should ideally be positioned to provide the proper educational materials to prevent sexual harassment and support survivors — but this flyer demonstrates that the university is not equipped to do so,” the letter read.

The core of the criticism stemmed from two portions of the article. A part of the article said sexual harassment “happens to all types of people in all areas of life,” and another part said, “it’s easy to confuse a compliment with harassment.”

In distributing these flyers with these statements, the Title IX Office, “fails to acknowledge that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that disproportionately affects women, people of color, and LGBTQI+ individuals” and is “implying that individuals are unable to identify the experience that they had as sexual harassment.”

Katie Pope, associate vice chancellor for Civil Rights and Title IX, said in a statement that the Title IX Office stopped using the handout in October, “after learning some community members had concerns with the language.”

“We’d like to thank them for engaging us on this important topic and will continue to advocate for our entire University community,” Pope said. “The Title IX Office is committed to preventing all forms of sexual and gender-based violence, misconduct and harassment, and we provide education through programs available to the entire Pitt community.”

This comes as the Title IX office is working to improve transparency through town halls and community outreach. It’s also re-evaluating and expanding prevention training programs for faculty, staff and students. The office is expected to release more information about its initiatives in January 2020.

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at dharrell@pitt.edu or 412-383-9905.  


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