Pitt chancellor responds to sexual harassment, discrimination allegations against communication department
University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher issued a letter to the Pitt community Wednesday in response to recent allegations of a long-standing culture of sexual harassment and discrimination in the Department of Communication.
“First and foremost: Our top priority and concern is the safety, security and well-being of our students and our employees,” the letter said. “Discrimination and harassment of any kind are wholly unacceptable and run contrary to our academic mission and our values as an institution. We are working to ensure that the current culture within our Department of Communication is free from discrimination and harassment.”
The letter goes on to say that the Title IX Office is leading an investigation of the Department of Communication. In addition, Pitt will initiate an external review of the department. Gallagher notes that some of the claims date back more than 10 years.
The letter is available in full on the Pitt website.
Former professor Carol Stabile, who worked in the Communications and Women’s Studies departments from 1994 to 2005, published an essay to the site Ms. Magazine on Dec. 13. In it, she details what she describes as “a climate that was hostile to women and people of color” in the Communications Department.
She described an atmosphere where colleagues regularly made sexual comments and discussed their sexual interest in students. Stabile also shared anecdotes from graduate students who had been pursued by professors promising favors or job offers.
Stabile said she has met several people — including former students or staff in the department — who had similar experiences since she left the department in 2005, which motivated her to write the essay. Stabile currently serves as the chair of the Department of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland.
Pitt spokesman Joe Miksch confirmed Tuesday that the Title IX investigation was initiated by Stabile’s essay.
This isn’t the first time Pitt has investigated the Department of Communication. An internal investigation into faculty relationships with students was conducted in 2004, concluding that while there was evidence of relationships between senior faculty and students, the department was healthy, according to 2004 reports by The Pitt News, the student newspaper.
The university updated a policy on student-faculty relationships in March 2017. It states that faculty and staff members are not permitted to engage in relationships with students they supervise directly. This policy applies to advisers, coaches, graduate student teaching assistants and members of a department’s thesis and graduate committees, among other positions.
Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at jmartines@ tribweb.com, 724-850 -2867 or vi a Twitter @Jamie _Martines.
Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff reporter. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .