How Pitt is Complying with Changes in Title IX

Eight visible participants on a Zoom callAn Oct. 22 “Shattering the Statistics” panel discussion hosted by the University of Pittsburgh’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Office unpacked the controversial new regulations surrounding Title IX—the law prohibiting sex discrimination at federally-funded institutions like Pitt.

Panelists were Carrie Benson, director of the Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Office; Katie Pope, associate vice chancellor of civil rights and Title IX; Aarti Patel, a Pitt senior and SAFE peer educator; Megan Schroeder, a PAAR representative; Karina Chavez, executive director of the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education (PCHE); Deborah Brake, Pitt professor of law who specializes in Title IX; Clyde Wilson Pickett, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion; and Thomas Hitter, assistant vice chancellor of policy development and management at Pitt.

The entire discussion is available for viewing on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s website.

Here are key takeaways from “Unpacking the New Title IX Regulations”:

How the rules have changed

  • The definition of sexual harassment has narrowed and is now defined as “any unwelcome conduct that a reasonable person would find so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person equal educational access.”
  • Colleges and universities are now required to allow cross-examination of the complaining and responding parties, as well as any witnesses, during a live hearing led by institution officials. Cross-examination will be conducted by advisers for parties, which may include a lawyer, but not the parties themselves.
  • Colleges are only obligated to respond to reports of sexual harassment that occurred  off-campus if the location is in use by an officially recognized student or institution organization, such as recognized fraternity or sorority housing or athletic housing.
  • Stalking, domestic violence and dating violence are now officially considered examples of sexual harassment under Title IX.
  • Colleges are not obligated to handle complaints of sexual harassment that occur outside the United States.
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Procedure for reporting sexual misconduct at Pitt

  • Start by contacting the Title IX Office at 412-648-7860 or by email at titleixcoordinator@pitt.edu.
  • Talking with a Pitt staff or faculty member is also helpful because they are responsible reporters and will share the information with the Title IX Office.
  • Meeting with a Title IX team member does not mean you must file a complaint or report anything to police. You and the Title IX staffer will talk through the reporting, interim measures and safety.
  • Everyone who comes is given information on accessible resources.
  • The University Counseling Center has a 24-hour hotline at 412-648-7856.
  • You can be anonymous when you report sexual misconduct, but this limits Title IX’s response. “It makes it harder for us to investigate,” said Pope. “We can’t move forward with the formal steps.”

Other takeaways

  • In addition to the new Title IX regulations, Pitt also has a University Sexual Misconduct Policy that has been in effect for years. It prohibits all sexual misconduct, even conduct that falls outside the narrowed definitions within the new Title IX regulations.
  • Educating incoming first-year and transfer students about both polices and issues of consent has been stepped up. It is discussed during first-year and transfer student orientation; the Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Office offers workshops and activities year-round; and the parents of incoming first-year students will begin to receive letters addressing the issue over the summer.
  • There are many resources available to help along these conversations for students in the K-12 space. One such guide is Love Is Respect.
  • PCHE, a consortium representing the 10 accredited colleges and universities in Allegheny County, has made Title IX a priority. Members developed an action plan over the summer and Title IX representatives from all universities have been meeting regularly, building relationships and partnering with PAAR.

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