As we settle into a new academic year, educating the campus community on how to report cases of sexual harassment and misconduct remains a top priority for Pitt. If you’ve experienced an incident, or a colleague or student tells you about one that’s happened to them, the Title IX Office is here to help.
Reporting a case to the Title IX Office does not mean that there will be a criminal case or even a formal investigation. In most cases, the complainant is the person who decides how the case moves forward — if it does at all.
Here are commonly asked questions about the Title IX reporting process, and guidance on what to do if you experience sexual misconduct or harassment.
What is Title IX?
Title IX is landmark federal civil rights legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in education. Title IX includes sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination and sexual violence. It encompasses attempted or completed rape or sexual assault, as well as sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism, exhibitionism, verbal or physical sexuality-based threats or abuse and intimate partner violence.
Title IX protects all members of the University community — students, faculty and staff.
What does Pitt’s Title IX office do?
Created in 2015, the Title IX Office at Pitt exists with the goal of creating a campus environment for all students, staff and faculty that is fair, inclusive and free from sexual or gender-based misconduct, including discrimination, harassment and assault.
The Title IX Office staff is here to meet with people who may have experienced sexual misconduct or harassment and talk them through what their options are. All Title IX Office staff have undergone trauma-informed care training.
They can also provide interim measures (more on these below), such as changes in housing assignments, a no-contact order or other accommodations within hours of contacting their office with a complaint. They can also help complainants file a formal complaint with the University of Pittsburgh Police Department.
The Title IX Office can also help direct people to resources on and off campus, such as counseling and health-related services.
What should I do if I experience sexual misconduct or harassment?
Ways to report an incident to Title IX
Monday – Friday
8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
200 Webster Hall
911 or 412-624-2121
Step one: Report the incident. If you experience sexual misconduct or harassment, you are encouraged to contact the Title IX Office and get in touch with a representative (see sidebar).
For many complainants, reporting an experience that happened to them can be a very challenging decision. If you prefer to reach out to a colleague to talk about what happened, you must know about the Responsible Employee program, which requires all Pitt faculty and staff to report incidents made aware to them to the Title IX Office.
If you experience sexual harassment or misconduct and want to talk confidentially, you still can. Instead of talking to a colleague, you are encouraged to speak with pastoral counseling or the University Counseling Center.
What should I do if someone tells me they’ve experienced sexual misconduct or harassment?
Under the Responsible Employee program, you are obligated to report the complaint to the Title IX Office. The Title IX Office will ask you what you know about the incident, but they will not ask you to approach your colleague to ask any follow-up questions.
What happens when I report to Title IX?
After you get in touch with the Title IX Office, or after a Responsible Employee contacts the office on your behalf, you will receive an email from a representative of the office, providing information on support services available as well as an invitation to meet and talk through what options are available. This message comes via email versus a phone call, as to not catch the person off guard or to suddenly disrupt their workday.
“When someone comes in to talk with our office, they may meet multiple times before they decide what to do,” said Katie Pope, Title IX Coordinator. “We talk to individuals about what their safety options are. We also ask if they want to talk to police and file a police report, or a file formal complaint.”
“We work hard to move forward in a way a person is comfortable with,” added Carrie Benson, Title IX/equity specialist. “We want to ensure they are helping to guide the next steps of the process.”
Interim measures can also be put in place. Some measures can even be secured just hours after issuing a report. For a staff or faculty member, that might mean issuing new workplace arrangements, a change in job assignment or a no-contact order. For students, that could mean relocating to a new residence hall, switching out of a particular course section or getting a new advisor.
Is reporting to Title IX the same thing as filing a formal complaint?
No. Coming in to talk with someone in the Title IX Office to get support or resources does not mean a formal complaint is filed. Filing a formal complaint is a step that is made after it has been discussed by complainants and Title IX staff. The decision to file a formal complaint is typically made by the person making the report.
How do I file a formal complaint?
If you’ve contacted Title IX and decide you’d like to open a formal investigation, it is assigned to an investigator.
What happens if I file a formal complaint?
It is reviewed to determine if the complaint would violate University Policy, and if the action could be considered a policy violation, then a formal Title IX Investigation is initiated.
If a formal investigation is initiated, the Title IX Office sends out a notice to the respondent and the complainant (separately) letting them know that a complaint has been filed. Both individuals have the option to come to the Title IX Office to learn more about the process and the complaint.
What happens if I’m named in a formal complaint?
You will be notified that a formal complaint has been filed against you. You will have the option to come to the Title IX Office to learn more about the process and review the complaint.
An investigator will collect statements from both parties and each person can provide witnesses and evidence. Over the course of several weeks, the investigator compiles an investigative summary, applying the preponderance of evidence standard. This means that based on the evidence gathered, it is more likely than not that a policy violation took place. This is a disciplinary standard used across many University community member conduct processes.
During the investigation, which can take up to 90 days, there is no direct interaction between the two parties — and interim measures are still in place, to ensure the safety and comfort of the complainant.
What are the possible outcomes of a Title IX investigation?
There are two outcomes to a formal Title IX investigation: Either the respondent is found responsible for violating University Policy, or they are not.
Once the investigator reaches an outcome, the respondent receives a letter from someone in a leadership position of their affiliated unit, such as a vice chancellor, dean or chair of their department. For students, this letter would come from Vice Provost and Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner. Meanwhile, the complainant gets an outcome letter from the Title IX Office. The letters summarize the allegation, the outcome of the investigation and whether or not there are any sanctions against the respondent.
“If there isn’t a finding that University Policy was violated, we will sometimes make recommendations,” said Pope. “For example, we can recommend that the parties go through healthy relationship sessions or other relevant education.”
Both parties can appeal a finding, which is overseen by the University Review Board.
How does the Title IX Office educate the community?
The Title IX Office hosts education and prevention programs across campus each month that focus on the following: how to identify misconduct, how to intervene, how to report an incident, how to respond to it and how not to be an offender.
And since Title IX law covers everyone at the University, trainings are available for faculty, staff and students.
“This year and last year we’ve started to gain access to work with groups like new deans and department chairs, as well as graduate faculty,” said Pope.
“All of our trainings are designed to promote a more respectful campus environment,” added Benson. “We try to make our training interactive by engaging our peers in conversations about how to support survivors, model appropriate behavior and be an active bystander.”
Training can be customized for a variety of audiences at the University. Call 412-648-7860 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.