Pitt Title IX to investigate harassment allegations from early 2000s

An office on the 14th floor of the Cathedral of Learning, where Pitt's Department of Communication is located. (Photo by John Hamilton / Managing Editor)

Pitt’s Title IX office will open an investigation after a former professor published an article Wednesday alleging harassment and discrimination in the Department of Communication in the early 2000s.

Carol Stabile, a professor in Pitt’s Department of Communication from 1994-2005, described her experiences at the department in a recent Ms. Magazine article. She said male faculty members frequently slept with female graduate students. When she complained, Stabile wrote, no one paid attention and she had responsibilities taken away.

Stabile, now the chair of the Department of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, also accused the department of discrimination, giving tenure to few women and hiring men who accepted or contributed to the culture.

This created, as my colleagues in Faculty Against Rape put it, a ‘nest’ of predators,” Stabile wrote.

University spokesperson Joe Miksch said Pitt’s Title IX office is investigating the allegations.

The University is committed to fostering an educational and employment environment free of discrimination and harassment,” he said in an email Friday.

Stabile said it’s good the University is investigating, but she said internal investigations often “find that although there may have been problems in the past, things are fine in the present.” This will be the third investigation of the communication department, she noted.

“The real test will be the extent to which that investigation results in concrete, meaningful actions for change in a department that has a national reputation for these very problems and that has been aggressively resistant to change,” Stabile said in an email.

Three professors from outside universities conducted an external review of the communication department in 2004, when Stabile was at the department. The report said female students described the department’s culture as unsafe.

“Senior faculty routinely and repeatedly have engaged in consensual sexual relationships with graduate students,” the report said, according to a 2004 Pitt News article. “The routine character of these relationships silences other faculty and graduate students.”

Pitt now has a policy that forbids faculty and staff form engaging in consensual relationships with students they have direct supervision over. The policy went into effect in March of 2017.

According to the 2004 article, some students and faculty disagreed that the department had an unsafe environment.

Stabile’s article was shared frequently on Twitter, with many users commenting that sexual harassment is pervasive in academia.

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John Hamilton :Managing Editor