Gallagher announces further steps to prevent sexual misconduct


Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher plans to establish a yet-to-be-named group within the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to develop campus-wide sexual misconduct prevention education programs.

By Rebecca Johnson, Benjamin Nigrosh, and Jon Moss

Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced in a Thursday press release and at the Thursday afternoon Senate Council meeting that the University is expanding its community-driven response to prevent sexual misconduct.

The chancellor established the initiative in response to an Association of American Universities report that compiled data regarding campus sexual misconduct across 33 university campuses, including Pitt. The report found that since entering college, in situations involving physical force or the inability to consent or stop what was happening, 11.2% of respondents said they experienced penetration at least once and 16.7% of respondents said they experienced sexual touching at least once.

Gallagher, who found the University’s own policies “insufficient” after the report’s release, said Thursday that these findings prompted a new course of action.

“We in the fall, upon reflecting on the survey and where we’ve done well but where we’ve fallen short, decided to embrace a much more community-oriented response,” Gallagher said. “A kind of all hands, if you will, on deck.”

According to the release, Gallagher plans to establish a yet-to-be-named group within the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to serve as a unified education and prevention office, developing campus-wide sexual misconduct prevention education programs. Carrie Benson, who currently works as a Title IX specialist at the ODI, will serve as the head of the new office.

Katie Pope, interim head of the ODI and the associate vice chancellor of civil rights and Title IX, said Benson’s experience makes her ideal for the position.

“She has been in our office for some time and is going to be leading the effort,” Pope said. “She has a lot of background expertise in primary prevention education, and so this is an opportunity to move some of her job duties around to really start this office up.”

According to the press release, the new office will also work in collaboration with the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct, a 12-member council also created through the initiative that will work within the University to “evaluate and advance evidence-based solutions to reduce acts of sexual misconduct and sexual violence on campus.”

Gallagher said one of his primary goals for the council is to find a way to judge what initiatives are effective, along with proposing new ideas for prevention education.

“I want us to try to identify what things are working so we don’t have to wait five-year episodes for new surveys,” Gallagher said. “If we’re going to learn our way into this, that feedback is really important.”

The council, which will meet February for the first time and have Pope as the staff liaison, consists of:

  • Liz Miller, director of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine within the School of Medicine, who will lead the council
  • Deborah Brake, professor and associate dean for research and faculty development in the School of Law
  • Betty Braxter, associate professor and associate dean for undergraduate education in the School of Nursing
  • Jessica Burke, professor and associate dean for education in the Graduate School of Public Health
  • Jay Darr, director of the University Counseling Center
  • Rachel Gartner, associate professor in the School of Social Work
  • Kirsten Lipsky, a junior environmental engineering major, peer educator with Sexual Assault Facilitation and Education and Students Engaging in Conversations about Consent and Sexuality member
  • Michele Montag, executive director for staff personnel and senior assistant dean in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
  • Yemi Olaiya, a graduate student in the School of Law
  • Mary Roche, a senior political science major, resident assistant and peer educator with Sexual Assault Facilitation and Education
  • Penny Semaia, senior associate athletic director for student life

Gallagher also announced that the University awarded funding to seven projects which seek “innovative solutions” to sexual misconduct on campus. Provost Ann Cudd originally announced the special cycle of PittSeeds funding in October, making up to $250,000 in grants available to faculty and staff.

The funded projects are:

  • Title IX/Green Dot Initiative for Pitt-Bradford and Pitt-Titusville, by Christy Clark, the chief of staff to Pitt-Bradford President Catherine Koverola
  • Encouraging Faculty, Staff and Student Participation in Primary Prevention, by Sheila Confer, Pitt-Greensburg Academic Village director
  • Translating TGQN Campus Climate Findings into Practice, by Rachel Gartner, an assistant professor of social work 
  • Culturally Sensitive Sexual Misconduct Prevention Programming for International Graduate and Professional Students, by Holger Hoock, associate dean for graduate studies and research
  • LGBTQIA+ Empowerment Self-Defense, by K. Briar Somerville, staff member in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion 
  • Exploring Black Undergraduate College Women’s Experiences with Sexual Misconduct: Knowledge of Resources, Barriers to Access, and Strategies to Improve Engagement and Outcomes, by Lynissa Stokes, pediatrics postdoctoral student
  • We Hear You, Let’s Talk About It, by Katie Stumpp, director of sports camps

The administration is also making grants available to students through Student Government Board, Graduate Student Government and College of General Studies Student Government.

SGB President Zechariah Brown said at the board’s Tuesday evening meeting that individual grants of up to $5,000 will be available for students. Grant applications will open Jan. 27 and close on March 31, he said.

Brown added that Vice Provost and Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner will hold two information sessions about the grants — one on Jan. 22 from 4 to 5 p.m. and another on Jan. 27 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., both in William Pitt Union Room 630.

According to the release, the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Research and the Office of the Provost have greenlit two Pitt Momentum Fund proposals for research on preventing sexual misconduct.

The proposals, which will receive a combined $54,000 in grants, are:

  • Safely Staging Sex and Violence for the Academic Performer, by Karen Gilmer, a lecturer and costume designer in the theatre arts department
  • Using Environmental Scans to Guide Campus Sexual Misconduct Prevention, by Liz Miller, director of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine within the School of Medicine