Image courtesy of Laurel Gift
When approaching creating a new resource for community members to submit concerns, Laurel Gift said Pitt “can only be as healthy as our community.” Gift, an assistant vice chancellor and head of the Office of Compliance, Investigations and Ethics, was involved in creating Pitt Concern Connection, Pitt’s new all-in-one reporting system.
“The number one driving force is just to provide this resource so that people know they have a place to report whatever is going on,” Gift said. “So that’s the number one thing — we can only be as healthy as our community.”
Launched on May 17, Pitt Concern Connection officially replaced AlertLine — Pitt’s old 24/7 reporting system — in June. Pitt students, employees and community members can — anonymously or non-anonymously — utilize the tool to file a report or simply ask a question. While the tool is not an emergency service, submitted inquiries can pertain to anything Pitt-related, from empty hand sanitizer bottles in Hillman to Title IX reports, COVID-19 response, workplace discrimination and financial controls.
According to Gift, Pitt Concern Connection is a more centralized, user-friendly system than AlertLine, and can receive and redirect any submitted complaints or questions from Pitt community members to the appropriate office.
Any University office — from Community and Governmental Relations to Environmental Health and Safety — can handle a complaint if it pertains to them. But according to Gift, so far Compliance, Investigations and Ethics, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Human Resources see the most activity.
According to its webpage, Pitt Concern Connection’s goal is to build “a culture where everyone feels comfortable raising concerns and asking questions.”
With AlertLine users only had the option to call a phone number or file an online form. Pitt Concern Connection now allows users — regardless of campus — to text, call or file an online form to the line. Each report receives a case number that the community member can use to check the status of their case. Users can also receive updates as their case progresses if they provide their contact information in their report.
Yvonne Powers, Pitt’s director of employee and labor relations, said she is excited about Pitt’s numerous reporting options. She said these options help show that Pitt Concern Connection is an accessible resource.
“I think the fact that you can text in the concern, call in the concern or file the concern online is very exciting as well,” Powers said. “I think it’s just another way to let everyone know that we want to hear what your concerns are.”
When addressing AlertLine’s effectiveness, Gift said she noticed that Pitt community members were not utilizing the tool and found that many community members misunderstood its function.
“When I talked to people around the University, some people didn’t know what it was or they thought that it was a resource to track or report fraud, waste and abuse, which is certainly part of it,” Gift said. “But, I think there was a misunderstanding across the University community about who could use AlertLine and what it was for.”
Nichole Dwyer, communications director for Pitt HR, said she believes that unfamiliarity with AlertLine is why it suffered, but is confident that Gift’s office will successfully implement Pitt Concern Connection.
“I believe AlertLine suffered from a lack of promotion, but the new formal Office of Compliance, Investigations and Ethics will be more attentive to reception and utility,” Dwyer said. “I hope that Pitt Concern Connection provides a convenient, formal mechanism for people to easily voice concerns about any happenings of concern at the University.”
Though Gift’s office handles compliance and privacy reports made through Pitt Concern Connection, they also serve as a monitoring team to make sure that each office addresses reports redirected to them. If a report is not addressed promptly, Gift said her office is able to access open reports, see when the report was filed and contact the respective office to ensure the report is addressed.
Gift said the biggest hurdle now is making the Pitt community aware of Pitt Concern Connection. According to Gift, on top of planned monthly updates, Pitt plans to run an outreach campaign to promote the tool to returning students and staff. Gift said active marketing materials can already be found across campus, with more to come.
“We’ve already put posters up in every kitchen across the University, in our regional campuses as well,” Gift said. “So, there’s actually marketing materials on site for people’s return to work. And we’ll make sure that the resource has a continued presence.”
Users also have the ability to include attachments to their report, such as photos, documents and screenshots. When filing a report, Gift said more details are better, as offices can efficiently resolve them.
“For students, staff and faculty, and for anyone, I would really encourage everyone to use it,” Gift said. “The more detail and information you are able to provide the better — we are able to respond effectively.”
According to Gift, because Pitt Concern Connection accepts complaints or questions of any nature, there is no guaranteed response time. But there is a guarantee that each case will be assessed. Gift said variations in concern types cause response times to vary as well.
“You could have a significant workplace concern that results in a workplace investigation” Gift said. “Or you could have a concern about safety on a building site that our environmental health and safety team can go out and address that day, and it can range from ‘we’re out of hand sanitizer in this building’ to ‘there was a safety concern at a construction site.’”
Powers said she is excited about Pitt Concern Connection, believes it’s a great resource and plans to promote it to Pitt employees and Union representatives.
“I believe in being transparent and I’m an over communicator,” Powers said. “My plan is to establish good working relationships between the labor relations department, all of the employees and their union representatives. I’m happy that we have a system in place that will represent our whole community — I think that’s very important.”