Chancellor Gallagher sends memo on sexual assault

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher issued a memo on Friday to Pitt’s faculty and staff addressing his and the University’s position on sexual assault and violence.

In the email, Gallagher said “sexual violence has no place” at Pitt. He announced a new online program called Preventing Discrimination and Sexual Violence: Title IX, VAWA and the Clery Act. Gallagher did not say when the University would launch the new program or what it would focus on specifically, but said it would be available online to all faculty and staff. The memo follows an announcement from Ken Service, vice chancellor for communications, sent last week, which said Gallagher would be sending out the memo.

Gallagher’s email comes amidst the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ recent investigations into sexual assault on college campuses. The investigations of 95 schools across the United States began last May and opened as part of President Obama’s White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. The Obama administration created the Task Force after Obama introduced the It’s On Us Initiative in September. 

Though the OCR is not investigating Pitt, it is investigating several neighboring schools, including Carnegie Mellon University and Penn State University.

Gallagher did not elaborate in the release on how the specific programs he mentioned will work, and University spokespeople were not immediately available for comment over the weekend. 

In the memo, Gallagher called on faculty, staff and students to take responsibility for reporting any and all instances of sexual assault and violence on campus. He outlined directions for reporting sexual assault and training resources available through the University.

“Our University is committed to actively fostering a culture that prevents sexual violence and protects the safety of our students, staff and faculty,” Gallagher said in the memo. “This type of culture requires actions of everyone.”

Gallagher restated Pitt employees’ legal requirement to report any “incident of sexual violence involving a student, staff or faculty member” to the University’s Title IX coordinator, Carol W. Mohamed.

Gallagher said the University will increase sexual violence awareness and prevention training for students.

The training, he said, is meant to “educate our students on their rights and responsibilities under Title IX and the Violence Against Women Act/Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act.” It will cover topics including recognizing the signs of abusive behavior, exercising safe and positive options for bystander intervention and learning how to use administrative and reporting procedures.

Gallagher listed the resources available to faculty and staff for education and proactive measures. Among the resources listed, Gallagher mentioned the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education (SHARE) website which “provides counseling to victims of sexual assault, assists victims in obtaining medical care and offers support in all aspects of the recovery process,” according to its website. He also mentioned the new online program “Preventing Discrimination and Sexual Violence,” on which he did not elaborate.

“Every member of our community shares in the responsibility to build and nurture a campus culture characterized by respect for others, and one that is free from sexual violence,” Gallagher said.