Pitt fills student conduct officer role

Pitt has a new Student Conduct Officer whom students will hopefully only meet on good terms. 

The Office of Student Affairs announced the appointment of Barbara Ruprecht as Student Conduct Officer last month. Ruprecht, who has served as interim Student Conduct Officer since January, will run disciplinary meetings with students who may have violated the Student Code of Conduct and moderate student conduct hearings. She will also work with staff members within the Office of Student Affairs to create new content for a “resiliency” program and other campus education programs.

“This is a new program being piloted that is designed to help students learn to deal with stress, create healthy social relationships, manage self-care and set goals to help them persevere through difficult situations,” Shawn Ahearn, director of communications, said in an email. 

Ruprecht will also work on an anti-hazing program sponsored by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. The week-long program aims to “educate the entire campus” about how to stop hazing and other ways to welcome new members into organizations, Ahearn said.

Ruprecht succeeded the former Student Conduct Officer of seven years, Deborah Walker, before she left Pitt to join Mayor Bill Peduto’s staff, Ahearn said. 

Ruprecht previously worked as an attorney in private practice for nearly 20 years. As an attorney, she specialized in workers’ compensation, divorce, estate planning, probate, real estate and criminal matters. Her experience in the judicial field includes presenting motions, attending hearings and audits, deposing witnesses and researching and drafting legal documents.

Ruprecht said she accepted the position at Pitt because she wanted to turn her previous experience volunteering with young people at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Allison Park, Pa., and at the Hampton Township School District into the next chapter of her career.

“I was blessed to meet Dr. Humphrey and see the passion and enthusiasm that she brings to her role as the vice provost and dean of students, and I knew I wanted to be a part of student affairs,” Ruprecht said in a release. “It’s very rewarding to help young people make better decisions and move forward in a positive direction.”

In addition to her role as Conduct Officer, Ruprecht will be on the University’s Sexual Assault Task Force, which will ensure that the University complies with federal laws, guidelines and mandates, Ahearn said. 

The Task Force is also in charge of educating students on sexual assault with emphasis on “bystander intervention.”

Ruprecht will also work on the Concern for At Risk Students Committee, which is composed of representatives from across the University, including Pitt Police and Student Affairs. The committee will “assist and support” students who are struggling personally or academically by directing them to campus resources such as the Counseling Center or Student Health Services. 

Ruprecht is also working with Dean of Students Kathy Humphrey and Student Government Board President Mike Nites to develop a new student conduct board. Ruprecht declined to say more on the new student board.

While Nites couldn’t comment further on the new student board, he spoke positively of his experiences with Ruprecht.  

“We complement each other’s ideas and build off each other’s perspectives and experiences,” Nites said. 

Student opinion on Ruprecht’s appointment to the new position varied. 

David Keener, a senior majoring in economics, said he’s not sure if the position is entirely necessary.

“I think, most of the time, people stay within the rules,” Keener said. “But it’s a good position to have if something happens.”

Jessica Smith, a junior majoring in digital media, said the position is necessary, especially Ruprecht’s role in the University’s Sexual Assault Task Force.

“I think that’s something really important that Pitt needs,” Smith said. “Sexual assault happens a lot more than people realize so I think it’s important that the University is stepping up to do something about that.”

Humphrey expressed her satisfaction with the work Ruprecht has been doing since January and highlighted Ruprecht’s plans to engage students through the University’s judicial process.

“We are confident that she will continue to lead our efforts to create a healthy and cohesive environment for our students and not only administer a fair judicial process when allegations of violations of our Student Code of Conduct occur, but also teach students through the process and help them to make good decisions,” Humphrey said in an official statement.