Sexual Violence on Campus

September 21, 2015


To the University Community,

The issue of sexual violence and misconduct on college campuses is once again in the news. Today, the Association of American Universities (AAU) released the results of a national survey of student attitudes and experiences regarding sexual violence and harassment. The University of Pittsburgh was one of 27 AAU member institutions that participated in this important survey. We joined the AAU in this effort, called the Campus Climate Survey, because we believe that in order to effectively address the problem, it is vitally important to understand the nature and frequency of sexual harassment and violence on our campuses, as well as the attitudes about these issues.  

The data tell a sobering story: Pitt, like other major universities that participated in the survey, has a serious problem with sexual harassment and violence on our campuses. This is unacceptable because fear, harassment, and incidents of sexual violence run counter to the very values of openness and safety that are so essential to our core mission of enabling better lives for our students. As I’ve said before, we simply must do much better. All of our students, staff and faculty deserve to study and work free from the fear of sexual harassment and violence. While many in the news will make comparisons between the different universities in the survey, I believe our focus should be on using the data to identify areas for improvement and to assess our progress. After all, the only comparison that should matter is how we compare with our goal of zero incidents of sexual harassment and violence at Pitt. 

The survey results will support steps that we have already begun to take a Pitt. For our students, from their first days on campus forward, we have worked to educate and prevent sexual misconduct through tailored programming and consistent messaging.  We launched a campaign to increase the visibility of the University’s available resources and services. We have significantly expanded the University’s Title IX office and are currently designing a holistic education, prevention, and response program for students, faculty and staff. For example, all new students were required to attend training on alcohol use, sexual assault, and bystander intervention during New and Transfer Student Orientation this fall. In addition, nearly 10,800 faculty and staff have completed a course to provide them with tools needed to recognize and handle sexual misconduct. These efforts can be effective, and the survey results will be used to evaluate and improve them as well as suggest new approaches.

I encourage you to visit www.pitt.edu/aau-survey for highlights of these efforts.

But the survey results make clear that we have much more work to do. It is also clear to me that no single program or set of programs can fully address the culture and environment that allows sexual harassment and violence on a campus. Ultimately, it will take the effort and involvement of every member of the University community to create an educational environment free from sexual misconduct. Each of us must take responsibility for our own actions as well as demonstrate care and support for all members of our community by being responsible for each other.  It is our individual and collective responsibility to ensure that Pitt is a place that does not tolerate sexual harassment or violence.

In order to promote a culture that protects the safety of our students, staff and faculty, I am calling on every member of our community to do what he or she can to eliminate sexual harassment and violence from the University of Pittsburgh.