Office of the Provost

Memorandum

TO: Members of the Council of Deans; Department Chairs of the University
FROM: James V. Maher
DATE: July 16, 2004

Guidelines for Handling Sexual Harassment Complaints and a Few Words on the Faculty-Student Relationship Policy

Sexual harassment is a concern for all institutions, but is particularly troubling to institutions entrusted with the education of young people. As administrators of the University we have an important responsibility, first to make sure that our faculty and staff understand what sexual harassment is as outlined in the University’s Sexual Harassment Policy (Policy 07-06-04) and secondly, to understand what we as academic administrators should do when allegations or concerns of sexual harassment come to our attention.

I remind you that if you receive a complaint or hear, even indirectly, about a problem in your area that might be reasonably construed as sexual harassment, you are required to take timely action. We have recently updated the contact information in the booklet Sexual Harassment: Guidelines & Responsibilities for University Administrators, last circulated to you in 1997. I attach a copy for you; this is also available online at http://www.provost.pitt.edu/information-on/harguide.html. This document should help you deal effectively with cases of sexual harassment or alleged sexual harassment.

You should also be familiar with the attached Faculty-Student Relationship Policy (Policy 02-04-03), located online at http://www.pitt.edu/HOME/PP/policies/02/02-04-03.html. The University prohibits intimate (romantic and/or sexual) relationships between a faculty member and a student whose academic work, teaching, or research is being supervised or evaluated by the faculty member. If such a relationship should exist or develop, the University requires the faculty member to remove himself/herself from all supervisory, evaluative, and/or formal advisory roles with respect to the student. Department chairs -- or, in the case of schools without departments, deans -- should be prepared to assist in this change of assignments.

Department chairs (or again, in the case of schools without departments, deans) should bring this faculty-student relationship policy to the attention of their faculty and students annually. Please help your faculty also to understand that even in situations where a faculty member has no direct professional responsibility for a student, that faculty member must be sensitive to the perceptions of other students that a student who has an intimate relationship with a faculty member, even a relationship considered consensual by the individuals involved, may receive preferential treatment from the faculty member or the faculty member’s colleagues. Such perceptions can be distracting in fulfilling our educational mission.

I ask that department chairs (or, where a school does not have departments, deans) discuss the University’s Sexual Harassment and Faculty-Student Relationship policies at a faculty meeting this fall and that you urge faculty to take the Web course, Preventing Sexual Harassment, which is currently required of all staff. The URL is http://www.newmedialearning.com/psh/pitt. The course takes less than one half hour to complete and is useful in that it gives specific examples of what sexual harassment is and is not.

The University is committed to maintaining an environment in which all can work and learn effectively with no fear of sexual harassment. You are in an important position to establish and maintain such an environment. I appreciate your assistance in helping us achieve our goals.

Attachments

cc: Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg

Senior Vice Chancellor Arthur S. Levine

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