Investigation of Communications Department climate ‘revealed failures of systems and failures of character’

Dean Kathleen Blee released a statement Thursday evening addressing the investigation’s findings

An investigation into the Communications Department at the University of Pittsburgh revealed systematic, character failures. The investigation was launched after former faculty member, Carol Stabile, wrote an article on her experience with sexism and Title IX violations within the department.

On the evening of March 22, 2018 Dean Blee released a statement regarding the investigation, which reviewed reports from the incidents that occurred over 10 years ago, as well as the climate in the Communications Department today.

In her report, Dean Blee expressed that she is disappointed, but determined.

"The investigations revealed failures of systems and failures of character. These necessitate different responses," she said. "Those found to have engaged in behaviors that violated Title IX and University policies have received disciplinary sanctions."

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"We will be vigilant in our monitoring so that such behaviors no longer place us at risk of losing accomplished and promising scholars and students," said Dean Blee. She continued saying the university will ensure the climate is improved by implementing all recommended actions.

Blee stated that her plan is not only to put an end to the sexist behaviors, but to build a climate in which everyone can thrive.

"In this climate, intolerance is not tolerated. An excellent Department of Communication is one that faculty, staff, and students are eager to join because they know their contributions will be valued," said Dean Blee. "It is a department where people can raise issues without fear of reprisal, knowing that their concerns will be heard and acted upon."

We spoke to Carol Stabile, the former Pitt faculty member whose blog post in Ms. Magazine sparked the reopened investigation, who said that the admittance of a problem was a step forward.

"My general impression was, 'Wow, this is the first time that the University of Pittsburgh has said that there was a problem other than the problem being the women who were complaining.'"

While Stabile is optimistic, she said what really matters is how the administration goes about making a change in the environment of the department.

"It's one thing to say there's a problem and another thing to figure out how to change the culture. That's a lot more challenging and it'll be really important and really interesting to see what the dean and what the administrators do to fix it."

Stabile is hoping for a change and a better future for the department, but she is worried that the administration will show mercy to those accused.

"I wish that I felt more confident about that but my experience was that the culture in that department was fundamentally enabled by the University of Pittsburgh administration, at least when I was there. The administrators in the dean's office protected the men who were misbehaving and who were bad actors. They refused to listen to the people who were blowing the whistle."

Stabile also stressed that this investigation did not emphasize all aspects of the issue at hand, and she hopes to see those issues investigated as well.

"This is a Title IX investigation, so it really didnt delve into some of the issues around race and even though Kathleen mentions it in her statement, I think that it always involved gender, race and sexuality so I think that's a really important part of the problem with the climate. I would have to see those forms of intersectionality minimized."

University of Pittsburgh