March 22, 2018
Dear Members of the Dietrich School Community,
For the last several months, the University has been investigating climate issues in our Department of Communication—both reviewing reports from more than a decade ago regarding allegations of sexual misconduct in the Department as well as surveying today’s climate. The investigations found a consistent pattern in which women were not as valued and respected as their male colleagues. This resulted in an environment in which the inappropriate acts of the few were tolerated by the silence of others.
After reviewing reports of the investigation, I am disappointed but determined. Aspiration without action is not acceptable at this crucial juncture. We should do better, and we will do better, beginning immediately.
The investigations revealed failures of systems and failures of character. These necessitate different responses.
Those found to have engaged in behaviors that violated Title IX and University policies have received disciplinary sanctions. 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. We will also ensure that all recommended actions to improve the climate are implemented.
Addressing failures of systems requires a different approach. My goal is not simply to put an end to the inappropriate behaviors. It is to restore a climate of civility and collegiality that fulfills the purpose and promise of higher education: the free exchange of ideas among a community of thinkers that nurtures diversity, equality, and integrity. 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. It is a department where people can raise issues without fear of reprisal, knowing that their concerns will be heard and acted upon.
To move toward these goals, I will be working with the Department of Communication and the Title IX Office to rebuild the department’s decision-making committee; institute mandatory inclusivity and Title IX training for all faculty, staff, and graduate students; and enlist an outside facilitator to strengthen mentoring practices within the department, especially for women and members of underrepresented minority groups.
What I have outlined here is a starting point. As a sociologist, I know that changing organizational culture is difficult. I also know that it is possible. As I continue to work with the Title IX Office and the department in the years ahead, we may find other ways to fashion a climate of inclusion and engagement. But, we will not rest until the situation is changed.
Realizing this transformation—and cultivating a diverse and inclusive community where students, faculty, and staff can work and learn together—matters deeply to me. It is necessary to the mission of our School and University, and I am confident that, with diligence and dedication, we can live up to our highest ideals and our best selves.
Kathleen M. Blee
Bettye J. and Ralph E. Bailey Dean
Distinguished Professor of Sociology
Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
University of Pittsburgh