March 2020 Newsletter

Pitt Diversity Newsletter Masthead, Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Pitt
Contents • March 2020

Combating Stigma Associated With COVID-19

The University of Pittsburgh, as an educational institution and as an employer, values equality of opportunity, human dignity, and racial/ethnic and cultural diversity. In this time of crisis, it is essential that we lift up our commitment to the values of inclusivity within our campus.

The University does not tolerate discrimination, harassment, or retaliation on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, genetic information, disability, or status as a veteran, and takes steps to ensure that students, employees, and third parties are not subject to a hostile environment in University programs or activities.

The U.S. Department of Education issued a notice to all higher education institutions across the nation regarding concerns of discrimination and bias related to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus. The notice detailed an increase in the number of reports regarding stereotyping, harassment, and bullying directed towards students and faculty perceived to be of Chinese-American or, more generally, Asian descent.

Stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate an infectious disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is infected or at risk for the disease. Stigma hurts everyone by creating fear or anger towards ordinary people instead of the disease that is causing the problem.

The University of Pittsburgh is committed to maintaining a campus environment free from unlawful discrimination and harassment.  Please use the Bias Incident Response Guidelines detailed on this website if you witness or experience a bias incident so that the University may promptly and effectively respond.  The University recognizes that each incident is unique and must be addressed as such.  As a result, the information listed on the website is merely a guide.  All incidents should be assessed in light of the fact that the University is deeply committed to addressing bias on campus.

For complete details on the University’s Nondiscrimination, Equal Opportunity, and Affirmative Action Policy (07-01-03) and Sexual Misconduct Policy (06-05-01), please visit the Policies, Procedures, and Practices page.

If you are experiencing an crisis or emergency situation, please contact the Pitt Police at 412-624-2121 or dial 911.

In the interim, the following resources are available to University entities:
University’s COVID-19 Response -- Includes up-to-date information about modified classrooms, public access to facilities, and FAQs
Student Health Services (Students)
University Counseling Center (Students)
MyHealth@Work Center (Faculty and Staff)
Life Solutions (Faculty and Staff)

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).  In January, a large group of dedicated faculty, staff and students came together to begin planning for SAAM.  Fourteen different events aimed at reaching all campus populations were planned.  These events were developed to prevent sexual misconduct, to raise awareness for resources and to support survivors and allies.  Pitt was going to turn teal.  In March we learned that we would need to cancel many events due to COVID-19 concerns.  While initially disappointed, the committee soon realized that Pitt could still turn teal--that we must still turn teal.  We could still send a message to the entire community that Pitt stands against sexual assault and that we all have power to eradicate all forms of sexual misconduct.       

While we are not able to gather in person this April, we can still support the survivors on campus and in our lives and we can still educate ourselves.  This April, the SAAM committee will offer webinars regarding supporting survivors, identifying and responding to problematic behavior and bystander intervention.  An online resource fair will feature a different resource each day, often accompanied by a question and answer session.  Pitt is also launching a new active bystander campaign that reminds us that we can all be agents of cultural change.  Finally, all campus community members are invited to share messages of support for survivors.  These messages will be posted on the Pitt Supports Survivors webpage.  You are also encouraged to post messages of support on your own social media account during the month of April, using the hashtag #PittSupportsSurvivors.  To the survivors visiting this webpage and attending events: we see you and we support you     
Virtual Sexual Assault Awareness Month Events
Pitt Supports Survivors
Virtual Resource Fair


Accessibility and the Digital Work World

As we move facets of our whole lives—including our work at Pitt--online, various technologies like Zoom and Microsoft Teams are emerging as solutions to our need to connect.  However, it’s important to remember that these types of technology can also present barriers to various members of our community.

Here are some things to consider as you move to a virtual work world:

  1. If you are hosting virtual workshops or other types of gatherings for the larger Pitt community, include a disability accommodation statement on event advertising.  Sample statement:  If you require an accommodation to participate in this event, please contact (sponsoring department/organization contact name, telephone and email) by (specify a date relative to your event, at least 5 days in advance is recommended).
  2. Think about the accessibility of your main communications channels.  This is a moment where people are seeking out important information.  And we want everyone to be able to access it. 
  3. Embrace universal design principles.  In this moment, these principles could really have a huge impact on everyone.  Many of us are suddenly sharing bandwidth, sharing space, and working under various amounts of stress.  Introducing flexibility and simplicity into our content and digital spaces will provide greater access for everyone.
During this transition Disability Resources and Services and the Digital Accessibility Coordinator have worked very closely with faculty and registered students to ensure access to all of their courses.  Some processes they have implemented include:
  • Turning on Ally in just under 50 courses.  Ally provides students in those classes with automatic access to alt formats of course materials and also provides the instructor with important information about the accessibility of the course.
  • Anyone can now use Ally’s “File Transformer” to instantaneously convert files to alternative formats that may be more accessible to them.
  • Live captioning of Zoom meetings through a 3rd party vendor for students who need captions.
  • Captioning of any recorded lectures for students who need captions.

The Center for Teaching and Learning also offers general guidance to all faculty members on how to make their online instruction more accessible.


Get Involved


Participate in D&I Events

Review upcoming D&I – related activities on the ODI Events Calendar

Share Your Cultural Activities

Are you planning an activity to coincide with an upcoming cultural month? if so, ODI would be happy to help promote it! Please feel free to submit your activity details for promotion via the Cultural Month Activity Submission Form

D&I Newsletter Submissions Welcomed!
This newsletter is intended to highlight D&I initiatives, news, and programs across campus. Please feel free to share your associated content via the D&I Newsletter Content Submission Form

Join The Inclusion Network on Pitt Commons

To facilitate ongoing and regular group engagement among D&I practitioners at Pitt, please join The Inclusion Network on the Pitt Commons. 

Use #PittDiversity on Social Media

We encourage you to use #PittDiversity to tag your D&I – related social media posts. The use of the hashtag will help generate more content awareness and help us identify & further promote content of interest.

You can follow us on social media at:

Photo of ODI staff on Pitt campus
ODI Twitter
ODI Facebook
ODI Instagram
ODI Website
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Office of Diversity and Inclusion
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