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October 26, 2017

‘Pitt Principles’ Discussion Focuses on Exclusion of Social Justice Value, Role of Draft Document

The “Pitt Principles” — the five guiding values proposed by the Senate special committee on diversity, inclusion and core values — was discussed by more than 30 faculty, staff, students and administrators at an open forum Oct. 10. The final draft, which was first shared with the Pitt community last month, addresses free expression, pursuit of knowledge, diversity and inclusion, public service and shared governance.

Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for engagement, chief of staff and secretary to the Board of Trustees, shared with the forum participants background on the process that led to a special committee developing the draft. She said the process was born out of a desire for the University to be prepared to respond in one voice with a statement of shared principles if crises occurred on campus.

The Senate special committee’s decision to remove a sixth principle, a statement concerning social justice, emerged as a major theme of the forum hosted by the University Senate Council in Wesley W. Posvar Hall.

Senate President Frank Wilson shared the original draft of the social justice statement with the University Times: “The University is committed to promoting social justice and equity through teaching, outreach, and scholarship that help to expose, explain, and ameliorate social injustice and inequalities. Essential to this commitment is the University’s support and protection of its members in their advocacy of social justice and equity both on and beyond campus.”

Wesley Rohrer, a faculty member in the Graduate School of Public Health, repeated his support of the social justice statement, which he had voiced at the Sept. 12 Faculty Assembly meeting. Rohrer, a member of the Senate special committee that crafted the “Pitt Principles,” said he thought that social justice and public service, one of the five existing principles, are of equal importance.

In explaining to forum participants the reasoning behind the removal of the social justice principle, Wilson, who also helped to draft the document, said that the many interpretations of social justice that the Senate special committee found became problematic for some committee members. Also, social justice is already an aspect of each of the principles, said Seth Weinberg, a faculty member in the School of Dental Medicine and member of the Senate special committee.

Understanding the Purpose of the ‘Principles’

Another topic of discussion at the forum was the purpose of the “Pitt Principles.” Thinking of the document as an aspirational one, Dan Kubis of the Humanities Center suggested pairing the principles with a self-assessment or other tool to discern where the University is in terms of reaching the ideals.

“I think we were always mindful that we did have an operational plan [“The Plan for Pitt”] that was a statement that could be easily translated into a statement of values,” said Wilson. “The way I was looking at it was trying to make that connection. Not to replace anything but to add onto what we already had.”

Humphrey further clarified the document’s purpose: “What was clear to us is while we asked our students to rise to the occasion of civility in the classroom, in their living quarters, on the streets, we didn’t have anything to stand on that would ask our entire community to embrace this notion of civility, not sameness, but civility, respect, how we would treat one another,” said Humphrey.

Kubis recommended adjusting the document so that it conveys a less active stance so as not to confuse the purposes of the strategic plan and “Pitt Principles.”

Senate Council plans to hold additional public forums through the fall, though dates have not been announced. Those interested in sharing comments about the “Pitt Principles” are invited to visit the University Senate website where they can provide their own comments and read what others are saying abut the drafted document.


Katie Fike,, 412-624-1085


Filed under: Feature,Volume 50 Issue 5

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