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November 9, 2017

Research Committee to Submit Revision to ‘Pitt Principle’ Pursuit of Knowledge Statement

The University Senate research committee approved a motion to recommend a revision of the pursuit of knowledge statement, one of the five guiding values outlined in the “Pitt Principles.” The motion was made during the committee’s Nov. 1 meeting.

The “Pitt Principles” addresses free expression, pursuit of knowledge, diversity and inclusion, public service and shared governance. The first open forum about the draft was held last month.

Michael Spring, immediate past president of the Senate and the Senate liaison to the committee, suggested removing the phrase “recognizes excellence in all forms of scholarship and” in the draft statement. The edited sentence would read: “The University appreciates and encourages the production of socially useful knowledge in cooperation with partners in academia, in the public and private sectors, and in society at large.”

His suggested the edit addresses concerns raised by research committee co-chair Penelope Morel about the phrasing “socially useful knowledge” in the pursuit of knowledge statement.

“I don’t think that’s the purview of University research. It’s basically to advance knowledge and not to make judgements about whether or not it’s going to be socially useful,” said Morel, who is a faculty member in the School of Medicine.

Committee member Michael Goodhart tried to clarify the language. A faculty member in the Department of Political Science, Goodhart is also a member of the Senate special committee on diversity, inclusion and core values that drafted the “Pitt Principles.”

He shared that the Senate special committee’s intent was to counteract a tendency to assign value only to research that has the capacity to be commercialized.

Spring voiced his agreement with Morel’s view.

“I understand that there are members of the Pitt community who feel that their research, which has some social utility and may not be federally funded as part of a major research grant, is undervalued,” said Spring. “So, while I would like to see support for that group, I don’t want to disenfranchise the traditional [research group].

“And I know it’s not the intent of anybody to do that, but I think her point is well taken,” he added.

The Senate research committee will submit its recommendation — the suggested revision to the pursuit of knowledge statement —  either through the Senate website or by contacting Senate President Frank Wilson.


Katie Fike,, 412-624-1085


Filed under: Feature,Volume 50 Issue 6

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