Faculty Assembly resolution condemns preferred journal lists


Faculty Assembly members voted to approve a resolution that criticizes the use of preferred academic journal lists and a resolution that would create an ad hoc committee on dependent care.

Senate Council President Robin Kear opened the hybrid virtual and in-person meeting on Oct. 6, with a somber reflection on the lives lost during the COVID-19 pandemic and other recent tragic events.

Kear said a recent art installation on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., called “In America: Remember” by Suzanne Brennan, was a powerful reminder of the toll the pandemic has taken.

The installation had 600,000 small white flags representing the life of each U.S. citizen who died during the pandemic.

“To me, it was a powerful installation that reminds me of the many losses that we are all dealing with,” Kear said. “We are now in the deadliest pandemic in modern times.”

She also brought up the recent loss of orthopaedic surgeon Freddie Fu, and the third anniversary of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue on Oct. 27.

“I hear you. All of us — students, faculty and staff — are all carrying our different experiences with the pandemic,” Kear said. “We all have different levels of comfort, anxiety and loss. We have different ideas and expectations of our new normal. I acknowledge how difficult it is to be transitioning back to our in-person events, classes and meetings. It is exhausting.”

And as the transition back to in-person operations continues, Kear said it is important to not let cynicism and pessimism derail progress and “good faith effort.”

“I refuse to allow the cynicism to affect my pursuit of the ideals of our work, educating our students, bettering the world, and sharing this work of governance,” Kear said.

Kear also updated members on various efforts within the University to address pandemic and budget concerns.

  • Kear has joined a group working with the provost to determine consequences for faculty who are not compliant with Pitt’s COVID guidelines. 

  • A new proposed budget model has been completed, and chairs of a steering committee are drafting a letter and presentation for Chancellor Patrick Gallagher

  • The Research committee will review a draft policy on institutional conflict of interest, which will come before Faculty Assembly later. 

Resolution on preferred journal lists

Abbe de Vallejo, co-chair of the Tenure and Academic Freedom committee, introduced the Resolution For Faculty Assembly Regarding the Use of Preferred Journal Lists.

This resolution says that the use of preferred journal lists, where faculty are encouraged to publish work in specific academic journals as a way to evaluate faculty scholarly, “violates academic freedom and stifles inquiry and collaboration.”

“The bottom line is that we think the use of such is not a viable tool in measuring faculty productivity,” de Vallejo said.

The committee has been investigating a specific grievance related to this issue for two years, with members looking at how peer institutions use, or don’t use, preferred journal lists.

Several assembly members praised this resolution, including Yolanda Covington-Ward, chair of the Department of Africana Studies. Covington-Ward said a preferred journal list can stifle interdisciplinary scholarship.

However, some members wondered if it was possible to still implement a more improved, inclusive preferred journal list.

The resolution passed with 46 yes votes and two no votes.

Ad hoc committee on dependent care

Kear brought a resolution to the assembly that would form an ad hoc committee to investigate dependent care, including child care and elder care, and University policies and benefits related to the topic.

“I believe that policy change here can promote retention of faculty and post-docs, and attractiveness to graduate students, also improve scholarly productivity and improve our efforts in diversity and inclusion,” Kear said.

She added that she has selected Anna Wang-Erickson, an assistant professor of pediatrics and associate director of the Institute for Infection, Inflammation & Immunity in Children, to chair the committee.

Wang-Erickson also received a 2022-2023 Pitt Seed Grant to study dependent care reimbursement.

The resolution passed unanimously with 45 yes votes. Both resolutions will go before Senate Council on Oct. 14 for final approval.

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at dharrell@pitt.edu or 412-383-9905.


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