by KATELYN MASSARELLI
Upon coming back from break, Respond, UT’s undergraduate research journal, was ready to start planning their next issue to release later this semester. Both editors-in-chief of Respond Alex Sullivan, junior biology major and Kamakshi Dadhwal, senior psychology and philosophy major, never anticipated this could be the last issue of the journal to release.
In Respond’s 15-year history, the organization has remained under the funding of the Honors Program and has been known as the Honors Program undergraduate research journal. But, Dadhwal and Ryan Cragun, director of the Honors Program and associate professor of sociology, discussed the upcoming issue of Respond when Cragun explained that Respond would lose funding from the Honors Programs budget effective Fall 2018.
“No one knew this was occurring,” Sullivan said. “We pretty much found out by accident in a casual conversation and Kam [Dadhwal] found out before I did. The lack of communication was kind of upsetting and frustrating.”
To keep Respond afloat, Sullivan and Dadhwal and current adviser David Reamer, associate professor of English, will have to see how Respond can move forward. Currently, it is run under the Student Media Committee like The Minaret, WUTT, UTTV and Neon to help choose the top editors for each school year and create order. Respond will now have to apply for funding under Student Government like other organizations on campus.
“I’m trying to figure out if the future of Respond is worth salvaging in that if people will actually read the journal because a lot of people don’t even know we exist,” Sullivan said. “If so, I’d like to salvage Respond and continue my position as editor-in-chief.”
There was no formal meeting held about Respond to announce the decision was made, according to Dadhwal. She also said Cragun explained to her when discussing the matter that honors students’ work wouldn’t be something they could use after some of the students attend graduate school.
“My philosophy with Respond is that it’s a good exercise, but it’s an exercise,” Cragun said. “I want my honors students to be aspiring to be published in widely recognized peer-reviewed, cutting edge journals. I want them to aim higher.”
Respond struggles on a yearly basis to get submissions for their annual publication, so it’s easy to see why the Honors Program would want to cut it, according to Dadhwal. The original plan for the Honors Program was to replace Respond with Replicate, an undergraduate journal dedicated to replicating peer-reviewed published studies, according to Cragun.
Cragun’s idea to start the replication journal has since not been further discussed with no plans to make it an official Honors journal.
“I know it’s sad for Respond to get scrapped, but the truth is we had to chase people to get submissions,” Dadhwal said. “This is the first semester we’ve gotten maximum submissions and the maximum submission number is 15. It’s that low and we publish seven, so that’s half the people that already know going in that the chances of you [getting] publishing are 50 percent. For a journal to become reputable those are not the odds you want for it and especially not for when you’ve gone out and begged people.”
When stepping into his role as honors program director in Fall 2016, Cragun realized Respond was in a weird spot.
“I didn’t know all the details about Respond, but the relationship was a little weird in that I was not overseeing the day-to-day operations,” Cragun said. “I wasn’t considered an adviser for the journal even though I was kind of technically an adviser because it’s the Honors journal at UT.”
Cragun said most honors students are pursuing a graduate education after finishing their undergraduate studies. For the honors students that do, he can’t give a definitive answer of whether Respond will help make a case for their graduate studies.
“I’m not sad to see Respond being divorced from the Honors Program,” Cragun said. “I don’t know exactly what the plans are with Respond, but I and Dr. [Kacy] Tillman, the associate director of the honors program, made the decision that we will be divorced from the Honors program next academic school year. All is fine, I have blessed it, [Reamer] has my blessing to take this and do whatever [he] wants with it and that’s okay.”
Ashley Morales Pacheco, senior political science and psychology major and submissions editor for Respond, said she was shocked to hear the news from both editors-in-chief. It’s up to the current editorial staff to make sure it’s available for the next generation of editors, according to Morales Pacheco.
“When I heard we, as an organization, were done for, I just felt disappointed that others would not be able to see the greatness behind the journal and especially behind the work it takes to get the journal published in the first place,” Morales Pacheco said. “All we can hope is that our efforts work so that we can at least push it forward to the next group of students.”
Morales Pacheco said Respond has helped her grow as an editor and writer and has learned the best practices by editing and effectively writing a research paper. Every meeting has been a fond memory and has offered valuable experiences with other editors, according to Morales Pacheco.
“While it is disappointing that the Honors program no longer thinks Respond is necessary, I hope that Respond is able to thrive as an organization,” Morales Pacheco said. “I hope the journal stays alive many years to come, and that members that are just as passionate about the journal come along and propel it forward so it becomes something much bigger than it already is.”
David Reamer, associate professor of English, said Cragun and Tillman did not consult with him prior to making the decision to defund the journal, but Reamer reached out to them when he started hearing rumors.
“At that point –– in late November or early December — I had heard several different versions of the story, and I needed clarification so the editors and I could solidify the plan for this year’s issue and start planning for the future,” Reamer said. “I now understand the Honors Program’s position, and while our communication certainly could have been better, I think we actually have similar ideas about what the journal has been and can be.”
Reamer believes the journal still has much to offer whether it’s tied to the Honors Program or not.
“The Honors Program’s decision forces us to rethink or role in UT’s intellectual community, but I think that can actually be a good thing — as I said, we were already moving down that path” Reamer said. “We will have to work out a different source of funding for the print issue of the journal after this year, but we do have some options there. Student Government funds student clubs, and there are various grants available on campus that support student research projects.”
If Respond can secure a set-in-stone direction of where the publication goes from here, Reamer is confident this won’t be its final publication.
“UT supports student research both intellectually and monetarily, and if we have a clear vision for, and explanation of, how we further that mission, I am confident that Respond will still have a home here,” Reamer said.
To keep Respond alive through Student Government, the key is time and going through the process, according Tim Harding, associate dean of Career Development and Engagement and adviser of Student Government. The organization will also have to go through the Student Media Committee (SMC), which can help advise the publication in which direction to go for funding.
“If Respond wanted to seek funding from Student Government, they can submit a proposal through the Student Government appropriation process,” Harding said. “The other option would be for them to do a proposal to become a funded Student Government organization like The Minaret, Moroccan and Neon, for example. This type of proposal would be submitted in the Fall, and, if approved, would start the following summer, according to the University’s budget cycle and fiscal year. Creating a new SG-funded budget would mean that other SG funded organizations could be impacted to make room for an additional organizational budget.”
Jeffrey Neely, current chair for the SMC and assistant professor of journalism, said Respond became an official publication governed by the SMC at their Spring Meeting in 2017.
“If Respond can confirm a funding stream that will allow their continued publication and that is consistent with UT’s policies regarding the way it funds, there is no reason why the Student Media Committee would have any objections to Respond continuing,” Neely said. “It all comes down to funding.”
Dadhwal believes the content will change and Respond will not be the same once it is officially defunded next academic year.
“In the past we’ve always called ourselves the Honors Research Journal and now once that is gone Respond won’t be able to call itself the Honors Undergraduate Research Journal,” Dadhwal said. “That in itself is like being stripped of a title and because it takes away our title it takes away some of the credibility, sadly.”
Katelyn Massarelli can be reached at email@example.com