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Issues committees take next steps with reports, forums

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | Jan. 18, 2013

As issues of dissent and protest have arisen over time on the Emory campus, work has continued for the University committees and task forces charged with examining how to best address them.

For Ajay Nair, Emory's senior vice president and dean of Campus Life, the recent campus activism has represented both a familiar conversation and practical case studies — all serving to inform his new role, joining Law Professor Frank Alexander as co-chair of the Task Force on Dissent, Protest and Community.

Long before campus issues were being debated this past fall, says Nair, the task force had been asked to explore how to balance dissent and protest with academic freedom and community.

And Nair is no stranger to the topic. In his previous position as senior associate vice provost for student affairs at the University of Pennsylvania, Nair was charged with overseeing the protection of rights and responsibilities around open expression policies and practices. "It's not new to me — I've done this throughout my career," he explains.

Created by President James Wagner following student arrests during an April 2011 campus protest over concerns with Sodexo, Emory's food service provider, the Task Force on Dissent and Protest was charged to offer advice ranging from principles to policies, with the goal of issuing recommendations this spring.

This month, the task force — comprised of students, staff and faculty — will create three new subcommittees, each dealing with an issue of open expression. They include:

  • Education: Chaired by Ed Lee, director of debate for Barkley Forum, the subcommittee will focus on developing an educational campaign to inform the campus community about existing policies and promoting an environment that welcomes dialogue on key issues.
  • Policy: Chaired by Matt Garrett, assistant dean for Campus Life and director of the Office of Student Leadership and Service, the group will examine strengths and weaknesses around existing policy, conduct benchmarking studies, and recommend revisions.
  • Administration: Chaired by Eric Hoffman, assistant dean and director of Student Conduct, the group will explore the conduct process, rights and responsibilities of students.

"This is probably one of the most important projects we can take on as an institution," Nair explains. "It's at the heart of who we are."

Recommendations should be ready by April 2013. And though recent campus activism does not alter the task force's timeline, "there are always lessons learned from new events," Nair acknowledges.

Class and Labor report out

In other ongoing work, the Committee on Class and Labor has completed the first stage of a multi-phase examination of issues of class and status across campus, releasing a major report that offers initial findings and recommendations.

Created by former Provost Earl Lewis and Mike Mandl, executive vice president for finance and administration, the committee has its roots in conversations launched in spring 2010, when Emory students and faculty began raising awareness over contract labor concerns.

The committee is co-chaired by Nadine Kaslow, past-president of the University Senate, School of Medicine professor and chief psychologist at Grady Memorial Hospital, and Gary Hauk, vice president and deputy to the president.

The first phase of their work included a campus-wide examination of the non-academic work force and possible roles of class in promotion, advancement and self-improvement opportunities, as well as the role of contractors at Emory.

Subsequent phases will look at academic labor, the relationship between academic labor and non-academic labor, and the relationship between students and all labor on campus.

In its report, the committee identified 59 recommendations for implementation, including areas such as structure, community and culture, education, workplace satisfaction, professional development, workplace flexibility and contract labor.

"I think the process has enormous value, in that it generates a breadth of conversation about issues that might otherwise be submerged," Hauk says. "For an institution that espouses the dissemination of knowledge, it's an important process to be engaged in — a very powerful set of issues."

This spring, the committee will meet with groups across campus to share findings and recommendations at several venues, including two community forums.

Membership on the original committee will be refreshed and an advisory committee will also be appointed to help evaluate and implement recommendations, Hauk says.

Read the Class and Labor Report at provost.emory.edu/community/areas/class-labor.html.