UNIVERSITY GOVERNANCE ROUNDUP >>

Senate and councils discuss issues of diversity and transformation

By Kimber Williams and Leslie King | Emory Report | March 1, 2013

Faculty Council  

President James Wagner opened the Feb. 19 Faculty Council meeting by reading and responding to a letter from more than two dozen faculty members in Emory's departments of History and African American Studies expressing concerns over an essay that he wrote in the Winter 2013 issue of Emory magazine.  

In the article, Wagner had presented the nation's "3/5ths compromise" over slavery as an example of how polarized lawmakers could find common ground. In response, some faculty members wrote Wagner disapproving his choice of that example to illustrate a plea for compromise in public affairs.  

Reading aloud from his written response, Wagner said that he regretted the reference, adding, "I am sorry for the injury and insult that has resulted from my use of it."  

"I look forward to growing along with our community as we resume, and in some cases, redouble our efforts in those programs under way to continue building the safe, respectful, inquiry-driven, ethically engaged, and diverse community toward which we aspire," he added.  

In a discussion that followed, faculty members:  

  • Questioned the Emory Magazine review process;

  • Suggested a public gesture of atonement;

  • Recognized the comment as a human mistake;

  • Recommended that the situation be used to help Emory come together to grow, be proactive and focus upon diversity;

  • Raised larger, institutional questions about how the University is engaged in issues of diversity through its policies and norms.

In other business, Nadine Kaslow School of Medicine professor and chief psychologist at Grady Memorial Hospital, presented findings from a report by the Committee on Class and Labor.  

The committee has concluded the first part of a multiphase study into the nature of class and status in the University community.  This phase examined Emory's non-academic labor force, including staff and contract workers; subsequent phases will study faculty and students.  

Recommendations included:  

  • Foster a culture of civility that respects all persons and dignifies their contributions to the mission of the University;

  • Develop a philosophy about educational and professional development within the Emory workforce;

  • Invest further in management and supervisory training programs;

  • Improve communication on campus with regard to staff interests;

  • Make the rationale and processes for choosing campus contractors more transparent and tied to Emory's guiding ethical principles;

  • Offer forums for the community to engage in dialogue about class and labor.

  Council Chair Gray Crouse also led a discussion about how Emory faculty can take ownership of the task of updating the Faculty Handbook — a process that could take at least a year. Provost Claire Sterk addressed the role that faculty could play in examining issues around promotion and tenure.  

In closing, Wagner discussed how a changing landscape for higher education has created more opportunities for shared governance and responsibility at Emory.

University Senate

Issues of diversity and transformation were the focus of the Feb. 26 University Senate meeting.  

Senate President Gray Crouse led a discussion of President James Wagner's remarks in the Winter 2013 issue of Emory Magazine. Crouse also summarized comments on the subject offered at this month's Faculty Council meeting.  

University Senate members acknowledged a sense of frustration and disappointment about the article and called for continued, meaningful conversations around the issue.  

Ozzie Harris, senior vice provost for Community and Diversity, said that he was "more interested in the conversations we haven't yet fully generated," particularly around issues relating to "our society's capacity to deny full personhood to people."  

"I hope as we deal with this issue, we think not only about what does it mean for a person to be a slave in the 1800s, but we also think about what does it mean to be a person on this campus in 2013 and not to feel as though you're treated with the respect others are afforded," Harris said.  

Provost Claire Sterk noted that the issue serves as an apt metaphor for "how we are all part of the same community, we all associate with Emory, we can all be in the same place and be so disconnected and misaligned."  

"I'm hoping that one of the things that comes out of this is that we want to look at our shared values," Sterk said. "We need to have these conversations … (to) make sure as we move forward what our core values are, what our core principles are. We need to make sure that we at least have a foundation upon which we all want to build."  

"But the bottom line, what really matters, (is) our actions. As we move forward, I hope we can move away from words towards actions because that's how we really will be able to transform the world, including Emory University," she added.  

Senate Diversity Committee Co-Chairs Marietta Collins and Christine Ristaino presented findings from a preliminary survey of committee members about issues arising from Wagner's comments and various initiatives to address diversity on campus.  

Harris also presented an update on the Advisory Council on Community and Diversity, a group that replaces the president's three former commissions focused upon race, gender and sexuality.  

A steering committee of about 40 individuals from across campus is creating progress and accountability "templates" to establish a baseline measures for schools and unit teams to follow.  

Bill Dracos, associate vice president for administration and chief Business Practice Improvement officer, also gave an update on the Transform Research Administration Project, an initiative to improve services to faculty and researchers in an increasingly complex research environment. This spring, a pilot program of shared service centers will be launched in Rollins School of Public Health and select departments in the School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute. The centers will be staffed by qualified specialists who can offer direct assistance to research faculty, including proposal development and budget creation.  

In other action, a motion to appoint a 15-member University Senate Class and Labor Implementation Advisory Committee was unanimously approved. Eric Bymaster, assistant vice president of finance and operations for Campus Life, will serve as chair.  

Crouse also called for nominations for University Senate president-elect and Faculty Council chair-elect for 2013-2014.  

Employee Council

The report from the University-wide Committee on Class and Labor dominated the Feb. 20 meeting of the Employee Council.  

Council members analyzed the recommendations directly related to Employee Council, including the ones to:  

  • Examine the charge of the Employee Council;
  • Ensure that Employee Council representatives have access to leadership within their respective schools or units;
  • Examine annual data on promotion, reclassification and voluntary and involuntary termination of staff to demonstrate the extent to which Emory's efforts are fair and supportive of Emory's workforce;
  • Report these findings to the Employee Council.

"We are going to create a report on how the Council can improve, both internally and externally," said Kathy Troyer, Employee Council president.   

The Council took suggestions on what could be done with data regarding promotions, reclassifications and more. "We could potentially work closely with [HR] Learning Services to improve numbers through training in needed areas," she added.  

Council members were encouraged again to speak with their constituents regarding the Class and Labor Report. "We sent out a survey to access employees' top priorities from the list of recommendations. We intend to bring the results to the new Class and Labor Advisory Committee, which Countess Hughes from Employee Council will be a member of," Troyer said.  

At this time of year, the Council shapes the slate to elect officers for the 2013-14 terms.  Nominations are being accepted through March 8 for president elect, treasurer, secretary elect and historian.

Troyer also noted that Emory Dining is seeking feedback on the campus dining experience and preferences on types of food, times to eat, dietary restrictions and amounts to spend. A focus group has been set up but limited to 15 people. However, Dave Furhman, senior director of Emory Dining, is urging everyone to participate and to email him at david.furhman@emory.edu.