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Dissent, protest, community; committee reports cap year-end meetings

By Kimber Williams and Leslie King | April 26, 2013

University Senate

A preliminary report from the Dissent, Protest and Community Task Force presented at the April 24 meeting of the University Senate includes a draft policy and new proposals that will be shared with the campus community.  

Recommendations include revisions to the Respect for Freedom of Expression policy intended to promote and protect free expression while creating transparent mechanisms for balancing dissent with the larger University mission, said Ajay Nair, senior vice president and dean of Campus Life, who co-chairs the Stage II Task Force.  

It also endorses creating a University Senate standing committee composed of students, staff and faculty "that would help advise us, counsel us, and serve as a resource," Nair said.  

The draft policy represents a departure from Emory's current policy, "not so much in substance, but very much in tone and structure," said Frank Alexander, Sam Nunn professor of law and task force co-chair.  

Alexander said the new draft is intended to encourage discussion and debate throughout the campus community. Public feedback will be collected over the next four months, with plans to submit policy revisions in September.  

Richard Mendola, senior vice provost of library services and digital scholarship and enterprise CIO, also presented an update on information technology at Emory, touching upon budget trends, growth of online learning, information security, and highlights of initiatives now in progress.  

In other business, outgoing Employee Council President Kathy Troyer reviewed the work of the council (see below). End-of-the-year committee reports were also presented; full reports may be found on Blackboard.  

Faculty Council Chair Gray Crouse led a discussion about efforts and initiatives around campus to address issues of diversity and inclusion. Topics included conversation about a controversial policy at Vanderbilt University that prohibits religious student groups from belief-based membership and leadership requirements. Nair noted that student-funded organizations at Emory are not allowed to discriminate in their membership.  

Provost Claire Sterk discussed Emory's experiences with online learning, noting that by this fall three faculty members will have taught through Coursera. "It would be wonderful for this body to hear what the experience has been," she said. "My sense is that the largest value we will get out of all of this is actually how it changes us as faculty to think differently about how we teach."  

Sterk invited University Senate members to email her their three top initiatives for academic affairs, expressing her intent to address the topic at a future meeting.  

In closing, President James Wagner discussed topics that have arisen during a series of recent listening conversations — issues that he intends to carry forward into the fall semester, including:  

  • Diversity and social justice;

  • Shared governance and accountability;

  • Liberal arts advocacy;

  • Interpersonal and sexual violence prevention programs;

  • A proposed ombuds office;

  • Optimizing Emory's academic medical center in response to new federal policies;

  • Shared service activities through Business Practice Improvement initiatives;

  • Strengthening the social contract of universities within society;

  • Advancing leadership in research and scholarship.

 "These are all important community matters that will make this a stronger institution," Wagner said.  

Faculty Council

A resolution expressing "firm support" for the continued leadership of President James Wagner was approved at the April 16 meeting of the Faculty Council.  

While the resolution acknowledges "the hurt to our community" caused by President Wagner's use of the three-fifths compromise" in the Winter 2013 issue of Emory Magazine, it also accepted his apology for the remark as sincere.  

The resolution recognizes community-building efforts initiated under Wagner's leadership and his continued work to raise resources that further "Emory's mission of creating, preserving, teaching and applying knowledge in the service of humanity." (For full text, click here.)  

Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair also discussed major new Campus Life initiatives — many student driven — intended to forge connections between "in-class and out-of-class experiences, including:  

  • Study the use and design of the DUC.

  • Enhance support for international students.

  • Develop an intervention services team to aid students with "complex psychosocial needs."

  • Continue work on drafting a protest and dissent policy for the University.

  • Make residential education a "living laboratory" that connects classroom to community.

  • Develop a framework to foster an inclusive community.

  • Increase prevention efforts for alcohol abuse and sexual assault violence.

In response to news that Harvard University administrators had conducted secret email searches of resident deans around a cheating scandal, Emory's Chief Information Security Officer Brad Sanford reviewed Emory's email policies.  

Current policies allow the legitimate monitoring of communications by the University, Sanford said, adding that faculty use of email implies consent.  

However, "this is not a routine or continuous process," he stressed, and is only done when there are suspected violations of the law or of Emory policies and business processes. Requests for such searches must be submitted in writing and routed through general counsel and "several other senior leaders" before they are granted.  

"Everyone has to agree it is a legitimate request," Sanford explained. "The process does serve as a deterrent. We don't see a lot of frivolous requests."  

In other business, end-of-the-year committee reports were presented.  

In closing remarks, Provost Claire Sterk discussed the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation process and development of the Quality Enhancement Plan, which has a theme of "Primary Evidence."  

Sterk also addressed plans to re-charge the Commission on the Liberal Arts, which will be co-chaired by Steve Everett, professor of music and assistant vice provost of academic affairs, and Robyn Fivush, Samuel Candler Dobbs professor of psychology. Sterk described taking the commission into a new phase with an expanded membership.  

"I'm very excited about taking it to the next level," she said.  

Employee Council

The Employee Council's annual tour of Emory's Oxford campus was the focus of its April meeting.  

Council President Kathy Troyer noted that this year's Staff Fest employee celebration will be May 17, with a theme of "One Emory. One Community. One World."  

Troyer said that Staff Fest volunteers are still needed, particularly help with the Council's MedShare project, which involves packaging medical supplies for areas of the world in need of them. To participate in this off-campus activity from 9 a.m. to noon, contact Troyer by April 30.  

The Council is also seeking help staffing its Staff Fest table and working with recycling. Those interested in volunteering should contact Margie Varnado.

Countess Hughes, Hardship Fund coordinator for the Council, provided updated figures on the Employee Council Hardship Fund: Total donations are $87, 974 and total awards $59,501 for an account balance $28,473.   

Troyer also discussed Council responsibilities and recommendations in a presentation that was to be shared at the University Senate's April meeting. The recommendations were developed from findings from the 2013 Class & Labor Committee report.  

Recommendations include hiring a staff member and student workers for the Council's work; having the Council provide annual reports on promotion, reclassification and termination policies; increased funding or waivers for the cost of meetings; training for Council representatives; revamping communication methods; and restructuring the Council for more efficient representation.  

"Employee Council should be used as a portal for University leaders to get input before decisions are made. This should be a standard and required step in decision making for HR [Human Resources] and Administration," according to the report.