UNIVERSITY GOVERNANCE ROUNDUP >>

Senate, faculty and employee councils start year with clear focus

By Kimber Williams and Leslie King | Emory Report | Sep. 27, 2013

University Senate  

Transparency, open communication and trust were key themes outlined by University Senate President Deb Houry for the academic year at the Sept. 24 meeting.  

Minutes will now be posted on the Senate website at senate.emory.edu, accessible with an Emory login, so "people can see what we’re doing," Houry said.  

Proposed amendments to the University Senate bylaws that update language and current practices and add more specific language were unanimously approved.  

The Senate also heard committee reports from:  

  • Transportation and Parking: Focus groups to clarify Emory’s role in vanpools are planned for the fall. Parking assignment guidelines and the waitlist process will also be reviewed.

  • Honorary Degrees: Nominations are being sought for diverse, inspiring, impressive candidates.

  • Athletics and Recreation: Play Emory is in place for undergraduates and will be rolled out for graduate students and Emory employees next year.

  • Campus Development: The Senate was asked to consider an "outside lighting" policy to help minimize light pollution.

  • Diversity: An expanded, re-invigorated membership is now in place, along with new subcommittees.

  • Environment: The committee is helping develop a comprehensive storm water management plan for the Oxford campus. Work this year will include a focus on climate change.

  • Fringe Benefits: Work continues on a proposal to address affordability in the retiree health care program.

  • Library Policy: Consolidation of digital assets and integration of IT and Library Services continues.

  • Safety/Security: The committee is helping the City of Atlanta apply for a Safe Community designation from the National Safety Council.

  • Class and Labor: Has implemented nine of the 62 recommendations from Phase I of the Class and Labor Report; 13 more recommendations are set to launch this fall.

Provost Claire Sterk will charge Phase II of the Class and Labor Committee next month, with a focus on faculty. The effort will be co-chaired by professors Nadine Kaslow and Gray Crouse.  

Sterk announced that the Commission on the Liberal Arts (CoLA) has been reorganized and re-energized under new leadership. She encouraged participation in the Fall Forum on the Liberal Arts on Monday, Sept. 30 at 4 p.m. in Cox Hall Ballroom.  

President James Wagner discussed what an "unusual time" it is in the history of higher education, with the utility of college degrees scrutinized as never before.  

Wagner outlined several areas that the University will focus upon this year, including: student and faculty quality; program and financial strength; reputational quality; operational effectiveness; and distinctive excellence of Emory’s character and culture.  

Faculty Council  

Perceptions of shared faculty governance throughout schools and units have been gathered by the Faculty Council Executive Committee through a survey of all full-time Emory faculty, Faculty Council Chair Deb Houry announced at the Sept. 17 meeting.  

The results of that survey, which went to over 3,000 faculty members, will inform the work of the Council this year. Results will be discussed during a closed session at next month’s meeting, Houry noted.  

In other action, the Council approved revisions to the Faculty Council bylaws, which had last been modified in 2009, and structural revisions to the Faculty Handbook, which was reviewed by the Faculty Policy Committee over the summer.  

The University Senate lecture series launched last year by immediate past chair Gray Crouse will continue this academic year, focusing on a "solutions and models" perspective, Houry announced. The first lecture is scheduled for Nov. 12 and will feature Carol Simon, senior vice president and director of Optum Institute of Sustainable Health.  

Committee reports included:  

  • Distinguished Faculty Lecture Committee: Nominations are being sought for lecturers from among University faculty.

  • Faculty Counselors Committee: Committee Chair Gray Crouse reported on the general benefits of the duties involved with faculty counselors to the Board of Trustees.

  • Faculty Hearing Committee: The jurisdiction of the committee — and gaps therein — was discussed.

  • Faculty Life Course Committee: Last year, the committee was reformulated and seeks representation from the School of Law and Goizueta Business School. This year, the committee plans to develop and implement a pilot mentoring program that addresses needs across the lifespan of Emory faculty, including a faculty retirement component.

  • Learning Outcomes Committee: The committee, which advises the provost, is preparing for Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) reaccreditation. Goals this year include being a responsive resource for academic program assessment, and further integrating the Principles of Effective Assessment into the Emory culture.

  • University Research Committee: Goals and challenges were discussed for the coming academic year, including establishing criteria for project submissions and selection and better informing faculty about the process.

In closing remarks, President James Wagner welcomed council members and discussed "the calling" of American universities, beyond simply producing "job-ready graduates."  

"We have an additional calling, an older calling — preparing folks to be not just job-ready but citizenship-ready," Wagner said.  

"We need to be asking the bigger questions," he added. "The bigger issues, it seems, are making sure that we accept our responsibilities to society, at the same time reminding society not to underuse us and expect too little."  

Employee Council  

A heightened role in University decision-making, staffing and more funding are among recommendations from an Employee Council report conducted last spring.  

The report was distributed and its recommendations briefly discussed at the Employee Council's first meeting of the year on Sept. 18. Its purpose is to "modernize" the Council to be a more effective representative body.  

The Council seeks to be a standard portal for decision-making by University leaders to get input before decisions are made. "This is a culture change that needs to happen within the University," said Kathy Troyer, past president. "The Council should be used as a portal to get input" for University decisions.  

The additional funding would be used to hire a staff member and student assistants to help with administrative duties, to pay for meeting rooms previously free on campus and for leadership training for Council members. Troyer said there has not yet been a response on the funding and staffing requests.  

The report also recommends increased representation on the University Senate. "We have six voting members on the Senate," said Employee Council President LaDonna Cherry. "We feel we should have more representatives since faculty and students have more."  

Also at the meeting, Diane Weaver with the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) gave an overview and update on current programs, including the Meet Me at Lullwater walking program that she said features giveaways and prizes; Freedom From Smoking, anger management and grief and loss support groups.  

Weaver said FSAP will announce another walking challenge soon, a five-week, self-reported challenge for prizes, including a pair of custom shoes.

Countess Hughes, Employee Council coordinator of the Emory Hardship Fund, said her focus this year will be on payroll deduction donations for continued growth.  

"We would like the fund to be more self-sustaining," Hughes said. "Employees may donate as little as $1 a month to the Hardship Fund.  This does not mean that we will not accept one-time cash, check or on-line donations, we greatly appreciate any donation, no matter the manner of that donation or the size of that donation."  

Since its inception, over $100,000 has been donated, and over $66,000 has been awarded to eligible employees for temporary financial hardship due to catastrophic and unexpected events.  

This year, Council representatives are organized into working groups, or "pods," to facilitate communication with constituents. Each officer heads a group to gather employee concerns and questions to bring them to attention of the Council executive committee.