Governance groups discuss sexual assault training, divestment, community promise

By Kimber Williams and Maria M. Lameiras | Emory Report | Dec. 15, 2014

University Senate

The University Senate has approved a motion to take an advisory role in making recommendations to the Emory Board of Trustees when it considers financial divestment from companies engaged in "morally evil activities" or alternative actions with companies engaged in activities that cause social harm.

The Board of Trustees has recognized that in "extraordinary circumstances" it may determine that investment in certain companies may associate Emory "with actions or positions that violate our most deeply held values" and should be avoided, explained University Senate President Kathryn Yount at the Nov. 25 meeting.

The Board of Trustees has approved four criteria for weighing such investments, including:

  • The identification of a moral evil generating substantial social harm (i.e. genocide, apartheid, slavery and cruelty to children)
  • Identification of a specific company (or companies) engaging in or supporting morally evil activity.
  • Clear identification of a connection of a specific company with that moral evil.
  • Support for divestment from such companies by a broad consensus of the Emory community, as shown by an engaged and thoughtful deliberation.

Following discussion, the University Senate voted to create a process whereby ad hoc committees could be created to review divestment proposals and make recommendations for a vote by the full Senate. Emory University President James Wagner would receive those recommendations and decide if they should be presented to the Board of Trustees.

Final fall committee reports were also presented:

Open Expression: Objectives for the current year include creating an updated brochure; promoting the university's open expression policy through proactive educational efforts; and reviewing any cases presented to the committee.

Campus Life: After three years of groundwork, "Flourish Emory" is being piloted this semester through a nine-week program in Harris Hall that promotes student success and wellness. Assessments have identified where students are on the "flourishing" scale and will be repeated this spring. The committee is also working on strategies to break down barriers between students and create a more "seamless integration" between undergraduate and graduate students.

In other business, Sheryl Heron, professor of emergency medicine at the Emory School of Medicine, and Michael Sacks, associate professor of the practice of organization and management at Goizueta Business School, updated the work of the Faculty Council Mediation-Resolution Committee, which is exploring the creation of a process for faculty to resolve interpersonal conflicts and organizational challenges.

The costs of unresolved conflict are significant, including lost work time, reduced motivation and higher health care costs, said Sacks, who has a background in conflict studies. The committee will present recommendations in Spring 2015.

Paula Gomes, executive director of Emory's Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP), presented an overview of services offered through her department, which include assistance with team dynamics; health promotion and wellness; education and outreach; and counseling and behavioral mental health services.

Emory Student Government Association (SGA) President Jon Darby also updated the work of the SGA, identifying goals of proactive, front-end engagement; open communication and accessibility; and using technology to create and strengthen productive partnerships.

Robyn Fivush, associate vice provost for academic innovation, also presented an update on the Coalition on the Liberal Arts (CoLA), which is moving forward on several recommendations from the final CoLA report.

 Those programs include:

  • Intellectual tailgating: Activities that connect students and faculty with major Emory events.
  • CoLA seminars: Student-faculty learning communities that cross traditional boundaries to create innovative learning spaces; teams will be sought this spring.
  • Emory Stories of the Liberal Arts: Similar to NPR's "Story Corps" program, stories will be elicited from individuals about how their liberal arts experience as a student and scholar changed their understanding of who they are. The program will launch in February 2015 with three events: A public panel discussion about the power of stories; a public conversation with acclaimed author and University Distinguished Professor Salman Rushdie about his liberal arts experiences; and a group of "story circles" with students, faculty and alumni in Emory residence halls.

Faculty Council

A motion to require mandatory university-wide sexual assault training for all Emory faculty and staff starting early next year was approved at the Nov. 18 meeting of the Faculty Council. 

During a Title IX presentation, Associate Vice Provost Lynell Cadray, who leads Emory's Office of Equity and Inclusion, recommended a plan to provide sexual assault training to all Emory faculty and staff, to be implemented over the next three years.

The plan would offer guidance around such issues as when and why faculty and staff are required to report sexual misconduct, what steps to take if a student confides that they were a target of sexual assault, and when and how to refer a student for counseling or support services.

Training will be provided to all new faculty and staff hires starting January 2015.  Current faculty will be provided a 45-minute online training module, with one-hour classroom trainings to be made available to current staff.

"As faculty members, we have a responsibility here — an opportunity to make sure that independent of whether (reports of sexual assaults) are going up or not, that we respond correctly to these types of situations," said Provost Claire Sterk.

Justin Remais, associate professor of environmental health, offered an update on the work of the Task Force on Shared Faculty Governance, including a strategic focus for the academic year — "Strengthening governance culture at Emory" — and the following themes:

  • Reaffirming fundamental governance principles
  • Communicating the impact of governance
  • Tools and resources for governance

Remais also presented a proposed draft of underlying principles to guide the ongoing development of governance processes, which he said should be seen as "a starting point." Faculty Council Chair Kathryn Yount invited feedback and suggestions.

Phillip Wainwright, vice provost for international affairs and director of the Halle Institute for Global Learning at Emory, spoke about Emory's Global Strategies. Central goals include:

  • Initiatives that position Emory as a university noted for its global impact
  • Integrating Emory's international community into the life of the university

Yount led a discussion about promotion and tenure principles to enhance opportunities for fair and timely reviews, a transparent review process, and faculty governance in university promotion and tenure reviews at Emory. The Council approved several principles and agreed to discuss the rest at a future meeting.

David Stephens, vice president for research in the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, chair of the Department of Medicine in Emory School of Medicine, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases, and chief of medicine for Emory Healthcare, spoke about the work of Emory's Ebola Advisory Task Force, which he co-chairs with S. Wright Caughman, executive vice president for Health Affairs, CEO of the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, and chairman of Emory Healthcare.

The task force was created to advise the university president on issues and policies rapidly unfolding around the Ebola Viral Disease epidemic, including biosafety, infection control, preparedness and response; research, education, communication and ethics; and institutional policies on travel. Stephens said plans are being explored to host a forum about Ebola research opportunities.

Next semester, an academic discussion group will also be held for the Emory community to examine Ebola virus through a multidisciplinary lens, including its impact upon business, law, religion and ethics, said Debra Bruner, Robert W. Woodruff Chair in Nursing and associate director of outcomes research at Winship Cancer Institute, who is on the Emory Ebola Advisory Task Force.

Employee Council

The Employee Council reviewed the Emory Community Promise proposed by the Senate Advisory Committee on Class and Labor at its meeting Nov. 19, providing feedback on what will become the guiding principle for issues of equity and fairness in the workplace at all levels of the university.

Eric Bymaster, chair of the Class and Labor Senate Advisory Committee, asked Employee Council members for their impressions of the draft and welcomed questions and comments on ways to disseminate and implement the pledge.

Although council members generally agreed with the promise, some questioned the enforceability of the pledge, particularly by employees across levels of authority and pay grades.

"The pledge is specific about how we create an environment of respect and communication and what we stand for," said Countess Hughes, council representative to the University Senate.

Once the senate advisory committee gathers comments from groups across campus, the committee will revisit the issue to make recommendations on how to move forward, Bymaster said.

Gray Crouse, co-chair of the faculty committee on class and labor, spoke to the council to gather specific examples of the way class influences the interactions between staff, faculty and students. The information will be used in Phase II of implementations of the University Senate's recommendations on class and labor.

Dona Yarbrough, chair of the Emory Advisory Council on Community and Diversity, reported that annual reports on community and diversity from each school and unit of the university have been collected and the advisory council is planning a symposium for the spring to share best practices.

Hughes, who also is Employee Hardship Fund chair for the Employee Council, reported that university faculty and staff have donated $100,496 to the fund since its inception and $63,591 in awards have been made from the fund to employees experiencing temporary financial hardship due to a catastrophic event.

Council members elected Paul Ficklin-Alred, representative for the School of Medicine, as 2015–2016 historian for the council. Ficklin-Alred is a program coordinator in the Department of Pediatrics.

The council's December meeting was a holiday gathering at the Michael C. Carlos Museum on Dec. 10. No business was discussed.