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Governance groups discuss new unified health system proposal, free expression, town hall

Emory Report | March 15, 2015

University Senate

The possibility of creating a new, unified health system by combining Emory Healthcare and WellStar Health System was the focus of a presentation by Michael Mandl, executive vice president for business and administration, at the Feb. 24 University Senate meeting.

Mandl described the ongoing discussions as part of an “exciting potential initiative” that could combine the strengths of two healthcare systems that collectively serve some 4 million residents in eight Georgia counties with 11 hospitals and over 3,000 beds. Working from a framework of shared values — such as excellence, caring, integrity and optimism — Emory and WellStar agreed to continue discussions, he said.

Initial conversations should conclude by the end of March. At that time, each board is expected to vote whether or not to move forward with a partnership, he said. If approved, the project would then enter a lengthy design phase, which could take up to a year to complete.

[Editor’s note: On March 11, Mandl was named president and CEO of Emory Healthcare. On April 2, the Executive Committee of the Emory University Board of Trustees and the WellStar Health System Board of Trustees announced that they have each approved a resolution to begin the design process for a new, unified health system.]

In other presentations, Associate Research Professor Jessica McDermott Sales, Rollins School of Public Health, and Kathleen Krause, a doctoral student in the Department of Global Health, gave a report about efforts by the Committee for the Prevention of Sexual Violence to develop a survey that will gather data about sexual violence at Emory.

There will be two surveys, one for students and one for faculty, which are being developed by a team of faculty, staff and students, Sales said. The same questions will be asked of both groups when appropriate, she added.

Questions will be tailored to Emory, although many will be guided by a sample survey developed by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. The survey will be ready for Emory students on the Oxford and Atlanta campuses when they return from spring break, Sales said.

The University Senate also heard a presentation by Eric Bymaster, associate vice president of finance, administration and operations at Emory, who chairs the University Senate Class and Labor Implementation Committee.

In response to the desire that Emory community members be treated fairly and equitably and with civility and respect, the committee had been asked to explore developing an “Emory Promise,” similar to a pledge now used in the School of Medicine.

After examining Emory’s Statement of Ethical Principles, Bymaster reported that the committee recommends that every school and unit first examine their own core values and ethical principles that “speak to them individually” — or develop them, if none exist — and report back to the Senate. Senate President Kathryn Yount said that she would follow up on the matter.

In other action, the Senate Diversity Committee proposed new Senate Committee Membership guidelines, which would be used as a guidepost when vetting applicants for the University Senate. The motion to amend the guidelines was approved.

The Senate also approved amendments to the Respect for Open Expression Policy, which were proposed by the Committee for Open Expression. The revisions were primarily intended to clarify issues of enforcement, such as prohibiting protest through trespass or unauthorized access on campus properties.

In other deliberations, the Senate voted to approve six individuals whose names will be added to a list of possible Honorary Degree Nominations for President Wagner’s consideration.

The Senate also approved a motion to create a Bylaw Review Standing Committee that will be charged with the dual review of Faculty Council and University Senate Bylaws.

A revision of bylaws was approved by the Emory Board of Trustees in 2014, said Senate President Yount, who proposed the creation of a standing committee to handle an annual review of bylaws going forward.

Faculty Council

President James Wagner sought the perspectives of Faculty Council members on academic expression and free expression at the Council’s Feb. 17 meeting.

“To use a dictionary definition of academic freedom, to make it distinctive from free expression: Academic freedom is the liberty to teach, pursue and discuss knowledge without restriction or interference by anybody,” Wagner said.

 “The distinction in my mind is academic freedom is a two-directional exchange of ideas whereas freedom of expression is satisfied if it simply allows a one-directional expression of an idea or a position,” he continued.

Wagner framed the conversation with examples including the “elective and self-imposed restrictions” that individuals might occasionally make to facilitate discussion during difficult conversations, as well as issues raised by Commencement speaker Salman Rushdie, who as University Distinguished Professor gave a Feb. 15 public lecture at Emory focused on freedom of expression and “The Liberty Instinct.”

“Is there such a thing as responsibility in free expression?” Wagner asked, soliciting comments from Faculty Council members. “In other words, are there limits to the practice of free expression that should be imposed from time to time to ensure a better practice of academic freedom and the safety of those who engage in it?”

In other business:

Faculty Governance in Unit Assessment: Jason Hockenberry, associate professor in the Rollins School of Public Health, gave an update on his committee’s work thus far on proposals to create a “culture of assessment” in response to the U.S. Department of Education and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) feedback from Emory’s recent successful conclusion to the reaccreditation process by SACS.

The goal, Hockenberry said, is to move assessment from a box-checking report to strategic planning and setting aspirational goals.

“The Department of Education is looking for meaningful assessment — not designing a syllabus or tests, but can you say what Emory students look like one, two, three years out when they’ve gone through a given program? They’re interested not so much in what students learn entering and exiting the program but what happens after, what they’ve done with it,” he said.

Hockenberry’s committee is looking for more faculty members to join, particularly those with program assessment expertise. The committee will make recommendations to the provost’s office on creating the culture of assessment.

Faculty Counselor nominations process: Jaffar Khan, associate professor in neurology and Faculty Council president-elect, and University Secretary Allison Dykes reiterated the call for nominations to fill two Faculty Counselor positions, one for the investment committee and one for the real estate, buildings and grounds committee.

Dykes noted that the Board of Trustees is particularly interested in representatives from the Candler School of Theology and the law school where there have not been representatives for a few years. “Expertise in the topic isn’t needed; the board is seeking diversity,” she said. “The goal is to increase the opportunities for engagement between the board and the faculty.” 

Faculty Handbook proposed revisions - principles of faculty governance:  The council approved a motion for revisions to the faculty handbook that provide a list of principles as guiding values across the university. These develop and reaffirm the set of fundamental principles for faculty governance, said Kristin Wendland, director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Music.

John Bugge of the Emeritus College listed the principles: Interdependence, inclusiveness, transparency and communication, accountability, being democratic, deliberativeness, consistency, collegiality, fairness, recognition and plurality.

Faculty Counselors’ reports: Karen Stolley, chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, said social entrepreneurship and enterprise risk management were the topics of her two recent meetings with the Board of Trustees Campus Life committee for which she is faculty counselor. Goizueta Business School’s Andrea Hershatter, Emeritus College’s Gray Crouse and Campus Life’s Ambra Yarbrough gave presentations to the committee meeting in social entrepreneurship living-learning community Raoul Hall.

At the meeting on enterprise risk management, a central topic for college and university boards nationwide, Stolley said, “We learned about Student Intervention Services, which is a new program that has been developed in the college for rapid response to issues of student risk.”

Jill Perry-Smith, associate professor of organization and management in Goizueta and faculty counselor to the Trustees’ finance committee, “wanted to underscore this idea that faculty members do not have to have specific knowledge of the particular topic to serve on a committee.”

Faculty salaries: Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Claire Sterk followed up on last month’s discussion on faculty salaries. Noting the complexity of factors behind faculty salaries, Sterk said that the deans from each school have turned in their initial analyses on competitive faculty salaries, assisted by a plethora of information the provost’s office and from a variety of professional sources.   

“Based on a much higher level review, we had already decided that Emory salary levels were falling behind in terms of competitiveness on an overall level,” she said.

“So we are working through the budget hearings with the deans and coming up with a multi-year plan to ensure that faculty salaries are where they deserve to be,” Sterk said.  

Sterk noted that the work on faculty salaries “also links nicely to the work that the Class and Labor Committee is doing.”

Wagner wound up the meeting with an overview of the six priorities of the cabinet, which are:

  • Faculty quality and excellence
  • Student quality and excellence
  • Reputational quality and excellence
  • Board of Trustees succession, engagement and impact
  • Resource acquisition and management
  • Staff development, succession and impact

The first three are strategic initiatives, and the second three are supporting priorities, Wagner noted.

Employee Council

The Emory Employee Council discussed several events and initiatives of interest to the Emory community at its meeting Feb. 18.

The Spring University Town Hall meeting will be held on April 15 from noon until 2 p.m. in the auditorium of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center Building. Members of the Emory community are invited to attend to share their ideas and concerns with President James Wagner and the university cabinet. A light lunch will be served.

A campus-wide community-service project, Operation Dignity, is seeking donations of feminine care products and articles of intimate clothing for women in homeless shelters around Georgia. Contact Koya Alford at knalfor@emory.edu for more details.

Farmers to 40, a program within Social Enterprise @ Goizueta, is offering special purchasing options to the Emory community for single-estate, certified-organic coffees grown by select farms through a program that encourages economic development within coffee-growing communities. Contact Melinda Kougioumtzis, center administrator for Social Enterprise @ Goizueta, at Melinda.K@emory.edu for information on special Emory purchasing options.