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Emory leadership response to student concerns

Dear Students:

We thank you for advancing planning and action to address the serious concerns presented in the student demands document. You are initiating the kind of dialogue that is essential to cultivating a more socially just campus community. We firmly support your commitment to progress and look forward to meeting with you to fully address our community concerns, specifically those of Black students.

This letter is written in the spirit of providing an immediate response to very complex and important matters. We acknowledge that there is much work to be done. A number of the issues raised and the associated work will require meetings and further discussions for understanding, agreement, and action plans. These dialogues are being planned in an expedited way and will begin with a meeting on December 2 during which student leaders and members of our administration will develop an agenda to address concerns articulated in the demands with relevant Academic Affairs and Campus Life administrators at a retreat scheduled for January 22. Some immediate responses in the areas listed below serve as a foundation for the planning discussions going forward.

We wish to emphasize two points at the start. First, some concerns and responses below overlap and some may apply to more than one area of concern. Second, none of our responses below are intended to be final. As mentioned above, we look forward to meeting soon to further examine how we can address the concerns that you outline and we share. As previously mentioned, although many of the demands will be addressed during a retreat scheduled on January 22, several of the systemic issues articulated in the demands will be addressed through mutually agreed upon structures.

Demands 1 and 2: Bias Incident Reporting

The Bias Incident Reporting program is a relatively new system that was initiated in fall 2013 to provide a platform to share our community values and expectations, establish a reporting structure for students to document bias incidents, and form a team of staff members trained to respond to bias incidents.

We will review with you the challenges and successes of this system and implement changes to better support the needs of the community. Your input and that of other students is essential.

Demand 3: Counseling and Psychological Services

You raise the issue of resources available to Black students through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). Recognizing that mental health is an important part of student success, last spring we created a new executive-level position to lead the CAPS office. This senior staff member represents mental health concerns on Emory Campus Life’s Executive Leadership Team and participates directly in Emory Campus Life strategic policy formation.

The CAPS staff is fully committed to examining how we can best address the concerns that you expressed regarding support for Black students. Currently, half of the CAPS staff are people of color and 43 percent of the clients served last year were students of color, including 13 percent who identified as Black or African American. We are committed to broadening our approaches for engaging with students, providing a safe space for Black students, and creating partnerships to connect with students from marginalized groups who may feel hesitant to come to CAPS. 

Demand 4:  Faculty Evaluations

Emory University, like most universities with multiple undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools, does not have a unified course evaluation form. The course evaluation information is used for the annual evaluation of each faculty member as well as included in the dossier for each faculty member considered for tenure and/or promotion. Modifications to the course evaluation form are a core component of faculty governance in each school/college.

Each academic Dean will be asked to establish a process in the school/college to review and revise current course evaluations (e.g., add the recommended open-ended questions), as well as make other revisions identified as part of the review. Next, these revised course evaluations will be shared through existing mechanisms such as the Council of Deans, the University Senate, and the ongoing assessments on student learning.

As the 2015 fall semester is coming to end, this work will begin in the 2016 spring semester with the intent to use the revised course evaluation from the spring and to consider the outcomes in the 2015-2016 annual faculty evaluations. The Office of Planning and Budgeting will collect information on the faculty annual evaluations as part of the annual reporting requirement for each school, specifically the nature and number of negative actions regarding faculty members.

Demand 5: Academic Support

Enhancing academic support will require ongoing collaboration between Campus Life and the schools/colleges. We look forward to working with you to generate ideas on how to expand and strengthen existing programs, several of which are described below, as well as identify new programmatic opportunities.

Academic advising and mentoring are essential to the success of all our students, including undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Despite significant advances in academic support, there is a need for further investments to ensure that students from historically marginalized groups, including Black students, receive the kind and level of support that will yield success at Emory and beyond. 

Similar to the structure for revising course evaluations, each academic Dean will be asked to establish a structure in the school/college to review student academic support via engagement of students, faculty, and staff and grounded in the school/college governance structure. The Deans will be expected to work with their respective constituency groups to implement improvements in a timely matter and to provide a progress report, including evaluations as appropriate, as part of the annual reporting structure.  Council of Deans meetings will allow for sharing and comparisons across schools/colleges.

Over the past 25 years, the Emory Campus Life Career Center has co-sponsored "Reality Is... " This networking event, specifically for Black students, is provided in collaboration with the Caucus of Emory Black Alumni (CEBA) and the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services (OMPS). The Career Center has also conducted workshops for the OMPS Multicultural Outreach and Resources at Emory (MORE) program the last two years. We look forward to exploring with you the expansion of career support initiatives for Black students at Emory.

One of Campus Life’s organizational restructuring efforts this year that speaks to your concerns is the creation of the new Office of Student Success Programs and Services. This initiative includes the 1915 Scholars Program, Emory Advantage, and The Gates Millennium Scholars Program, which collectively assist students with meeting academic, social, and financial challenges. This organizational change was created to increase program synergy, effectiveness, and efficiency by bringing several related initiatives under the same umbrella.

The Office of Student Success also encompasses the Student Intervention Services (SIS) Team working closely with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and Student Health Services (SHS) – which houses psychiatry, and other campus offices – to create additional synergy among services as we work together to support students and help them achieve success. Because Student Success is a new department, it is especially important that we establish a student advisory board to determine future programming, especially as it relates to supporting Black students at Emory, and we welcome your participation in this.

We also recognize the importance of mentoring programs that involve peer and staff/faculty/alumni initiatives. The Office of Multicultural Programs and Services (OMPS) currently facilitates several programs designed to provide mentoring and support for Black students. These programs – Men of Distinction at Emory (MODE), Multicultural Outreach and Resources at Emory (MORE), and Building Leaders and Cultivating Knowledge (BLACK) – support meaningful relationships and promote student success. However, we recognize that we have work to do to make our community even more supportive of Black students’ academic and social success. We look forward to working with you to strategize next steps for programmatic support for our mentoring programs. We are committed to expanding programs and services to meet the needs of the community. 

Demand 6: Planning Diversity Initiatives

Black students and other students representing historically marginalized groups will be invited to participate in the planning process for Creating Emory and other Campus Life diversity training and initiatives. In addition, the Office of Equity and Inclusion will work with Campus Life to identify committees that currently do not have student representation.

We will also work with the Advisory Council on Community and Diversity (ACCD) to ensure that each Division is committed to inclusion as demonstrated in the annual reports to the ACCD. Conversations already are underway to expand reporting of the ACCD beyond the university administration to the University Senate, the governance body of the full university, representing students, faculty, and staff.

Demands 7, 8, and 10: Increase in Black Staff, Faculty, and Administrators 

Each year, the university’s Office of Equity and Inclusion prepares and maintains an Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) in accordance with federal regulations. The process of maintaining this plan allows us the opportunity to identify areas for growth and change. Annually, the plans are shared with key stakeholders at the university and monitored for improvements. Emory’s Affirmative Action Plan is more than a shelf document. Implementation of this plan serves as guiding principles for the community. This plan allows us to: 1) implement educational programs aimed at increasing diversity in our workplace; 2) conduct federally mandated workforce analyses; 3) develop affirmative action programs and best practices; 4) document best effort; 5) guide the work we do to engage self-analyses for the purpose of discovering barriers to equal employment opportunities; and 6) monitor our progress over extended periods of time.

As part of the school/college annual reporting as well as of Emory’s Affirmative Action plan, we conduct an annual evaluation of the composition of our faculty. This includes benchmarking for underrepresented faculty, including Black faculty, based on national trends and the pipeline. The analyses include a comparison between the current and expected faculty composition by type of appointment and rank. When a school/college is below the targeting representation, the Dean of that unit is charged to rectify the situation. In addition, the review compares the faculty composition to the Emory goals for each school/college, and this is where we must continue to make progress, as the proposed goals are not being met in all schools/colleges or across disciplines. 

Two years ago, the Office of the Provost created a Faculty Diversity Fund to assist the deans to achieve faculty diversity goals as defined by discipline/area of focus with the understanding that progress is measured both in numbers and most importantly an improved culture for faculty diversity. The latter includes recognition of contributions to committee work and other institution-building activities.

Faculty recruitment and retention are a priority for all of academic affairs at Emory. Part of the January retreat will focus on developing a shared understanding of how dedicated recruitment and retention currently occur, how recruitment and retention can be enhanced, and how these actions will yield increased diversity.

To improve faculty retention and with an emphasis on faculty diversity, the Office of Equity and Inclusion within the Office of the Provost established, in partnership with one of the Senior Advisors to the Provost and a Faculty Advisory Committee, the Best Practices for Faculty Recruitment. Work is underway to establish Best Practices for Faculty Retention, also with an emphasis on faculty diversity.  Workshops on unconscious bias for faculty searches were initiated in fall 2015, and training to expand the number of faculty who can provide these workshops is underway. 

Although Emory Campus Life is a diverse organization, we are not satisfied with our current levels of staff diversity, professional development opportunities, and recruitment and retention strategies – all of which we are committed to improving.

Campus Life recently appointed a Senior Director/Senior Associate Dean of Learning and Innovation, who provides leadership, management, and direction to nurture professional development of Campus Life staff. Along with the Campus Life Human Resources Manager, the two departments lead learning and development efforts in a range of programs, including our ongoing commitment to recruitment at every level that supports a staff representing the broad diversity of our campus community. In partnership with Emory Human Resources, we will conduct a new comprehensive review of Campus Life staff compensation and recruitment and retention strategies for staff of color and other historically marginalized groups.

The Class and Labor Committee provided 62 recommendations on staff, and these have been addressed through an implementation committee that was part of the University Senate. The report on faculty from the Class and Labor Committee has been delayed but is expected to be ready in early 2016. Once received, recommendations also will be shared with the University Senate and other key constituency groups. The expectation is to establish a University Senate standing committee for implementation regarding Class and Labor recommendations for staff and faculty. 

Demand 9: Trials for Black Organizations

Campus Life’s Office of Student Conduct has two recent appointees as Director and Assistant Director. In collaboration with students, the staff members in the Office of Student Conduct will review our policies and protocols and develop recommendations to further enhance the entire system.

Demand 11: Geofence for Yik Yak

Through a partnership between Information Technology Services and the University Senate, a task force will be created to examine the feasibility of a geofence covering the zip codes for Emory University, including Oxford College.

Demand 12: Establishment of GED Program 

Emory Human Resources will recommend strategies to enhance the working conditions of DUC/Cox workers and explore the possibility of establishing GED course offerings for staff members.

Demand 13: General Education Requirement Addressing Issues Affecting People of Color

The General Education Requirement is offered in Emory College of Arts and Sciences and Oxford College.  The Senate, the faculty governance body in Emory College, has indicated their interest in exploring the suggested requirements as part of the College’s strategic planning process. This demand will be further discussed at the upcoming retreat with representatives of the Emory College Faculty Senate. Similarly, strategic planning will occur on the Oxford campus, and the GER request is part of that process as well. The next Dean of Oxford, who is expected to be selected next spring, will be charged with finalizing and implementing the plan. 


This document describes current areas of engagement that already address to some extent the concerns that you expressed in your demands document, as well as several initiatives scheduled for spring semester. We are committed to participating in a process that explores a full range of efforts now underway, your ideas on how we might enhance existing programs, and possible new initiatives where needed. 

It is our hope that a comprehensive document will be developed following the January 22 retreat that identifies a timeline, action steps, and accountability measures for each demand. Meanwhile, Emory Campus Life staff members are partnering with student leaders to co-facilitate special programs to help students successfully complete the current semester.

The Wall of Love, which took place November 23, was led by students and supported by the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services (OMPS) as a space for healing in light of racist comments on social media. In addition, a program is scheduled to take place before finals to help students prepare for exams and engage in self-care. For spring semester, the Office of Health Promotion (OHP) is developing a Happiness Boot Camp for Black students as part of Flourish Emory.

We support what we understand to be your overarching goal – to ensure that Emory’s Black students, like all our students, receive the support they need and deserve to succeed. Know also that we are committed to working with you to achieve that goal.

We look forward to further dialogue and planning with you in the very near future.


Ajay Nair
Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life

Claire E. Sterk
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

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