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Newly approved ‘professor emerit’ title fosters inclusivity for retired faculty
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The end of the spring semester marks transitions within the Emory community. For students, graduation offers a new set of initials — BA, BS, BBA, MBA or PhD, for example — they may append to their names.

For faculty, the end of the spring semester may mark an equally significant occasion: retirement.

Faculty can choose to end their formal affiliation with the university in retirement or they can request a status allowing them to continue as Emory teachers, mentors, researchers and consultants. Traditionally, those whose requests have been granted are known as “professor emeritus” or “professor emerita.” In the upcoming academic year, the non-gendered title of “professor emerit” will also be an option.

Professors emeriti and retired faculty are eligible to join Emeritus College. Ravi V. Bellamkonda, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs, proudly supports the organization.

“Emory’s Emeritus College is a gem, a commitment of Emory to its members that clearly states that once a part of the Emory family, always a part of the Emory family. I am grateful for all those who make it the vibrant community that it is,” he says. The addition of “professor emerit,” Bellamkonda believes, exemplifies Emeritus College’s inherent sense of inclusivity.

Ann E. Rogers, director of Emeritus College and professor in the Nell Woodruff Hodgson School of Nursing, proposed adoption of the term to the Faculty Council in March, reasoning that “emeritus” and “emerita” are the only gendered titles in academic use. This binary distinction, Rogers suggested, may leave some faculty without the option to select a title reflective of their gender. “Emerit,” on the other hand, creates a new opportunity for inclusivity.

From its proposal in the Faculty Council, the suggested change progressed through the University Senate, the Office of the Provost and the Office of the President for successive approvals before presentation to the Board of Trustees, which approved it. The term will be included in the Statement of Principles Governing Faculty Relationships, also known as the Gray Book.

The addition of “professor emerit” to the existing titles “professor emeritus” and “professor emerita” reflects university efforts to foster inclusivity and engagement through the recognition and appreciation of community members’ identities. Last summer, for example, the Office of the Provost, Campus Life, the Office of the University Registrar and Institutional Research and Decision Support (IRDS) launched the Student Characteristics Project. The project added new data points such as sexual orientation, first-generation status and pronouns to the Online Pathway to University Students (OPUS).

The Human Resources  Department is currently assessing the options available to students in OPUS as a step toward expanding opportunities for faculty and staff to self-identify.

In addition to promoting inclusivity and belonging, more opportunities for self-identification provide the university with more data, allowing for a better understanding of who works and learns on campus.

As Carol E. Henderson, vice provost for diversity and inclusion, chief diversity officer and adviser to the president, noted upon the launch of the Student Characteristics Project, strengthening campus diversity and inclusivity begins with a “comprehensive consideration of who learns, lives and contributes to the dynamic scholarly community that is Emory.”

With better demographic information, the university can focus its services where needed. Data accuracy is an important part of these efforts.

Accurate data, says Pearl Dowe, vice provost for faculty affairs and Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Political Science and African American Studies, “facilitates our collaborative efforts across campus to support the development of faculty at each stage of their career and to ensure that our campus climate and culture is inclusive of all community members.”

“Having quality faculty data is incredibly important,” says Justin Shepherd, associate vice provost of IRDS. “Not only is the information critical for benchmarking to peer institutions, but the way we talk about faculty tells the story of Emory as a premier teaching, research and service organization.”

As part of its mission, IRDS serves both internal and external audiences, using faculty data to develop comprehensive reports and analyses that support enterprise decision-making. IRDS also shares university data with the U.S. Department of Education, Common Data Set, U.S. News and World Report, Times Higher Education and the American Association of University Professors; these organizations make it universally available to students and faculty.

The opportunity to choose “professor emerit” comes at retirement. Faculty can also update personal data throughout their career using the Human Resources platform PeopleSoft. While updates aren’t required at this time, Dowe recommends faculty review existing data annually to ensure accuracy. By logging into PeopleSoft and selecting “personal information,” faculty and staff can review and edit their name, gender, race, veteran status and contact information at any time.  

Those interested in Emory data may view it on a dashboard created by IRDS.

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