is the word many have used to describe the events in Emory College
and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences last springnever
had an issue so galvanized the faculty.
It was a bold administrative stroke on the part of President Bill
Chace and Provost Rebecca Chopp to have thought of appointing Bobby
Paul, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, to the newly
created position of Executive Vice Provost for Arts and Sciences
in March. The impending departures of both Chopp to the deanship
of Yale Divinity School and Emory College dean Steven Sanderson
to the presidency of the Wildlife Conservation Society at the close
of the academic year ushered in a season of change. The new, unified
office of the executive vice provost would help solve key
structural problems inherent in the dual structures of the separate
college and graduate school systems, said the president and
then-provost in a March 20 letter to the faculty. These problems,
they added, diminish or block our capacity to achieve our
ambitions for excellence in the arts and sciences. They also
announced a strategic planning process that would involve faculty
in determining exactly how we should fashion that [new] structure.
Some faculty members immediately voiced concern about the process
leading to the decision, which seemed abrupt. Others questioned
the structure itself: What would be the relationship between the
college, the graduate school, and the new executive vice provost?
Who would make tenure decisions?
With these issues in mind, Harvey Klehr, Andrew W. Mellon Professor
of Politics and History, took action. He recruited twenty-three
co-sponsors, twenty of whom hold named professorships, for a resolution
arguing that a fundamental change has been implemented without
meaningful consultation with the faculty and that the
new structure has diminished the status of Emory College in the
University. For the first time in living memory, a faculty
meeting was called by the chair of the colleges Executive
Committee, rather than by the dean. The proposed resolution was
the sole item on the agenda. After more than an hour of debate in
an April 11 meeting of some 300 faculty members, the resolution
passed. All the proposed amendments, including one separating the
matter of process from the critique of the substance of the change,
were voted down.
Meanwhile, another group of faculty drafted a letter emphasizing
their concern about the process yet stating their favor for the
new structure itself. They expressed support for a comprehensive
vision of Arts and Sciences, without undermining the autonomy and
uniqueness of either the College or the Graduate School. They
also encouraged an extended, inclusive, faculty-led exploration
of that issue. The open letter, with forty-seven faculty signatures,
addressed the Executive Committee of Emory College, which comprises
the chairs of all the colleges standing committees, in addition
to several members-at-large and ex officio members.
Following a subsequent series of meetings from mid-April until early
May among the Executive Committee and the president, the provost,
and the designated interim provost, Howard O. Hunter, the new position
of executive vice provost and Pauls appointment were rescinded.
The Executive Committee and the administrators formulated a list
of criteria for the selection of an interim dean for Emory College.
The committee then reviewed and deliberated nominations and applications
for the position in conjunction with the administration. After formal
interviewing, in late May Paul was appointed Interim Dean of Emory
College for two years, during which the arts and sciences will undergo
a planning process. Gary Wihl, whom Paul had recently hired as an
associate dean, was appointed Acting Dean of the Graduate School
for two years.
By some accounts, that anxious
spring marked a shift toward a more united and powerful faculty.
But pressing questions remain: how will faculty be involved in governance,
and what should be the shape and organization of the arts and sciences?
Many more people are engaged and interested in the state of
the university, says Judith Miller, associate professor of
history and member of the Executive Committee. I think the
next discussions are going to be very good.
Others arent as sure, however. Well have to see
whether it was a one-time thing, Klehr says. I was surprised,
but not stunned, by how many faculty were concerned.
Klehr adds that he doesnt see the need for new structures
to aid faculty governance. Were overgoverned, in a way.
There are all kinds of structures that were available and could
have been used, both as to making the decisions the administration
made, and then once this whole thing blew up, as to how it was resolved.
Some faculty members have said they dont know what the Executive
Committee of the college is or what it does, but its there,
an elected faculty committee.
The Executive Committee had not been terribly active
until last spring, says Miller. When this issue arose, we
engaged in a learning process, trying to take care with any text
we drafted and distributed, trying to figure out the best formats
for meetings, what the ground rules should be. We tried to stay
focused on having transparent, inclusive, democratic processes,
rather than any particular outcome.
But Miller believes there is a need for new governing structures.
I would like to see some sort of elected, representative body
for the college, and perhaps the arts and sciences as a whole. One
of the odd things about the present Executive Committee structure
that makes it appear less representative is that each of us was
elected as the head of a standing committee. Im not sure many
faculty understood that when they cast their ballots for chairs
of the various standing committees in April, they were also electing
the Executive Committee.
Dennis Liotta, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Chemistry, identifies
a different set of flaws in the present system. The committee
structures we have are really not appropriate for the kinds of discussions
we need. Given the inherent lack of forums that would enable us
to interact, we are necessarily conflict averse. When all you can
do is confer with a limited subset of colleagues, addressing complex
issues becomes quite challenging, and in the extreme, the faculty
involved can be perceived as a group of malcontents.
Liotta adds that he hopes the planning process this year and next
for the arts and sciences broadly involves the faculty. Im
concerned that well get a small group of faculty, say ten
people--probably very fine and well-intentioned people--who will
try to formulate some recommendations. I would like to see a process
that involves every faculty member in arts and sciences, including
people in the public health and nursing schools who supervise graduate
students. We all need to understand the issues and have a clear
perspective about how they impact education and research.
and research redux
Other anxieties about the planning
process circle back to the relationship of the undergraduate and
graduate programs. I signed that resolution because I love
the college, and I didnt think the new structure really took
into consideration the danger of creating a two-tiered faculty,
says Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Philosophy
Tom Flynn. I dont like the idea of our even having the
possibility of someone in the position Ill call superdeansomeone
who has no real deep involvement in the college, especially as were
entering this new phase with a stress on research.
Flynn suggests improving faculty leaves to strengthen both undergraduate
teaching and research. When faculty are here, they would teach,
but they would get a chance every few yearsnot just every
sevento pursue a research project. If you have a two-tiered
faculty, its the researchers whose opinions count and who
pull the weight in the department. As somebody once said, teaching
awards are like Confederate money. Theyre only good at home.
But Paul insists that undergraduate teaching and graduate training
and research exist on equal footing. Its not a question
of privileging one or the other, he says. They cannot
be separated. Graduate students do a vast amount of our undergraduate
teaching. We have the tatto [Teaching Assistant Training and Teaching
Opportunity] program that teaches graduate students how to be teachers.
Thats one of the great things we have that no one else does.
We dont, however, do a good enough job of valuing and
supporting faculty research. An arts and sciences reputation is
based on the visibility of faculty researchwho won the Nobel
Prize, whos winning the Guggenheims and the Fulbrights, whose
book is being read. Those kinds of faculty members come to and stay
at a place where they can do that kind of work, train top-notch
graduate students, and have access to exciting undergraduates. We
have to support all of these.
I am committed to keeping the arts and sciences moving forward
at a pace comparable to the medical school, the public health school,
the business school, and the other professional schools. All of
them have clearly stated goals, and they can use them to persuade
the administration and make presentations to the trustees. Perhaps
most importantly, they have been very successful at using them as
a guide to fundraising. I want the arts and sciences to be in as
strong a position as possible within the university. Because in
the long run, university reputations rest finally on the reputation
of the faculty of the arts and sciences.
Laurie Patton, associate professor and chair of the religion department,
views all of these conversations as an opportunity for positive
change in faculty culture. Part of what makes good academics
is that they see hidden agendas, whats underneath. But in
human relations, that can lead to a certain kind of paranoia, and
faculty tend to thrive on hidden resentment. And the only way to
change that is to declare our interests openly and work with them,
which is something we havent done.
We dont have the habits of thought and citizenship to
handle this well. I think we have to have a group of people who
disagree with each other and who are intensely loyal to each other
at the same time. You state your interests straightforwardly, but
easily and warmly. And its very hard for academic faculty
to be open to negotiation and not suspicious. It takes saying youre
going to hang in there over the course of the conflict. In some
rare instances, I have experienced academic cultures where disagreement
can be a form of making collegial relationships, not breaking them.
I think Emory can be that kind of culture, if it works hard at it.