Great Expectations

Practical Matters

Rebecca Stone-Miller, Associate Professor of Art History and Faculty Curator


Emory's New President and the Idea of a University
Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor of Preaching


Economic Challenges and the Art of Education
Geoffrey Broocker, Walthour Delaperriere Professor of Ophthalmology

A Fresh Perspective for Perennial Problems
David Carr, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Philosophy

Teaching Versus Research: Does It Have to Be That Way?
Lucas Carpenter, Charles Howard Candler Professor of English, Oxford College

Becoming a Top-Tier Research University
Lawrence W. Barsalou, Winship Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology, and Elaine Walker, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

Ethics, Diversity, and Teaching
David B. Gowler, Pierce Professor of Religion, Oxford College

A More Positive University
Corey L.M. Keyes, Associate Professor of Sociology

Advice from the Lighter Side
Vicki Powers, Asssociate Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science

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As a fifteen-year veteran of the humanities faculty at Emory, I want to offer comments on some practical matters to the new president as he takes the helm. Unfortunately, the new president inherits a fairly disgruntled faculty in the wake of the recent benefits cuts. Under a new administration, those cuts can and should be revisited and the unfair situation rectified with a new balancing of priorities: for example, cut one-tenth of the building budget, and the projected medical cost shortfall would be solved.

Maybe this kind of economic advice does not seem appropriate coming from an art historian, but faculty members in the humanities do not make the same kind of salaries as elsewhere in the university, so we are particularly hard hit. Atlanta is not a cheap city to live in: most houses within two miles of campus cost over $400,000; Georgia's public schools rank forty-eighth in the nation (leading many faculty members to spend large sums on private school for their children); and Emory's salaries are not particularly competitive (in fact, Emory's newly-minted art history Ph.D.s start at salaries as high as their professors' in some cases). All those factors were in place before our benefits suffered, to boot.

The absolute money is not really the issue, however; none of us went into academia hoping to get rich. The main fallout is morale. Compounding this effect is the tendency for granting agencies to penalize us because of Emory's perceived wealth, while we are denied the advantages of said wealth. Many of us simply do not feel valued, rewarded, or motivated at this point. Emory also has organized itself in recent years to urge the faculty to do a great deal of service while placing a new emphasis on teaching. This situation means that we are doing more precisely while receiving less. Consequently, more than ever before, I hear about faculty members looking elsewhere, something that could easily cause a downward spiral in morale and retention, making hiring new talent harder and ultimately affecting the overall quality of the institution.

I would say that while we are busy teaching and serving, most of us want to do research first and foremost; that is the core of the intellectual life and fuels the "excellent" teaching we all desire (and that pays the bills). Both teaching and research make our reputation; the size of the endowment should not. There is a serious disconnect between a school that U.S. News and World Report overall places in the top twenty but whose faculty they ranked around thirty-ninth in recent years. I would hazard that one main reason is that research time and money are sorely lacking at Emory: most humanists have a thousand dollars a year for both travel and research. I cannot go to South America, where I research ancient art, for more than about forty-eight hours on that amount. My colleagues who need to go to New York several times a year, much less those whose work is in Africa or Asia, are seriously handicapped. Emory is embarrassed--or should be--when we cannot accept professional opportunities for lack of money, or when, for three years running, a faculty member has to get a letter from the dean to the irs acknowledging that the university requires but does not support that individual's research expenses.

I would personally exhort the new president to read the Commission on Research at Emory report with great care and to institute its major recommendations as soon as possible. It has many ideas for how to develop our ability to unite research and teaching, do our creative work in an atmosphere of trust, to travel as we must, to go to meetings to learn as well as present, and to change the values at Emory from quantity to quality (for example, at Stanford only one's three best pieces are offered for tenure).

Four ideas that would give us more time for research: 1) ironically, one innovation Emory used to have, Wonderful Wednesday, a class-less day for discussion and research; 2) absolute limits to service, such as one committee and one departmental duty per faculty member; 3) recognition of "invisible" teaching, such as reading honors theses and directing dissertations, with course releases; 4) institution of year-long sabbaticals every eight years (a very attractive selling point to new and existing faculty, especially ones who primarily write books). We must have time to think.

It is unnecessary for Emory to be at odds with itself, alienating its talented faculty for no apparent reason, hoarding its money, and demanding higher performance in a classic double bind. The situation is serious. Perhaps the bottom line, including but not limited to the monetary one, is that an institution dedicated to ideas will spend its money on nurturing creativity, will allow the pump to be primed with research so that great teaching will follow, and will try some innovative ideas in order to achieve a true stature. Being "rich" is not the point; being rich in intellectual achievement is. The new president can do much to steer the proverbial boat in that direction.