11 No. 5
The New Reality
Emory faculty respond to a transformed economic world
Schools adjust to hard times
“To suddenly have to do a complete, 180-degree about-face and think about where we can slow down, where we can cut, and constricting ourselves while trying to maintain some of our momentum and simultaneously go in the opposite direction—that's quite disconcerting.”
“We are very stretched in a number of important areas. Our challenge is to find the right balance between reductions in staffing versus reductions in the collections.”
Conflict of Interest and Ensuring the Public Trust
Historical perspectives and current concerns
Hearing the Music
A composer considers audience response
Making Love to the World
The practices that sustain research
Academic Exchange: What has the economic crisis meant for your daily routine?
Bobby Paul: We’ve been doing little else. I meet regularly with representatives of the central administration. Our college budget and resources team meets almost daily. In December we constituted a faculty committee for additional advice. It consists mainly of former chairs of departments in the college, the theory being that chairs would know something about the administration and budget process, and that current chairs are already very busy and focused on the needs of their departments, whereas former chairs would be senior people who could perhaps take a broader view. I can’t say it’s been a wonderful process, because the content is not so good, but as a process it’s going about as well as it could.
AE: Have there been any persistent misconceptions about what’s happening?
BP: Emory had been relatively insulated from the effects of this, but it is a very, very major downturn in the economy. Until recently, I think that many people had not yet accepted this in their gut—maybe in their brain but not in their gut—how serious it is. It’s unprecedented in living memory. This is going to be different from past occasions where we had to tighten our belts a little.
AE: What part of this has been most difficult for you as the dean?
BP: I would say coming to terms with the overall effects on Emory. We have been on such a forward trajectory that has produced a tremendous amount of momentum at the college and elsewhere in the university: teaching plans, fundraising, expanding programs, hiring people, doing bigger and better things. To suddenly have to do a complete, 180-degree about-face and think about where we can slow down, where we can cut, and constricting ourselves while trying to maintain some of our momentum and simultaneously go in the opposite direction, that’s quite disconcerting. We’ve all been used to going forward. Now we have to talk about how we slow down or go backward, and to do it basically on a dime. We went into the fall knowing that economics were tough but not assuming anything drastic was going to happen. Then, all of a sudden, over the course of a couple of weeks, we were faced with an entirely new economic reality.
There’s also the worry about the personal impact on the faculty, staff, and students, over whom I exercise some responsibility and whom I care about. In a way it’s even more so the faculty, because students come and go, but faculty stay here. They’ve committed their lives to this place. My whole effort has been to try to make being at Emory better for them. That’s the hardest part.
AE: Do difficult times like these deepen the sense of community at Emory?
BP: The analogy that I’ve used to a few people is that after a blizzard, a flood, some catastrophe, there is this general era of good feeling. People help each other out, they speak to strangers, there’s a communal sense that descends. Then after awhile the snow turns to slush and gets dirty. Cars are skidding into each other, and tempers start to fray. I think it’s the same with this. There is on the one hand the reaction that we’re all in this together, and we are. We do have a strong community here that has served us well. At the same time, various people’s oxen will have to be gored or have already been gored. That makes it difficult for people to feel cozy about each other. It’s a bit of both.