Chace seeks faculty involvement on issues facing Emory

Editor's Note: While this letter is addressed to the faculty, because some of its substance concerns the faculty more directly, it is also intended to engage the best thinking of the entire University community. President Chace invites response--by mail or by e-mail--from staff members and students as well as faculty in meeting the challenges outlined here. The president's campus address is 408 Administration Building, and his e-mail address is wchace@

To the Emory Faculty:

I write to you because I want to give you a strong sense of the issues I believe the University now faces and the ways I want us to deal with them. I immediately report that we are strong as an academic institution and getting stronger. Any problems I see are those of an institution that has not yet reached its full potential. They are not those of an institution fighting insuperable difficulties borne of either encrusted bad practice or insufficient means. I also write to you because, even after some two years in office, I do not yet know a good number of you. I regret that, but I know that a university faculty is a very busy entity; your time is consumed in teaching, writing, conducting research. Although I teach one course a year, my time is spent, as it should be, almost entirely in the administrative reaches of Emory's affairs. The result is that we don't spend enough time together. Think of this letter, then, as a candid report to you about the University and about my ambitions, concerns and abiding values. I would be grateful were you to write back to me.

Emory is strong, stronger now than it was 10 years ago. By every index of quality--strength of new faculty and administrative appointments, academic quality of entering students, volume of sponsored research, racial and gender diversity of your ranks and of the student population, magnitude of the endowment, national reputation--we have been proceeding in the right ways. In coming to Emory, I knew that it had already been advancing with a pace that had become the envy of many other universities.

And I knew I was coming to a place that had been well managed. Paramount among my discoveries was the process of faculty-oriented self-study that had led to the publication of Choices and Responsibility.

The balanced thinking of that document, written by Provost Billy Frye, about all of the complex issues that matter most to higher education--teaching and scholarship, the building of a proper community, the virtues of interdisciplinary research, the quality of the infrastructure and relationships beyond the campus--gives us a solid and well-tested foundation on which we can build during the coming years.

The path we now must set for ourselves will depend on everything said and represented by Choices and Responsibility.

But it is a path, I report to you, to be defined more by our considerable advantages than by our problems. Emory is one of the few schools in the country not talking about retrenchment, downsizing, deficits and the need to be leaner and ever leaner. I urge you to compare our situation with that faced by your many colleagues around the nation. We thrive now on the ways in which you, the faculty, have stressed the profound importance of good teaching; the effective husbanding of our resources in the past; the infusions of philanthropic support of every kind; and the decent fairness with which our problems have been dealt in the past. The legacy is strong, the momentum right, the good fortune impressive.

Where to go from here?

I answer: we first draw on the values of Choices and Responsibility; we ask for your greater involvement in the governance of the institution; we constantly and aggressively look for ways to increase the strength of the faculty; we expand the geographical base--nationally and internationally--of our curricular programs and of our student body; we jealously guard the valuable command we have in good teaching; we stress much more emphatically and explicitly the importance of the ethical dimension of everything we do; we attend much more carefully--through formal campus planning--to the precious land on which we live and work; we expand our participation in the sponsored research programs of this nation; and we train ourselves to become more actively and publicly engaged in the business of being good neighbors in the area in which we find ourselves.

Choices and Responsibility has given us a base--of values and hopes--on which to stand. Now we must rise from it to address the ways in which we are further to strengthen Emory. I am conducting an informal strategic planning process meant to address several key questions: how do we make sure that the shaping of our future excellence, while being responsive to fiscal realities, is not driven by them; how do we assess our relative assets and liabilities, knowing that our current general strength is neither uniform nor homogeneous throughout the institution; where do we further reinforce our "steeples of academic excellence," and where do we remedy areas of academic weakness; how can we bring greater efficiency of purpose to all our tasks? This informal process, although it has profited greatly from the presence of your colleague Luke Johnson, president of the Faculty Council, must become more formal and more inclusive of your thoughts and aspirations. You will hear more soon from me about the results of this informal work, and how we are to expand its scope and participants.

Two administrative situations immediately deserve your attention. The first is the succession of leadership in Emory College. Professor Robert A. Paul of the ILA, anthropology and psychiatry, is chairing a committee of your colleagues to find a new vice president for arts and sciences and dean of the College. He wants your suggestions, advice and nominations. The College is the heart of any great university. The person selected at this moment in Emory's evolution must become, while in service at Emory, one of the finest administrators in the nation. On his or her watch the strength of the faculty must grow in skill, power and eminence.

The second situation results from the decision by Billy Frye, one of the best and most admired academic citizens of this country, to retire after this academic year. Although I am delighted that he will thereafter become the fourth chancellor in Emory's history and will serve to advise and instruct us in matters affecting our strategic planning, we must find a worthy successor to him. The steps to take will be two: the first is to choose an interim provost to lead the office in 1997-98. One of the reasons I am not immediately searching for Provost Frye's successor is that I want to get a clear sense of what his absence from the office will mean (obviously it will mean a great deal). I will make that selection, and it will be from within the faculty ranks, but I want your nominations and advice about who it should be. Please send those ideas to me. The second step is to select Billy Frye's formal successor. For that important mission, I will establish a search committee, and the search will be national and ambitious in its scope.

I hope to name the interim provost sometime in the early winter and to establish the search committee late in the spring. I will be asking the newly established Presidential Advisory Committee for advice on both of these matters.

And now to matters specific in nature, ones on which time must be spent because the issues are complex and their resolution important:

1. I have said that we must attend much more carefully--through formal campus planning--to the precious land on which we live and work. Our Atlanta campus includes only some 630 acres. The pressures to build on that land are unremitting, yet we will soon reach a limit beyond which additional building will be impossible. As much as I and others would like to see an end to any building, I believe we must recognize that some construction is inevitable. The projects I deem necessary include: a center for the performing arts, without which the University is not a genuine participant in the creations of its faculty and students; adequate laboratory and research space for our natural scientists, who simply cannot proceed with the work they must do if Emory is to be regarded as seriously involved in important scientific discoveries; a renovated home for the School of Nursing, whose ambitions cannot be realized in the building it now occupies; and a new medical research building, one that will propel Emory into the very front ranks of national importance in the health sciences. We are now in the last stages of selecting a campus master-planning firm to help us in this task. The firm we choose will want to talk to you about what we are to do to protect our welfare on the acreage on which we live and work.

2. The future of Affirmative Action at Emory. Authority in this matter is not wholly in our hands, for courts are making decisions with which we must comply. But we do have a profound obligation to speak to what we believe are issues of fairness and equity in admissions, financial aid and employment. I appreciate the various arguments attacking Affirmative Action, and I can cite, as can we all, illustrations demonstrating its excesses, but I believe that it has been meritorious in the way it has enriched our student body, our faculty and our administrative ranks. It should not vanish from the American scene and I will be involved, with your help, in assuring its successful continuation at Emory. I am asking the President's Commission on the Status of Minorities for help in this matter.

3. The health sciences at Emory represent some 80 percent of our total annual operating budget. With two hospitals and a clinic, and with operational involvement in a geriatric facility, a children's hospital, a large indigent hospital in downtown Atlanta and a Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the medical reality at the University constitutes an immense part of our collective lives. That reality is, in turn, made up of three consequential parts: teaching, clinical care and high-level research. The health sciences here are funded from various sources, but two of them--federal research dollars and clinical income--are undergoing immense changes. These changes exert extraordinary pressure directly on the management of the health sciences and indirectly on the University. We now have in place expert and talented management, led by Michael Johns, to oversee these changes. But we cannot pretend that we know the future of managed care, insurance coverage and the federal responsibility to research. For all of the foreseeable future, we therefore must be agile, prudent and tough-minded. In these areas, we can afford few mistakes. I can think of few matters at Emory which will need greater care and skill.

4. The future of The Carter Center. This arm of the University, though unique, is nevertheless one whose full potential, for Emory and for the world, has not been fully realized. What is its future, what is its best relationship to the University and how can we effect a strong and productive relationship for all of the future years? I am participating vigorously in a study of these issues and will report to you soon about the findings of a joint Emory/Carter Center study group.

5. The pursuit of excellence at Emory. Everyone at a university has strong ideas about excellence, for one of the presiding truths of a university is that it is, in large part, a meritocracy. Although its social culture must be egalitarian in spirit, it seeks, rewards and promotes the best that can be: excellence of mind, of civic responsibility, of the ways in which the discovery and promulgation of truth can be spread in the world. I am concerned that Emory has not yet fully developed a collective understanding of how this crucial mission is pursued. How is excellence in research to be united with excellence in teaching? How is technology best to be harnessed in the enhancement of both? How can genuine interdisciplinary missions act as efficient catalysts in producing results unattainable by unidisciplinary efforts? How are faculty searches most likely to bring to the campus the best colleagues for Emory's future? What is to be done to create a campus environment more passionately committed to intellectual vitality and excitement?

We will turn to the recently established Commission on Teaching for some of the answers we need to these questions. And the Presidential Advisory Committee, which I created last year, will help me to deepen my thinking about excellence: what it is, how it is to be sought and sustained, and what its costs (fiscal and otherwise) are. But for some of the answers we need, the faculty--you--are the only source of real help. I therefore urge all of you to develop a stronger sense of how active governance in the truly important activities of the University can be shared. You have received encouragement in this respect from your colleague Luke Johnson; he has written you asking you to participate more energetically in the deliberations affecting our common future. The excellence of Emory will be a reality largely defined by the intensity of your commitment to it.

Enough for now. If presidents can keep just a few issues burning brightly in their minds, they will have begun to justify their being on campuses. These are among the issues that charter what I do and how I think. I would welcome your responses to this letter. More than that, I would welcome your help. I will be writing again to all of you in the near future.

Bill Chace, President

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