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
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
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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