Issues in Progress

Faculty Council

Provost Billy Frye and members of the Faculty Council spent the better part of the group's Oct. 15 meeting in a quasi-brainstorming session geared toward making the principles outlined in the 1994 document Choices & Responsibility a reality.

Frye told Council members that when the Board of Trustees adopted Choices & Responsibility as Emory's values platform last winter, they also asked Frye, President Bill Chace and the senior administration to write a strategic plan that would make real the ideals set forth in Choices & Responsibility. Frye came to the Faculty Council seeking faculty input on what strategies should be incorporated into that strategic plan.

In opening the discussion, Frye cautioned Council members that the strategic plan must be generic enough to have relevance for the entire University community, yet broad enough so that no one feels excluded from it.

Much of the Council's discussion centered around Emory College and how the College's situation speaks to the University as a whole. Several Council members commented that the College has no unified, cohesive identity and is seen as a loosely configured set of departments with isolated interests and missions.

"I think [the strategic plan] needs to say something about the mission of Emory College within the University," said Faculty Council President Luke Johnson. "We always hear that the arts and sciences are at the heart of any great university, but there is a lack of a clear definition of how Emory College is at the heart of the University and how its mission is different from the professional schools. We need to do a better job of explaining the educative and research profile of the arts and sciences."

Council member Linda Moneyham of the nursing school said the College's identity quandary reflects a broader problem that exists throughout the University. She said most of the faculty have expressed a desire for Emory to be a single, unified University with a common purpose, but in reality Emory is a collection of autonomous colleges and schools with no common mission. "I wonder if defining the role and mission for the arts and sciences can be a starting point for creating that kind of centrality throughout the University," Moneyham said.

Frye pointed out that the steps taken over the last 15-20 years to increase the size of Emory College and strengthen it academically have not always served to avoid the kind of fragmentation and insularity pointed out by Council members.

Paul Courtright of religion and Asian Studies agreed, saying that the College has grown much more rapidly than the other schools in recent years, and therefore has required more time to digest that growth.

David Pacini of the theology school said he believes the problem of a unified identity is linked to a lack of an intellectual community at Emory, a problem cited for some years by both faculty and students. Pacini said that while countless events occur on campus that are open to the Emory community, there are no single unifying events that "happen in a way that is relevant to our self understanding."

Pacini cited the year-long Human Rights Symposium that occurred at Emory in 1982-83 as an event that "energized the entire University. We need to do thematic things like that to get us out of our own tiny bailiwick and talking to each other," he said.

Virgil Brown of the medical school said he first came to Emory as a student 40 years ago, and that the College suffered then from the same problems being wrestled with now. "The College was seen as a launching pad to go somewhere else, either to another school or to one of the professional schools at Emory," Brown said. "It has been viewed as a very functional entity." Brown said some major restructuring will have to take place before the College can become a "Davidson in the middle of a Berkeley."

President Bill Chace pointed out that Emory's situation is not radically different from that of many other national universities, and the present situation exists largely because academicians are behaving in very rational ways, in ways that result in rewards under the current system. Chace asked Council members to consider whether changing the faculty rewards and incentives system might be the best way to get at the problems they've outlined.

Johnson asked Provost Frye to attend the Council's November meeting to continue the current discussion and begin discussion of other topics to be addressed in the strategic plan.

In addition, Johnson announced that a Faculty Town Hall Meeting has been tentatively scheduled for Nov. 12 with the theme of "Research at Emory: Possibilities and Projects."

--Dan Treadaway

Return to the October 21, 1996 contents page