Helping the University figure out how to defend and sustain its Affirmative Action program in light of recent court decisions that have undermined such programs would be a timely topic for the Commission to address this year, according to President Bill Chace.
Commission members invited Chace to attend their Sept. 23 meeting to hear his thoughts on what issues related to minority faculty, staff and students he believes are most pressing for the coming year. While stressing that he was not setting the Commission's agenda, Chace said it would be helpful to the administration if the Commission could help in clearly articulating the grounds on which an Affirmative Action program can be sustained successfully in a national context of court decisions that have removed some of the traditional underpinnings of such programs.
"I think Affirmative Action has been very successful, both here and elsewhere," Chace said. "I want that to continue." He said the nation's hope for and belief in Affirmative Action has been partially eroded, partly because there have been abuses of the program. "But that has been a minor problem," Chace said. "In the context of history, I think Affirmative Action will be seen overwhelmingly as a success. It has changed Emory for the good. What we need now are better, more effective and more telling arguments for Affirmative Action."
Chace said there aren't enough demonstrable arguments that Affirmative Action has been a positive force. He said the Commission could help supply the administration with the data needed to make such arguments. Chace also encouraged the Commission to sponsor public discussions on the future of Affirmative Action.
Stephen Thomas of the School of Public Health asked Chace whether a moral argument in support of Affirmative Action has equal value with a statistical, data-oriented argument. Chace said that using Affirmative Action as a means of ensuring that the Emory community reflects the full texture of American society is a moral argument, but it probably would not be seen as a legal argument. In the past, Chace said, most judges have insisted on hearing legal arguments in such cases.
Another concern Chace expressed to the Commission has to do with "apparent patterns of student segregation, which is discouraging to a child of the '60s like myself." Chace also noted a lack of gender and ethnic diversity in the upper level administration. He said the student population is a much earlier indicator of the changing face of a university, and that the faculty, administration and trustee populations generally lag behind.
Chace said that while he continues to be concerned about specific incidents of intolerance on campus and has cautioned himself to take such events seriously, he does not take them as "emblematic of the campus as a whole. Those incidents were ugly and demoralizing, but they didn't speak for the whole campus and they didn't reveal what Emory really is."
The University did not act fast enough to respond to those incidents last year, Chace said. "We have learned from that, and we will act faster and with greater professionalism in the future," he said.
Alice Miller, associate vice president for Human Resources, updated the Council at its Sept. 18 meeting on several initiatives her department is working on. Those issues include:
* Merging the University and hospitals human resources functions into a single Emory system;
* Merging the University and two hospital data systems into one and establishing an on-line system that will allow employees to update human resources-related information via their computer, such as changing a life insurance beneficiary; and
* Making the employment application and transfer process simpler and more effective, in part by using an on-line system that will allow employees to update transfer application information on their computers.
Council President-elect Erick Oliver, chair of the Special Issues Committee, said he would like the committee to work on issues related to community building. He said that he is specifically interested in ideas on how to make employees in off-campus locations (Oxford, The Carter Center, Crawford Long, etc.) feel more included in the Emory community.
Mary Anne Lindskog, assistant University secretary, suggested using the "Building a Stronger Community" section of Choices & Responsibility as a guide for planning the committee's activities.
The Council will sponsor its third Town Hall Meeting with President Bill Chace on Tuesday, Oct. 15, from noon-1 p.m. in the Carlos Museum Reception Hall.