Emory Report

 December 8, 1997

 Volume 50, No. 15

Grassroots database shows
Emory's stake in government

As part of its continuing effort to enhance Emory's public involvement at all levels, the Office of Governmental and Community Affairs has established a database that will better enable it to communicate the University's interest in the legislative work of both the state and federal governments.

The grassroots advocacy database breaks down all Emory constituents via Geographic Information System software into zip codes, which are displayed on congressional and Georgia Legislature district maps.

"We want to put forward a comprehensive government affairs plan that fosters government support and understanding of University goals and objectives," said Steve Moye, associate vice president of governmental and community affairs. Moye noted the "four-legged stool" of public involvement, which includes governmental affairs, political action, community relations and communications. The grassroots database can help in all of these areas.

Moye said the initiative was already underway but intensified following congressional negotiations last summer over the balanced-budget act. A number of issues in the debate directly affected Emory constituents, including the taxing of graduate student subsidies, taxing of Emory's courtesy scholarship benefits and issues affecting TIAA-CREF retirement plans.

The database allows Moye's office to demonstrate Emory's vital interest in each of these issues. The categories are broken down by division and job description. The database also lists the number of students in the different districts on both federal and state financial aid. For example, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich may be able to rightfully claim that the main campus itself is not in his district, but the database shows there are two affiliate hospitals, five clinics, 261 Clinic staff, 133 Emory doctors, 385 Emory staff, 181 students on federal aid and other Emory constituents in the speaker's district.

"It completely changes their perception of Emory," Moye said. "And we can then be used as a resource. So when Speaker Gingrich comes up with an issue or a bill that deals with health care, he can automatically think, 'Well, I need to talk to Emory about this.'"

Legistlative Analyst Jeremy Berry and Legislative Assistant An'del Jones-Foster spent much of the past six months assembling vast amounts of data and putting it together into a comprehensive, readable format. Their work is largely done, Berry said, although there are possible plans to combine it with the database developed by Community Relations Director Betty Willis that will list community service projects in which Emory faculty, staff and students are involved.

"We think we have everything we need in place, but if we find out we don't, the system is so flexible that we can change it," Berry said.

Not only can the numbers be used to simply show how many Emory constituents are in a given politician's district, but the office can contact those people to rally them to action over an issue. Moye said his office doesn't have the budget to do mass mailings, but he is trying to add e-mail addresses to database.

The upcoming session of the Georgia Legislature, Moye said, as well as the reconvening of Congress will allow his office to put the new resource to use. "Because of the climate in Washington, you always have to be ready. The outlook for higher education when the 104th Congress came in a couple years ago was brutal. They were basically pitting humanities research against basic research, which was pitted against financial aid. You just don't know what's going to come up.

"You want this [database] to be your last resort. To speak in military terms, you don't want to have to call on these troops, but if you have to, you will."

-Michael Terrazas

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