Emory Report

April 27, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 30


Shared aspirations, practicality define path to excellence

During the campuswide conversations of 1996-1997 numerous recommendations for achieving these six objectives were made by faculty, students, staff, and alumni. Fortunately, there was much repetition and similarity among these suggestions, as well as frequent reaffirmation of the objectives themselves. The recommendations as written reflect three things: the suggestions made most frequently and the themes among them; the suggestions that seem to be most universal in their applicability across the university; and the suggestions with the best prospect for practical implementation. In addition, of course, the recommendations inevitably reflect the beliefs and judgment of the writer. An effort has been made to articulate the recommendations in a form sufficiently generic to permit schools and administrative units to interpret them in terms appropriate to their particular missions, professional norms, and current situations.

Achieving academic excellence
In what ways do we choose to be excellent? This question cannot be neatly separated from sheer intellectual strength and reputation. From that perspective, all the recommendations in this report are about achieving excellence. The recommendations in this section pertain mainly to issues of intellectual quality. In the pursuit of excellence, however, we must be as vigilant about institutional responsibility as we are about individual performance. A serious commitment to excellence depends utterly upon a strong and affirmative social contract among the members of the academic community and between them and the university.

Recommendation 1. The leaders of the university-from the president to the heads of the smallest programs-should make it clear that Emory's standards of academic quality are equal to the standards of the best universities in the country. We should be equally careful, though, to define this standard by our own goals and priorities as well as by national standards.

The policies and practices of each unit of the university consistently should reflect the goal of academic excellence. We should communicate clearly that our aim is to identify and recruit faculty and students with the greatest promise of future achievement. Our greatest challenge is to define this task in terms that take into account not only academic and professional credentials but also a commitment to broader intellectual and moral virtues. To put this point in the vernacular, sheer brain power of a high order should be a necessary but not a sufficient condition to qualify as a member of Emory's faculty or student body. Excellence at Emory should be defined not only by capability but also by purpose.

To accomplish this goal, it will be necessary for departments and schools to make sure that their guidelines for appointment, promotion, and tenure are clear and to engage in regular discussion of the complexity inherent in our multidimensional measure of excellence.

Recommendation 2. The provost and deans, with the assistance of the Presidential Advisory Committee, should annually monitor academic standards.

This should continue to be done primarily through rigorous review of all recommendations for appointments and promotions. In addition, the promotion and tenure guidelines and processes of every unit should be reviewed periodically to make certain that they clearly set high standards of teaching, research, and service and achieve them fairly in practice. While each individual should be expected to excel in teaching, research, and service as measured by national standards, our objective is to have a faculty whose overall profile is excellent. Truly outstanding performance in any arena should be valued for its contribution to the whole. Since different parts of the university are at different stages of development, it may not be realistic immediately to apply such a high standard to every program. Should that be the case, the reasons should be well understood and expectations for the present and goals for future improvement clearly established.

The greatest value of the Presidential Advisory Committee will be to provide a forum in which representative members of the faculty and the administration regularly can evaluate and reiterate the responsibilities, standards, and expectations of both the university and its individual units and members, in addition to fostering an institutional culture of continual improvement.

Recommendation 3. After attaining tenure, all faculty should continue to participate in a periodic professional assessment and planning exercise.

Post-tenure review is meant to encourage continued professional development and candid communication about problems, needs, and opportunities that may have arisen or be anticipated in the pursuit of individual career objectives. While in some instances the need may arise to clarify the expectations of the

university and to reaffirm the social contract between the university and the individual faculty member, it would be unfortunate indeed if post-tenure review were viewed primarily as an evaluative practice. These reviews should be formative in nature and collegial in style; and they should provide an opportunity for each of us, with the support of our peers, to think critically about our professional aims and needs.

Most of Emory's schools already have developed or have begun to develop post-tenure review processes. The next step, of course, is to implement them. The provost and deans-in collaboration with the appropriate faculty-governing bodies-should continue to develop guidelines for such reviews.

Recommendation 4. Every school, department, major program, and center of the university should be evaluated periodically. The University Policy and Guidelines on Academic Program and Departmental Assessment should be implemented.

Periodic peer review is the sine qua non for maintaining high academic standards. As with individual evaluation, program review is as much an opportunity for university programs to make their achievements and needs known and to plan for the future as it is an occasion to be evaluated.

Emory's Policy and Guidelines on Assessment was adopted in April 1997 after extensive review. Oversight of this policy rests with the provost and, in the case of the academic health sciences, the executive vice president for health affairs. The guidelines allow considerable flexibility for each school and college to adapt them to their own professional norms, but have at their core five essential elements: every department, school, and/or major program should be reviewed periodically and regularly; the responsibility and accountability for the review should lie at the next-higher administrative level above the unit being reviewed; the review should be based equally upon a critical self-study and the evaluation of an external review team; the external evaluators should be chosen for their professional knowledge and credibility, as well as their ability to give an objective evaluation; and the reviewed unit, the school in which it is located, or the university should be responsible for either developing a plan to implement any recommendations that emanate from the review or for explicitly deciding not to do so.

Some of America's finest universities, particularly some in the Ivy League, have established standing visiting committees to oversee individual schools, departments, and other programs. These committees of alumni and other academic and professional colleagues regularly provide evaluative feedback to both the unit for which they are responsible and the university administration and governing board. Therefore, they provide a strengthening focus of accountability and advocacy. In view of the benefits that derive from this structure, Emory should examine carefully the practice and determine whether a similar practice should be instituted here.

Recommendation 5. The management practices of every unit and of every person in a position of authority should reflect first responsibility to the university, which is to enable each individual member of the Emory community to excel.

The capacity to excel entails not only high standards and individual commitment but also institutional recognition of our individual strengths and provision of the support and opportunities that will enable us to achieve our very best.

One practical example will make the general point clear: Emory is perceived, with some justification, to have a history of stretching its resources to make as many new faculty appointments as possible and of launching new programs without adequately understanding or providing for the full costs. This situation has occurred because of our rapid growth, because there is ambiguity about the acceptable range of support, and because-like every university-we must stretch the capacity for individuals and programs to be self-supporting. Nonetheless, when new faculty members are hired or given tenure, and when new programs are initiated, reasonable full costs should be estimated and a source of funding identified.

This practice should be done, of course, in the full knowledge that we can no more support all our faculty's needs on university funds ("hard money") than can any other university; therefore, we increasingly must exploit partnerships with external funding sources in order to leverage our institutional resources. However, where such funding is depended upon, it must be done in a planned way and according to criteria that are well understood and fair. Therefore, proposals to chairs, deans, or executive officers for new tenured appointments or programmatic initiatives always should be accompanied by a brief summary of the basic resource requirements (space, support staff, library and information resources, and the like) and a funding plan. The responsibilities of all parties should be clear.

Recommendation 6. Emory should review its cadre of named chairs and professorships, establish clear criteria for awarding and funding them, and set goals for increasing the number and variety of chairs and professorships to reflect more adequately the growing size, reputation, and diversity of strengths of the Emory faculty.

Endowed chairs and professorships are one of the more important tools for recruiting and recognizing outstanding faculty. Chairs and professorships at Emory should reflect the diversity of strengths and accomplishments of the faculty in teaching and service as well as research. Appropriately high standards for the award of all chairs should be established and publicized within the Emory community, and the process by which candidates are selected should be rigorous.

Recommendation 7. The original goal of establishing eighteen to twenty Woodruff professorships should be reaffirmed, funded, and fulfilled within three years.

The Robert W. Woodruff professorships represent the highest level of scholarly attainment of Emory faculty. Woodruff professorships should be allocated and filled according to criteria that advance the objectives set forth in this report. Woodruff professors should have a passion for teaching as well as for research; they should be collegial and collaborative in their predilections and serve as the hub for building clusters of faculty strength; and they should play a role in defining interdisciplinary emphases. In addition, Woodruff professors should be community builders and leaders, and they should embrace Emory's commitment to serve the needs of local, national, and international communities, insofar as this is compatible with their scholarly agendas.

Finally, as we wish the Woodruff professors to reflect academic preeminence, we should always be prepared to make those judgments and take those risks that are necessary to recognize in Woodruff candidates the prospect of academic preeminence as well as its actual attainment.

Recommendation 8. Emory's schools should continue to recruit students whose academic credentials are on a par with the best universities. Emory also should strive to enroll a student body that is diverse and whose members are committed to become socially responsible citizens and leaders.

Intellectual and academic qualifications must continue to be the first screen for admission to Emory. Academic credentials alone are not enough, however. Every school also should aim for a student body that is diverse as measured by ethnicity, gender, geographic origin, and socioeconomic background. Emory students should aspire not only to personal success but to responsible citizenship and leadership. Our aim should be both to enroll high-quality students and to be the first choice of the students that we choose to admit.

As noted above, in an increasingly competitive academic market it will be necessary to limit tuition increases and continue to provide strong financial-aid programs to achieve these objectives. Nonetheless, we must remember that the most important factor in successfully enrolling excellent students is the quality and reputation of Emory's faculty, academic and cocurricular programs, facilities, and placement programs, all of which are expensive. Therefore, as long as tuition income accounts for 60 percent or more of Emory's basic education and general budget, no simple choice can be made between reducing the economic burden on students and providing the quality of education that they need. Year by year, this balance must be carefully assessed in light of the market. The trend should be strongly in the direction of limiting tuition and increasing other sources of income to support our teaching and research programs.

Recommendation 9. Every opportunity should be sought to enhance the intensity and coherence of intellectual life on the Emory campus.

In one sense, this recommendation may seem a hopelessly general one: intellectual life cannot be legislated! All the recommendations in this report are ultimately about creating a stronger, richer intellectual climate; a dynamic scholarly community of the first rank will be the outcome of continued, careful development of Emory. Still, many people are convinced that this goal need not be entirely a passive result of those things that we do in the normal course of events. The desire for a more intense sense of intellectual community, and the belief that we should be able to foster that sense, were among the most frequent suggestions made by faculty, students, and staff during the discussions leading up to this report.

Certainly great universities are characterized not only by the strength of their faculty and the depth of their scholarly programs but by the intellectual ethos of the campus community. From individually strong faculty, students, and programs a dense intellectual matrix evolves that is reflected in many ways: the richness and quality of graduate programs; the number of outstanding postdoctoral fellows; the frequency of scholarly awards to faculty and students; the number and reputation of scholarly visitors and of major lectures, seminars, and symposia; and the regularity with which new insights and controversial ideas are discussed on the campus. The Emory community is well up this intellectual escarpment, and the question is whether important features of it can be elevated further as a matter of institutional policy. Among the many suggestions provided by faculty and others during discussions of this topic are:

  • better communication of information about events and activities and more deliberate knitting together of them in order to generate greater participation and intellectual energy;
  • investment of resources in such things as a strong program of postdoctoral fellowships, more visiting scholars, or major seminars or symposia on current and controversial ideas (see also recommendation 17);
  • encouragement and support of strong, mentoring scholarly teams of faculty, undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars as a characteristic modus operandi of the campus;
  • interpolation of more common experiences or themes into the curriculum and residential life at critical points in students' course of study;
  • creation of a university club and other spaces throughout the campus where the intellectual and social life of faculty, students, and staff can be melded; and
  • provision of the opportunity for both faculty and well-prepared students to break away from the routine academic schedule and concentrate intensely for a time upon a special problem or experience.

To put the matter more generally, we need to give attention to the common interests that bring us together, and these would seem to include at least four things: mutual knowledge of and respect for one another; participation in common experiences; interest in common phenomena, problems, or ideas; and sharing common resources. The provost, deans, department chairs, Faculty Council, and Senate should give more attention to such matters and to the practical inducements that could foster a richer, more intense life of the mind for every member of the Emory community.

Balancing teaching and research
The recommendations in this section affirm and augment those made by the Commission on Teaching in their report, Teaching at Emory, and call for a similar examination of the research environment of the university.

Recommendation 10. The recommendations of the Commission on Teaching-published and disseminated in Teaching at Emory in September 1997-should be implemented as promptly and completely as circumstances permit.

The Commission on Teaching was established in 1996 expressly for the purpose of discovering the causes behind widespread faculty concerns about teaching and making recommendations to improve teaching. When implemented, its recommendations will go far to remedy the perceived imbalance between teaching and research and to promote greater integration of them.

Campuswide discussions during the past two years underscore the particular importance of several specific findings of the Commission on Teaching. First, comprehensive ways should be developed whereby each faculty member can present a full picture of his or her work as a teacher. The purpose of such a record is both to support the faculty member in developing his or her talents as a teacher and to enable departments and schools to evaluate teaching and research with equal care.

The faculty have made abundantly clear their belief that equivalent valuation of teaching and research will depend upon our capacity to assess and reward the quality of teaching with as much confidence as we evaluate research and publication. Thus, those recommendations of the Commission on Teaching that pertain to documenting teaching and reviewing the place of teaching in promotion and tenure criteria should be diligently pursued by every department and school.

Second, the university should develop and maintain a physical environment that supports good teaching. Departments and schools regularly should monitor the quality of the physical environment of teaching. The quality of the teaching environment is not only of great practical importance, but also sends strong signals about the priority of teaching. Regular, routine attention to the teaching environment-from providing well-equipped, clean classrooms to eliminating the intrusive noise of leaf-blowers-will have a positive impact upon teaching at Emory. Avenues now are being established, and their further development should be encouraged, to record the suggestions and concerns of faculty.

Third, each school and department should affirm the value of interdepartmental and team teaching. Each teaching unit should review its practices and the demands of its curriculum to eliminate unnecessary barriers to collaborative teaching. The provost should work with deans, chairs, and the Commission on Teaching to develop guidelines for supporting collaborative teaching and curricula. The needs of the individual departments and schools must, of course, remain the first consideration when teaching assignments are made. Nevertheless, within the limits imposed by that consideration, collaboration should be supported and credited by the schools and departments when evaluating faculty.

Fourth, the teaching done by faculty who are largely supported by clinical revenue and sponsored-research funds is essential to the university and must be recognized. Dependence upon sponsored-research and clinical revenues ("soft money") to support faculty salaries poses major difficulties for teaching in some units. Indeed, in the schools of Public Health and Medicine, this funding climate has fostered a conflict of commitment that is approaching crisis proportions. External funding of a large proportion of faculty salaries is standard practice in these fields and is necessary to support programs of the size and quality that we want and need. However, this fact must be recognized by the university; and the provost, executive vice president for health affairs, and deans should work together to develop compensating incentives for teaching. Notwithstanding prevalent norms, care should be taken to assure that future increases in endowment and university funding of these units support a more appropriate balance between teaching and externally funded research and clinical practice.

Fifth, the teaching loads of the faculty must be defined by the norms of the best universities. The demands of the university's combined mission of teaching, research, and service, and the competitive pressures created by the norms of research universities, make it unrealistic to expect that more teaching by the individual members of the faculty is the means to better teaching. Thus, because many of our departments are still significantly smaller than their peers, a sustained commitment to both teaching and research will in some cases require the addition of more faculty. By the same token, larger size per se is not a valid goal, and all reasonable efficiencies that do not compromise the quality of teaching must be explored. Departments should ascertain that there is not undue proliferation of small or specialized courses and that all proven means of enhancing the faculty's teaching effectiveness-as, for example, the use of digital technologies-are available to them. Whenever reasonable, units should collaborate in the development of their curricula and in joint teaching to avoid costly redundancy.

Recommendation 11. A Commission on Research should be appointed to evaluate the status of research and original scholarship. It should make recommendations to strengthen research and to increase the synergy between it and teaching.

Just as our commitment to teaching must not be allowed to decline as our success in research grows, neither can our commitment to research be allowed to flag in our zeal for excellent teaching. Discovery, synthesis, and critique of knowledge are essential parts of our mission and are the foundation of a vibrant climate of scholarship, whether in the laboratory or the classroom. The hallmark of every great university is the primacy of original inquiry and excellence of the scholarship of its faculty.

The Commission on Research should build upon the recently developed Research Strategic Plan of the Health Sciences Center to examine the conditions of and make recommendations for the improvement of the research climate universitywide. The commission should focus particularly upon five issues:

  • It should report on the quality and reputation of original scholarship at Emory, and through peer comparison identify the fields in which we excel and those in which we fall short of our potential. Comparison of stronger and weaker programs should help us better understand the conditions that are essential for greater success.
  • It should examine the current and future funding environment for research, evaluate our funding performance, and advise how we can help assure that our faculty and graduate students can be competitive for external research support now and in the future.
  • It should evaluate the infrastructure of research, including space, core facilities (see also recommendation 30), libraries, computing resources, and support staff.
  • It should identify the important future trends in research and any areas in which, through building clusters of strength or interdisciplinary collaboration, we have special or unique opportunities to excel.
  • It should suggest ways whereby teaching and mentoring undergraduate and professional students as well as graduate students can be more intimately tied into faculty research (as, for example, through more student-research and independent-study opportunities, or by including students in research teams and seminars).

Building a stronger community
The ideal sense of community that we seek will result as much from the growing strength and reputation of the university as from deliberate steps to create a more integrated, welcoming community. Consequently, these recommendations for building intellectual community are highly interconnected with the other objectives and recommendations in this report, and should be understood in that framework.

Nonetheless, the quality of community should be intentional: it need not be an entirely accidental product of people working and living in proximity to one another. Effective learning communities are committed to justice, honesty, equality, civility, individual freedom and dignity, and responsible citizenship. Key elements that can help promote a stronger community include: development of collaborative teaching and research programs; better knowledge of one another's interest and expertise and easier access to information about the resources of the university; means for recognizing and crediting contributions made outside one's appointing unit; intellectual vehicles or subjects of intrinsic interest and importance; and some policy to recognize faculty and student efforts beyond the boundaries of their home unit or concentration. An effective community must find effective ways to recognize and celebrate diversity. The following recommendations describe some steps that the university should take to support a holistic community.

Recommendation 12. The university should create an environment that encourages collaborative teaching or coteaching, both inside and outside the classroom. Means should be explored to give faculty in the professional schools the opportunity to participate in the education of undergraduates.

Community arises not just from abstract goals; it must be about something of tangible importance to its members. Teaching, as a core, highly valued mission, provides much more opportunity for shared experience among faculty and students than has been developed thus far. Moreover, teaching itself will benefit insofar as collaboration brings into the classroom and other teaching venues a diverse base of knowledge, method, and scholarly ideology.

Excellent undergraduate education is basic to all else that we do as a university. High-quality undergraduate education is an essential adjunct to excellent professional and graduate education. As Jaroslav Pelikan writes, "The difference between bad scholarship and good scholarship is the result of what we do in graduate school; but the difference between good scholarship and great scholarship is the result of what we do in college."18 Examples of how this goal might be achieved could include: more team and interdisciplinary teaching; a more integrated curriculum (this could include courses that purposefully bring together contrasting and complementary approaches to scholarship and courses that examine the important social issues of our time from a cross-disciplinary perspective); greater emphasis on the moral dimension of intellectual inquiry as a unifying characteristic of an Emory education; and more service and experiential education.

Recommendation 13. The university should adopt a unified calendar.

There is a perception that there are almost as many academic calendars at Emory as there are schools! The accreditation requirements of some schools will preclude complete uniformity, but the level of congruence can be increased and essential variations can be rendered subordinate to a single, universitywide academic calendar. The objective should be to enable those who wish to step outside the confines of their home unit to do so with reasonable ease. In view of the difficulties of this seemingly obvious task, the provost and deans should appoint a committee whose members have full knowledge of the calendar requirements of the individual schools and the authority to develop a unified calendar and identify necessary exceptions to it.

Recommendation 14. A university-wide program of orientation for all new faculty, department chairs, and deans should be developed.

This program should deal with both pragmatic issues and broader institutional values, goals, and plans. New members of the faculty, deans, and chairs should receive publications-such as the Faculty Handbook, Campus Life Handbook, Choices & Responsibility, and Teaching at Emory-that identify the important issues before the community.

Paralleling faculty orientation, the Human Resources Division and the Division of Campus Life should regularly include information about the goals of the university in staff orientation programs. Managerial staff should be provided with the information necessary to interpret management responsibilities in light of university goals. Without this perspective, collaborative efforts are sometimes thwarted by local interests and expectations.

Recommendation 15. The university should create a directory that provides a brief profile of the teaching, research, and public-service interests and activities of each member of the Emory faculty.

Sponsored jointly by the offices of the provost, the executive vice president for health sciences, the vice president for research, and the Faculty Council of the Senate, this project is now under way. A first edition of this document should be completed promptly. Insofar as it is feasible, this directory should be interconnected with existing websites and other information resources such as the Community of Science project of the National Science Foundation. Published in both electronic and paper format, it should be distributed to all faculty and should be available to staff and students. It should be revised annually to assure that the information is current.

Recommendation 16. Department chairs should meet periodically with the academic deans and senior officers to discuss issues of common interest and explore the relationship between departmental and university plans and goals.

An administrative body known as the Deans' and Directors' Council functions as a coherent leadership team. Its members-which include all deans and directors of major centers and senior executive officers-have achieved a congruent vision for Emory. Yet many faculty and staff members believe that this vision of Emory and its underlying policies, goals, and plans often do not reach local administrative levels. As a result, department practices sometimes are not consistent with stated university objectives. Since nothing has as great an influence on the faculty's sense of priorities and professional security as departmental culture, this is a matter of great importance to the goals of the university. Therefore, chairs and program directors should participate in the development of and be well informed about university policies and objectives. Consideration should be given to forming a university-wide Council of Chairs that would meet periodically to review and discuss evolving university policies.

Recommendation 17. An annual event-lecture, seminar, or symposium of national and international importance-is needed both to nurture and showcase Emory as an intellectual community.

Emory hosts a rich array of visiting speakers, seminars, public lectures, and other such activities. These essential aspects of the intellectual and professional life of faculty and students should continue to be supported, and broader participation in such activities should be encouraged. The new Distinguished Faculty Lecture and the Faculty Town Hall Meetings provide valuable opportunities to bring faculty together. For the past decade, the Luce Seminar and the Senior Emory Seminar in the college have had a great impact upon the university. Programs like these should be encouraged.

A committee of both faculty and students should be appointed to design and implement a major annual or biannual event on a topic of interest to large sectors of the Emory community. This event should display the broader currents of intellectual strength and interest at Emory and should evoke widespread participation and debate. It should be incorporated into the university calendar and be funded to assure that the desired level of distinction is attained.

Recommendation 18. The Board of Governors of the Association of Emory Alumni, in collaboration with the Division of Campus Life and the University Senate, should appoint a standing committee on history and tradition to develop practical proposals to foster the sense of tradition at Emory.

During the past three years of discussions about Emory's future, faculty, students, and alumni repeatedly have expressed the conviction that stronger traditions would nurture a greater sense of identity and pride in the Emory community. However, like intellectual life, custom, tradition, and pride can hardly be legislated. Hence, as deeply as this need is felt, few specific suggestions have been forthcoming. Nonetheless, tradition is a powerful source of institutional strength, and further thought should be given to whether there are practical ways-signs, communications, rituals, events, and structures-by which it can be fostered. The experience of Emory alumni and knowledge about the culture and traditions of other universities should be brought to bear upon this question.

Recommendation 19. The physical campus inevitably will either foster or limit the quality of our community. This fact should be recognized in planning and building space in the future.

The Campus Plan (see also recommendation 28 and appendix) was commissioned to integrate campus planning with living and learning programs. Among the most frequently mentioned ways in which the campus can be enriched are the addition of a multipurpose building for both academic and social events, facilities for interdisciplinary programs and centers, a university club, a major bookstore, and expansion of facilities for residential education. And there is great longing to preserve and enhance the green areas on the campus that contribute to an environment that is hospitable, comforting, and conducive to reflective, sacred moments.

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