June 22, 1998
Volume 50, No. 34
A year of progress for University Senate, Faculty Council
As the University Senate and Faculty Council wrapped up another year of parliamentary procedure on campus, their members could look back on time well spent by two of Emory's representative bodies.
Inserting itself in the master planning process was a major accomplishment for the Senate, according to President Bill Cody. At the beginning of the year, some members felt the lines of communication between the Senate and the campus master planners could be made more open, and that is exactly what happened as the year progressed; master planners received much input through meetings with the Senate as a whole and with individual committees.
"I think the Senate learned how to assert itself," said Cody, a professor of political science at Oxford. "Over the course of the year everyone felt they had been instrumental in shaping the master plan, or at least the major committees of the Senate did."
Another issue addressed was that of students with disabilities, both learning and physical disabilities. Cody cited a "constructive" exchange at the November meeting between the Senate and two student senators. "It was a consciousness-raising experience for the Senate," Cody said. "Growth came out of that. I don't think it was their passion; what moved the Senate was the reason and rationality behind what was being said."
Whatever the impetus, several Senate members undertook individual efforts to help learning- and physically disabled students. The Senate passed a resolution presented by the campus development committee to ensure measures of disability access to future Emory buildings. And, led by theology professor David Pacini, the Faculty Council created an ad hoc subcommittee aimed at examining the faculty's role in addressing the concerns of students with learning disabilities.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, professors are bound in certain legal ways to accommodate these students, but Cody said the council tried to shift the focus to a teaching challenge by passing a resolution stating that faculty should take an active role in identifying students with learning disabilities and designing programs to help them.
"It sets up a group to work with faculty members in trying to move from a compliance mode to a mode where the faculty is taking the lead in working with experts to come up with individualized learning programs that will not only enable the student to learn the material being presented but also provide for a program that fits the student's disability and the objectives of the course," Cody said.
"It alters the basic ethos surrounding disabilities from reactive-issues of compliance-to proactive," Pacini said. "This is part of the teaching portfolio of the faculty and something in which we are invested to achieve excellence across the board. It makes us all sort of partners in the business of learning rather than putting the burden primarily on the student."
Another issue the council tackled was that of faculty members being fired or suspended for cause, and the hearing committees that are consulted in such instances. The council's resolution, which was approved by the Board of Trustees as an alteration in the Faculty Gray Book, gives deans the authority to convene the faculty hearing committee before a termination or suspension rather than only being able to consult with a committee afterward.
Resolutions such as this are simply another example of the faculty governing itself, Cody said, a goal English Professor John Bugge urged councilmembers at the March meeting to strive for. Though Bugge's audience needed no encouragement to self-governance, Cody said others on campus might.
"The challenge is to get that message more broadly spread, and that's something we've been trying to work on in terms of having Faculty Council members and University Senate members maintain frequent and more direct contact with their constituencies and encouraging further participation," Cody said.
At the April meetings, Cody turned over the gavel for both bodies to the School of Medicine's Virgil Brown. As he looks back on the year, Cody sees not one but several gratifying moments from his tenure.
"What I've tried to do this year is make it possible for other people to do the work of the Senate, the committees and the various leaders, and hopefully I stayed out of their way," Cody said.