December 6, 1999
Volume 52, No. 14
'Faculty at Emory' project has broad scope to examine professorial roles at the University
Governance authority. Maternity leave. Mentoring. Balancing teaching, research and service. Emeritus opportunities. Tenure. These are just a few of the issues that will be explored over the next couple years as part of the Faculty Council's "Faculty at Emory" project, lauched this fall by council chair John Boli.
Boli, also president of University Senate and an associate professor of sociology, is serving his third year on both the council and the senate. He said the initiative is one for which he and others on campus have felt a need.
"I was picking up from people a lot of dissatisfaction with what the two bodies were up to, how much authority they actually had, and the lack of real enthusiasm and engagement in them," Boli said. "It's something I'd been somewhat aware of since coming to Emory--people didn't know much about [the council and the senate] until they actually ended up on them."
But once Boli started plans for a project that explored the issue of faculty governance, it grew beyond its original scope. He said after talking to past senate presidents, he decided to broaden the initiative to faculty concerns in general.
Faculty at Emory, in Boli's mind, is an evolving exploration rather than a regimented process. Boli will chair a steering committee that includes public health's Claire Sterk (the senate president-elect), Oxford's Sharon Lewis, the college's Michelle Lampl and Kate Nickerson, Ralph Brubaker from law, Nancy Eiesland from theology, and the medical school's Arlene Drack.
The project has been a topic of discussion at each council meeting this fall as well as a senate meeting, and the steering committee is working with the Office of Institutional Research and Planning to schedule a series of lunches next semester to help define the issues to be examined. Once the agenda is determined, Boli said a commission akin to the Commission on Teaching will take over for the steering committee, and the whole project will culminate in a report similar to Teaching at Emory.
"We may end up doing a questionnaire to a random sample of faculty and probably put some sort of subgroup to work looking at faculty governance issues and gathering information from other institutions," said Boli. One such institution may be Boli's alma mater, Stanford, where he said faculty take a more active role in governing the university.
At Emory, the Faculty Council and University Senate have no actual decision-making power; they function as advisory bodies to the administration and the Board of Trustees. Any resolution passed by the senate goes to President Bill Chace for his signature and then on to the board. The senate can appeal directly to the board if the president doesn't approve an action, but Boli said that rarely happens.
Provost Rebecca Chopp, who stands firmly behind Faculty at Emory, said she and Chace are open to considering any recommendations that come out of the project, including granting real administrative power to the council and/or the senate. However she added that both bodies have more authority than is explicitly stated.
"Faculty Council is advisory, but as we've seen in recent years, it has a major voice in crafting policy," Chopp said. In the past two years, the council has served as a forum for debate on University policy regarding students with disabilities, tenure clock issues, family and maternity leave, and other topics.
"I have been looking at various ways to amplify the faculty voice at Emory," Chopp said, "and when I've gone to pay site visits at other schools, I've always asked to talk to their faculty council chairs to see how they work."
"It's hard to say how this is going to go," Boli admitted. "One thing I hope will come out of this is more interaction between faculty and the Board of Trustees. In a lot of places you have a faculty representative on the board, sometimes two. I would like to see things move to where the board becomes more engaged with the faculty and simply more engaged with the everyday activities of the University."