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November 27, 2000

GCA keeps watchful eye on politics

By Michael Terrazas

As were most offices around Emory (and the rest of the country) for the past couple weeks, the Office of Governmental and Community Affairs (GCA) has been abuzz with talk of the presidential election.

But, unlike most other workplaces, talk about politics in this office is actually in the job description.

“Yes, you might say the election has dominated the conversation in our office,” quipped Betty Willis, vice president for governmental affairs. “While this election has indeed turned into a circus, at least it has served to educate people on how the electoral process works—or, perhaps, doesn’t always work.”

While she didn’t reveal any preference for either Al Gore or George W. Bush, Willis said there would be pros and cons for Emory regardless of which man gains the White House; a President Bush might mean less regulatory intervention and more tax cuts, while a President Gore might mean increased funding for education, Medicare and arts and sciences.

“I think the real winner is the American people,” said Courtenay Dusenbury, new assistant director of federal affairs. “There are record-high levels of interest [in politics], and we may see a record-high turnout in the next election.”

However the race for chief executive turns out, Willis and her staff are preparing to deal with the legislative side of government when Congress and the General Assembly reconvene in January.

In Washington, Dusenberry said, a number of issues will directly affect the University. She has been working with the University administration to compile a list of Emory’s federal priorities for the coming year.

“The list might include things like more equitable tax treatment for students, a streamlined visa process for researchers and increased funding for the arts and humanities, health sciences and research,” Dusenberry said. “I know first-hand that writing letters, making phone calls and getting involved in the process makes a huge difference.”

In Atlanta, Gov. Roy Barnes’ expected announcement of a comprehensive cancer initiative in Georgia will be of great interest to Emory, according to Linda Womack, new director of state government affairs.

Also, Womack said, Emory is very interested in the governor’s plans to address Georgia’s 1.4 million uninsured populations, as well as recommendations to be made by a joint Senate/House committee studying indigent-care funding. She said the University will continue to support funding for both the Tuition Equalization Grant and the HOPE Scholarship program.

Willis and her colleagues said they will continue to work closely with Georgia’s Congressional delegation as well as key committee staffers in Washington. They plan to invite more state and federal legislators and their staff to campus to meet with administrators, faculty and researchers, and to showcase some of the many research and academic programs on campus.

She also said the office will work to enhance Emory’s visibility on both the state and federal levels by increasing the number of University expert witnesses participating in legislative hearings and bringing more researchers to meet with lawmakers.

“Emory is one of the top research universities in the nation, with an excellent academic reputation,” Willis said. “Our state and federal legislators need to know about the cutting-edge research that is taking place here and the enormous potential these discoveries have to benefit humankind. We have so much to tell.”

For more information, visit the office’s website at


Back to Emory Report Nov. 27, 2000