November 6, 2000
crucial role in policy review, creation
By Michael Terrazas firstname.lastname@example.org
Everyone knows who actually runs Emory Universitythe administration,
meaning the president, the provost, the deans and executive vice presidents,
and other senior administrators from the various schools. These people
make decisions, which are then approved by the Board of Trustees (BOT).
But along the way to making those decisions, President Bill Chace, Provost
Rebecca Chopp and their administration colleagues often consult a bewildering
array of campus groups for input, in hopes of making a choice that is
both wise and well-received. Specifically, six governance groups span
the entire University and represent very broad constituencies, and each
of these groups plays an invaluable role in advising those charged with
charting Emorys path.
Written into the official University bylaws is a call for a University
Senate, a broad-ranging body that incorporates everyone in the Emory community:
students, faculty, staff and administrators. Closely linked to the Senateindeed,
they share the same officers is the Faculty
Council, which deals mainly with academic affairs and matters
of concern to Emory faculty. The staff counterpart is Employee
Council, which addresses matters of concern for all University
There are also three Presidents
Commissions, which address the concerns of three underrepresented
constituencies: women (PCSW),
All of these groups play an advisory role to the administration. As explained
in the adjacent box, each has a set of officers, various terms of office,
an electoral or appointment process and a certain set of responsibilities.
And even though the term advisory group carries a lukewarm
connotation for some, these groups actually turn their work into results.
The Presidents Commissions have been very helpful to me,
and without drawing an invidious contrast, I have told the [PCSW]
that the work theyve done has been terrific, said Chace.
As provost, I work primarily with Faculty Council, Chopp
said. [It] has been extremely helpful to me in numerous ways. I
take ideas of projects or potential policies to the council to get their
opinions early in the process. I listen very seriously to what the Faculty
Council identifies as important issues for the campus.
Indeed, in the case of University Senate, it has the authority to step
beyond its advisory role; its bylaws state that Senate resolutions
shall be deemed final unless and until the trustees fail to
take action. If the University president does not concur with a resolution
and chooses not to forward it to the BOT, the Senate has the power, by
a two-thirds super-majority vote, to override the presidents
veto and carry its resolutions directly to the appropriate
This has never happened, according to University Secretary Gary Hauk.
In fact, its only a fairly recent amendment to the Senate
bylaws, he said. But it does lend a certain gravitas to the Senate
that would be absent from a strictly advisory group.
But the University Senate influences campus life in many other ways.
Through its standing committees, as well as various ad hoc committees,
it participates in University governance through less-visible, but just
as relevant, channels. Its honorary degrees committee solicits, filters,
researches, puts up for a vote and then submits to the BOT nominees for
the handful of honorary degrees given at each Commencement. The fringe
benefits committee is very active in exploring options for employee benefits
Perhaps the three most visible Senate committees are the Campus Development
Committee (CDC), the Traffic/Parking Committee and the Committee on the
Environment. All three are related and share liaison members with the
others. They have worked themselves into an instrumental role in reviewing
plans for campus development and evaluating their various ramifications.
During the intense campus discussion in the spring of 1999 over the shuttle
road skirting Lullwater from the new University Apartments parking deck,
these committees played a central role in the discussion.
When I first took over as chair, we wouldnt see a project
until it was too late to do too much about it, said Ray DuVarney,
in his fifth year as CDC chair. One of the things Facilities Management
did in response to our urgings, and the urgings of the Committee on the
Environment, was [acknowledge that] if these committees are really going
to play a role, theyve got to see the projects sooner. And thats
been a major changewe now see a project four or five times [through
the course of its development].
Still, despite the influence the Senate and the other groups enjoy, they
sometimes struggle to fill all their member vacancies. Many people on
campus know very little about them, and other than a monthly writeup in
Emory Report, their activities sometimes go unnoticed. Some of this is
attributable to their being strictly voluntary groups, but many are hopeful
that the community will take a more active role in its own governance.
Any time we deal with volunteers, I feel uncomfortable saying we
should have done more, said Senate President and Faculty Council
Chair Claire Sterk. We need to work on a better mechanism to make
sure we follow up on activities that get started. By the time a person
has really figured out what to do, its time for the next person
to step in.
One of the reasons the committees have been so successful is the chairs have committed themselves to staying and working with them. I would be very happy if people could think about this more like a spiderweb, where everything is connected, as opposed to having all these different groups that dont talk to each other.