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October 9, 2000

Town Hall highlights council

By Eric Rangus

President Bill Chace stepped out from behind the podium at his town hall meeting with the Employee Council, Sept. 29, in Cox Hall.

Not only did that give him the freedom and comfort to move throughout the room, it also made him a more convenient target for tough questions.

"Here I am," he said. "What should I know? I learn things at these meetings every year."

At this particular meeting, he learned that the attendees' greatest concerns are parking (and traffic and transportation in general) and Emory's new time and attendance policy for biweekly employees.

The discussion touched on:

· Traffic: Its extension to Emory, Chace said, is inevitable.

· the removal of cars from the center of campus. Chace prefers the term "walker-friendly" campus rather than the ambiguous "pedestrian."

· the parking deck at University Apartments. Chace said shuttle times from the deck to campus are under five minutes, and the removal of cars from the center of campus will make the buses run even faster. He also said he expects the "heartbeat of the campus" to be epicentered at UA.

Chace added that he would like to find a new name for the UA complex, something broader to reflect its variety.

"I'd love for it to have a strikingly good, useful name," he said.

Chace also addressed the issue of Emory's new time and attendance policy, which calls for biweekly employees to register by telephone their hours worked-a system that has been in place at Emory Hospital for quite some time. Several employees in attendance expressed their displeasure, and Chace was quick to address their concerns.

"I understand the grievances, that it's totalitarian or a 1984-kind of thing," he said. "We were looking for a way to use computer technology to replace paper technology."

He mentioned several of the system's positives-its paperless existence, its assurance that employees are paid on time-but acknowledged that some people were upset.

"It obviously didn't go down well, he said. "We don't want that."

One attendee asked why Emory doesn't qualify all employees as nonexempt. Alice Miller, vice president of Human Resources, who was in attendance, said the federal government determines which positions are exempt (biweekly) and nonexempt (salaried) depending on job description, and Emory is powerless to change those distinctions.

Several questions, however, fell outside of those two genres. Such as: How close is Emory's future tied to the stock of Coca-Cola?

"Coke has been an extraordinarily good thing for Emory University," Chace said. He also said that there are two sides to the issue: one that says Emory should continue riding along with one of the world's largest and most successful companies, and another that says the University should get out while the getting is good.

Chace said both arguments have their merits and said Emory has approximately 48 percent of its endowment invested in Coke stock-the maximum allowed.

Chace prefaced the Q&A session with several words on the Year of Reconciliation, a term prevalent in the teachings of South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who finished a visiting professorship at Emory in May.

Chace was quick to point out that he wanted to disconnect Emory's adoption of the word from its use in the aftermath of apartheid.

"[Archbishop] Tutu started it as a way to understand the past," Chace said. "Individuals could admit what they did and get amnesty."

The feelings that drive Emory's Year of Reconciliation are a bit broader and do not carry the hardships suffered by many South Africans.

"For any couple or group or organization, it's an effort to understand the different pressures, tensions and realities that define their relationships," Chace said. "We want to reconcile the way Emory used to be with the way Emory could become."

Employee Council capped its 30th anniversary celebration with an awards luncheon at Cox Hall, Sept. 29.

The council handed out certificates, t-shirts and plaques to many Emory employees and administrators-past and present-who have supported the council throughout its existence.

Former Emory President James Laney received a standing ovation when he received a plaque from current council President Susan Cook-Prince.

"I feel like a ghost of Christmas Past," Laney said.

Jean Porter, director of Emory Well House and former council president, was keynote speaker. Using slides and newspaper clippings, she compared life at Emory in 1970, the council's first year, to that of today. Porter was one of seven past council presidents in attendance.

Sanford Atwood, Emory's president in 1970, saw the creation of the council. He was unable to attend but sent regards from his home in North Carolina.

Because the weeklong event was such a success, Cook-Prince said, another council information fair is tentatively planned for February.


Back to Emory Report Oct. 9, 2000