November 12, 2001
The challenge is accepted
By Eric Rangus firstname.lastname@example.org
As is customary, the University Senates first meeting of year allows
the new president to introduce himself or herself, as well as outline
the Senates goals for the next two semesters.
The Sept. 25 meeting was no different. It was there that Frank Vandall
took the helm. The first member of the law school faculty to serve as
Senate president (as well as chair of the Faculty Council), Vandall, a
full professor, wasted no time in sketching out what he hopes to accomplish
during his term, which covers the groups 50th year on campus.
Vandall said he wants the Senate to anticipate problems and deal with
them before they reach a crisis point. The theme for this years
effort is Accepting the Challenge of active faculty governance.
One of the ways Vandall hopes to respond to the challenge is through
the work of two ad-hoc Faculty Council committees he created: tenure policy
and budget advisory. The committees areas of responsibility are
pretty self-explanatory, but they address two areas (tenure and budget
interpretation) that had not received much notice in previous councils.
The University Senate and Faculty Council have subtle differences in
their constituencies (the council serves as a faculty voice to the administration,
while the more all-encompassing Senate includes staff and students), but
similar responsibilities in that they serve as entities through which
individuals or groups can communicate with Emorys administration.
One of the most important things an individual gains from being
involved in University governance, such as membership on the Faculty Council
or the Senate, is to meet with and get to know faculty from across the
University, Vandall said. The law school has traditionally
been isolated from the campus itself. It is possible to go an entire year
without crossing onto the main campus. So, many faculty in the law school
are unaware of how truly impressive the faculty members are from the rest
And dealing with the varied concerns of so many diverse groups requires a great deal of diplomacy.
You have to be sensitive to the interests of your constituents,
Vandall said. It also requires a great deal of time. Vandall estimated
that about half his time this year has been spent on Senate and council
Vandall has been on the law school faculty for 31 years. Much of his
most recent research has been in the area of tobacco litigationsomething
that interests a lot of lawyers and law professors now, but an area largely
ignored when Vandall began researching it in the early 1990s. At that
point, tobacco companies had never lost a court case and had an air of
invincibility. It was a bubble of protection Vandall sought to break.
I reflected upon what seemed to be one of the most injurious acts
in society, one that had escaped responsibility, Vandall said. After
a little bit of reflection, it became clear that the tobacco companies
were singularly the largest activity causing an epidemic of disease and
injury, and they werent being held responsible for what they were
doing. My thought was to see if there was some way to take our legal system
and apply it to the cigarette manufacturers.
An expert in products liability and torts, Vandalls 1994 article, Suits by Public Hospitals to Recover Expenditures for the Treatment of Disease, Injury and Disability Caused by Tobacco and Alcohol, was one of the first to show how tobacco companies could be held liable for damages.
Vandalls work revealed a chink in Big Tobaccos armor, one
anti-tobacco lawyers pounced on. That effort eventually led to the $206
billion settlement in 1997; the money was distributed to the states to
cover health care costs related to smoking and led to a curtaining of
cigarette advertising, specifically to minors.
Coincidentally, one of the first issues addressed by the University Senate
this year is the question of whether Emory should become a smoke-free
campus. Raised by the Employee Council in October, the issue touched off
an energetic debate at that months Senate meeting. The discussion
will come up again in November or later.
Proposals range from a completely smoke-free campus to a smoke-free barrier
in front of building entrances to designated smoking shelters outside
buildings (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a similar
plan) to no changes in smoking policy at all.
Anyone who does research with tobacco, be they in the legal sector or the medical sector, soon realizes that tobacco is enormously destructive of individual health, as well as the family, Vandall said. The issue being raised by the staff is that they are concerned about secondhand smoke and feel, as employees of Emory, they should not have to breathe a toxic, cancer-causing substance.
Vandall said the November meeting will feature input from students and
hospital personnel, adding that a plan as drastic as eliminating smoking
from campus completely would be a difficult one to implement.
Well try and see whats feasible, Vandall said.
The ongoing smoking debate is just one of the ways Vandalls vision
of a proactive University governance system has begun to display itself.
I hope that by the end of the [academic] year we will have shifted
from sitting back and waiting to hear from the administration to working
closely with the administration on important questions such as budget
and academic direction, so that faculty and staff can have a greater voice
in University governance, he said.
Off campus, one of Vandalls main hobbies is sailing, and several
pictures of sailboats are scattered throughout his office in Gambrell
Hall. He owns three sailboats, one he keeps at a lake home in western
Maryland, a second in his driveway and a third on Lake Lanier. He sails
all of them competitively, sometimes joined by his wife Sheila.
Sailing looks to be a very relaxing activity, but it is actually
very demanding mentally as well as physically, Vandall said. You
are never sitting still, and you are never allowed to daydream.
Vandall competes with the Lake Lanier Sailing Club, and in 2000 he won
both the spring and fall series races in the MC class (an MC is a 16-foot,
single-sail scow). He also was the fleet champion in a Flying Scot at
Deep Creek, Md.
Back on dry land at Emory, the 200102 academic year could prove
to be interesting to Vandall in ways beyond the Senate and Faculty Council.
His son Josh, a third-year law student at Emory, will graduate in May
(Vandall also has a 28-year-old daughter, Megan; Josh is 25). Vandall
has yet to teach him, but he said Josh has threatened to take
a course with him in the spring on products liability.
Asked what he thought of the possibility of teaching his son, Vandall
considered his answer for just a moment and smiled.
Im looking forward to the experience,he answered.