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December 9, 2002

Senate talks about Middle East, acts of prejudice

By Michael Terrazas

President William Branch opened the Nov. 26 University Senate meeting by introducing Richard Ward, professor emeritus of psychiatry, who will serve as Senate and Faculty Council representative for the Emeritus College.

The first order of business was a report from Jim Grimsley, who along with Bruce Knauft has been working on a Faculty Council project to examine how faculty can channel student emotion of international crises—such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a possible U.S. war with Iraq—into constructive discourse rather than destructive conflict.

Grimsley said he and Knauft plan to organize a series of lunches in February with various student leaders to gauge their opinions on what kinds of events and programs would be helpful. Grimsley introduced Gordon Newby, executive director of the Institute for Comparative and International Studies, who talked about similar events that already have taken place.

Newby also reported that a limited number of students, “unaffiliated members of the Emory community” and even faculty allegedly have criticized members of the Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies (MESAS) department, sometimes defacing doors, sending anonymous notes and e-mails, and even urging students to boycott certain MESAS classes.

Newby said the problem has been brought under control and the individuals in question have been told their actions were inappropriate, but the news sparked discussion in the Senate about whether the actions constituted conduct violations; whether the faculty members who allegedly participated should be held more strictly accountable than any students; and whether even attempting to discourage certain acts limits free speech and academic freedom.

Senior Vice President and Campus Life Dean John Ford said some faculty are interested in training a select group of students to facilitate discussion on issues such as these. Newby said many recent events designed to educate the community about relevant issues (such as the history of the Arab/Israeli conflict and the nature of Islam) tended to draw small audiences of the same people, and sponsors of such events face the problem of how to increase attendance.

Next on the agenda was Kim Loudermilk from the provost’s office, who briefed the Senate on the ongoing re-accreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Work on SACS accreditation—which must be renewed every 10 years—has been under way for almost two years, Loudermilk said, and a team from the provost’s office has nearly completed the University’s self-evaluation report in preparation for a visit by SACS officials in February.

Once it is completed, the self-evaluation report will be available online through the provost’s office website, Loudermilk said. The ongoing Research at Emory project also is tied to the SACS accreditation, as another facet of the process this time (it changes with each re-accreditation) asks schools to prepare a comprehensive strategic plan on a topic of their choosing.

The last SACS accreditation for Emory, which took place in 1993, imposed significantly on faculty members’ time, she added, but this year’s iteration should be more pleasant; nearly all of the required administrative work and data-gathering has been done by staff in the provost’s office.

Concluding the meeting were remarks from President Bill Chace, who recently announced his plans to retire from the presidency. Chace clarified that he will remain in office until his successor actually is installed; ideally, Chace said, this would happen by Labor Day 2003, but he stressed that he will stay on the job as long as it takes.

Frank Vandall moved that the Senate pass a resolution of gratitude and congratulations for Chace, and the motion passed unanimously.

The next Senate meeting will be held Jan. 28, 2003, at 3:15 p.m. in the Woodruff Library’s Jones Room.

If you have a question or concern for University Senate,e-mail President William Branch at