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February 25, 2002

Faculty Council briefed on future conferences

By Michael Terrazas


Interim Provost Woody Hunter opened the Feb. 19 meeting of Faculty Council by announcing the Board of Trustees had approved the University’s Educational and General Budget for fiscal year 2003 (see story). “[Budget deliberations] are an annual exercise in self-flagellation coupled with fiscal discipline,” Hunter quipped, adding that the budget is “tighter than we’d like” but still accomplishes the University’s goals.

Public health’s Claire Sterk and philosophy’s David Carr briefed the council on the Research at Emory Commission. Sterk (who chairs the commission, with Carr as cochair) said the commission completed its faculty hearings last semester, adding meetings at Oxford and Grady Hospital to the original schedule. Sterk said the group hopes to formulate some draft recommendations for review by faculty later this spring and in the fall, with final recommendations to come in spring 2003.

Gary Wihl, acting dean of the graduate school, addressed the council about the year-old Quadrangle Fund, designed to encourage more involvement of graduate students in research projects. Wihl said the grant program is not limited to researchers in the Arts & Sciences, and he welcomed applications from researchers in the professional schools.
Wihl also discussed the upcoming seminar, “Philanthropy and the Research University,” to be held on campus April 15–16. The conference will explore the current and historical relationships between modern research universities and philanthropic foundations.

Staying on the topic of upcoming conferences, Don Stein informed the council of the 2002 Sam Nunn Policy Forum, to be held at Emory April 5–7. The event is titled “Commercialization and the Academy,” and Stein said it will explore such issues as intellectual property rights, patents and copyrights, commercial funding of academic research and other realities of modern academia. “This isn’t a screed against commercialization,” Stein said. “This is an attempt to provide a balanced perspective.”

John Bugge, campus president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), addressed the council regarding the current discussion about possible changes to employee benefits programs. Bugge said AAUP has set itself as a “watchdog” of salary and compensation issues in academia, and while the organization has not done extensive work with “collateral benefits,” it has done some.

Cutting benefits, Bugge said, would have a variety of undesirable consequences—a negative impact on morale being one example—and he urged the council to ask the Board of Trustees to think seriously before taking any action.

The discussion dovetailed into President Bill Chace’s remarks, which were scheduled to conclude the meeting. The council raised a number of concerns with Chace, who was frank in his answers. No decisions have been made about any benefits changes, he said, but “I don’t think there’s any doubt we’ll have to make some changes in how we finance this institution.”

The council seemed to be primarily concerned with possible changes to the courtesy scholarship program, and indeed several professors said the scholarships are a large part either of what drew them to Emory or what is keeping them at Emory, or both. One suggestion, which Chace said was particularly valuable, was that since the need for benefits changes is being driven largely by spiraling health insurance costs—an external factor—any changes should based only on external factors, not internal programs such as courtesy scholarships.

Chace said the administration’s financial projections—assuming the University makes no changes to benefits, that national economic conditions remain constant, and figuring in operational costs for new facilities due to come online—show that by 2004 the University’s discretionary budget will be just $248,000, leaving virtually no room to implement new programs or grow existing ones.

“If we do nothing,” Chace said, “it will mean the almost total disappearance of any form of innovation on this campus.”

Some professors said one opinion on campus is the University places too high a priority on capital projects; Chace said, save for projects already under construction, Emory’s building program has been brought to a virtual halt.

When asked if any benefits changes might be only temporary, Chace said that “anything in the future would be up for grabs.” He said a number of meetings have been scheduled between the administration and various campus groups, and he is open to even more of them.

The next Faculty Council meeting will be held March 19 at 3:15 p.m. in 400 Administration.

If you have a question or concern for Faculty Council, e-mail chair Frank Vandall at