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January 22, 2002

Faculty Council discusses URC, academic freedom

By Michael Terrazas


Chair Frank Vandall convened the first Faculty Council meeting of 2002 on Jan. 15 at 3:15 p.m. in 400 Administration. First on the agenda were remarks from President Bill Chace, who recalled for the council his 1995 inauguration address, in which he pledged a quick end to campus construction. Chace then estimated there currently is about $800 million in capital projects ongoing at the University. “This thing could have gotten out of hand if I hadn’t [pledged to end construction],” Chace deadpanned.

On a more serious note, Chace said law Professor Richard Freer will head the committee searching for a new law school dean after the search was extended prior to winter break. Chace said there is some carryover from the previous search committee, and the renewed search will pay more attention to internal candidates. He said he hopes a new dean is hired by the end of this semester.

Cy Wilcox, chair of the University Research Committee (URC), delivered an efficacy report on URC grants and their returns to Emory in the form of subsequent external research funding. The committee’s numbers show that, during the period from fall 1990 to spring 2000, URC dispensed a total of roughly $6 million in grants. The committee asked investigators to report back any subsequent external funding their projects received within three years of the initial URC grant, and the total reported back was more than $48 million, which meant that every $1 URC awarded resulted in an additional $8 coming back to Emory.

The council discussed the distribution of grant monies between projects channeled through URC’s five subcommittes: biological and health sciences, humanities, social sciences, mathematics and natural sciences, and performing and visual arts. Wilcox said the deadline for the next funding cycle is Feb. 15.

Interim Provost Woody Hunter said the search for a new Carlos Museum director is progressing, with airport interviews to be held Feb. 11. Art history chair Clark Poling is chairing the search committee. Hunter also encouraged faculty to apply for grants from the University Teaching Fund, which he called a “sister committee” to URC.

Scott Lilienfeld, associate professor of psychology, spoke to the council about his recent experiences with the American Psychological Association and the furor over a study published in Psychological Bulletin in 1998 that questioned the link between childhood abuse and subsequent adult mental pathology. A full description of Lilienfeld’s experiences is available online at the Academic Exchange website, located at, in the newsletter’s December 2001/January 2002 issue.

Summarizing any “lessons” he took from the experience, Lilienfeld simply advised young professors to “be careful” when touching on research subjects that have become political hotbuttons either in popular culture or in government. When asked what resources the University has to defend faculty whose work is threatened either legally or quasi-legally, Vice Provost Harriet King said Emory has what essentially is “academic malpractice” insurance for such cases, as was vividly demonstrated in the British libel trial of Professor Deborah Lipstadt.

Lilienfeld said some campuswide discussion might be overdue on the nature of academic freedom. Chace, along with several in attendance, agreed it was a subject well worth fresh examination and fortification.

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


If you have a question or concertn for Faculty Council, e-mail Vandall at




Back to Emory Report January 22, 2002

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