December 1, 2003

PCSM, invited guests meet with Wagner

By Stephanie Sonnenfeld


President Jim Wagner met with members of the President’s Commission on the Status of Minorities (PCSM) on Tuesday, Nov. 18, to discuss the group’s recently issued resolution regarding Carol Worthman, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology, who made a racially insensitive remark during a department panel discussion on Sept. 15.

This meeting replaced the group’s regularly scheduled meeting for the month and was requested by Wagner, who said he wanted to personally reply to the resolution. Joining PCSM members were invited guests, including chairs of additional campus governing bodies and faculty and staff members from departments campuswide.

PCSM’s resolution—written after two African American anthropology professors met with the group in October to discuss the Sept. 15 incident—contains 13 resolutions, which include reopening the anthropology department investigation, having President Jimmy Carter lead a discussion on racism and diversity at Emory, and the adoption of a mandatory, campuswide diversity training program.

Wagner did not have enough time to address each resolution but was able to speak to some of the points. He said to his knowledge the investigation cannot be reopened, but those involved can file appeals, which was supported by Robert Ethridge, vice president for Equal Opportunity Programs (EOP). Wagner said the faculty member who brought forth the complaint should be made aware of the appeal process and its procedures.

Ethridge told PCSM that he has met with people in anthropology to see what issues still need to be addressed, and his office is researching diversity training options from internal and external professionals.

Wagner said he has spoken to Carter about his moderating a discussion, and while Carter’s time in Atlanta is limited, he is open to assisting Emory as needed.
Wagner proposed a task force, with members from across the University, be formed to look at diversity issues.

"I would put it in the same category as a big research priority," he said of the group’s importance, adding that he wants it to be formed and start working immediately.

Wagner said plans for the task force have not been finalized, and he is open to suggestions. He said the group would have no authority but would, like other campus governance groups, be able to make recommendations. He also emphasized that it would include all "directions and dimensions" of diversity with the campus community.

"It seems to me that we are continuing to reinvent the wheel. I don’t see another commission as a way to get results," said LeRoy Davis, associate professor of African American studies.

PCSM members agreed and said that while the task force might not be the most effective short-term solution, it would consider such an option.

Chair Nagueyalti Warren said she would provide Wagner with copies of reports and suggestions from past PCSM studies and its diversity symposium, which took place in the spring. Wagner said he would read these in time for the Nov. 24 Town Hall (see story), where he would discuss the reports and suggestions.

After Wagner left the meeting, group members continued to discuss the task force proposal, offering suggestions on how to structure the effort.

PCSM will meet again on Monday, Jan. 26, at 3 p.m. in 400 Administration.

If you have a question or concern for PCSM, e-mail chair Nagueyalti Warren at