February 24, 2003

Faculty Council debates 'living wages'

By Michael Terrazas mterraz@emory.edu

To open the Feb. 18 Faculty Council meeting, interim Provost Woody Hunter updated the council on deliberations in preparing the Educational and General budget for fiscal year 2004.

The Board of Trustees isn’t due to vote on the budget until March—the University’s budget cycle was pushed back a month this year to bring it more in line with that of Emory Healthcare—but Hunter described the various cost drivers figuring into this year’s plan.

Drawing the most discussion was Emory’s effort to provide a “living wage” to its lowest paid employees.

In October 2000, Hunter said, Emory committed to using the federal government’s poverty guideline in determining its minimum pay rate, increasing the wage every year, from $6.20/hour in 1999 to $8.50 in 2003. However a local organization called the Atlanta Living Wage Coalition has determined that the current living wage in this city is $10.50, calculated as 130 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of three.

Hunter speculated that fewer than 200 University employees are paid at the lowest rate, so raising that rate in and of itself would not be a major expense. The problem comes with the “compression” effect such a move would have on salaries farther up the scale, as questions of seniority and authority come into play. Once higher-grade salaries start getting adjusted for the increases made to lower rates, the costs begin to mount.

President Bill Chace asked for the council’s input into this matter, given the University’s current financial constraints. Council members’ opinions ranged from freezing the salaries of full professors to doing nothing and letting the labor market run its course.

Next on the agenda was an announcement from council chair William Branch, who proposed establishing an ad hoc committee, the Committee on the Future of the University, charged with working with the administration and the Board of Trustees in setting Emory’s institutional priorities. Saying such a body would have been of great benefit to him when he arrived in 1994, Chace said the move would be a “gift” to Emory’s next president. A motion to create the committee passed unanimously, and Branch said he will begin determining how to appoint its members.

Branch also announced that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will speak at an open faculty forum on March 20 from 2:45–3:45 p.m. in Cannon Chapel. Carter had agreed to visit with the council, and Branch said Carter’s staff felt an open meeting would be most appropriate given current geopolitical events.

Such events led directly to the next agenda item, which was a report from Jim Grimsley and Bruce Knauft on their efforts to involve faculty in facilitating open and civil discussion of current events among the student body and, indeed, the entire Emory community. As the United States moves closer to war with Iraq, Grimsley and Knauft—in close coordination with student groups and Campus Life—are planning a “Classroom on the Quad” event, to be held the day after any hostilities begin.

The idea is to set up loudspeakers on the Quad and encourage students, faculty and staff to come together for a few hours to talk about the war; faculty particularly with classes in session at the time of the event will be asked to bring their students to the Quad. Shunning the term “teach-in,” which recently was used to describe more partisan events on other campuses, the event’s planning team is making a concerted effort to involve people on all sides of the issue, Grimsley said; a strict “no banners” policy will be enforced, and organizers will advise speakers to maintain a level of decorum in their addresses.

After a discussion about whether and how much to regulate free speech at such an event, and to what degree the University should encourage faculty to use class time to attend, the council unanimously passed a resolution that said, in part, “While classes would not officially be suspended, the council strongly encourages all students, faculty and staff to attend.”

Chair-elect John Snarey announced that Claire Sterk, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Behavioral Science and Health Education, will deliver this year’s Distinguished Faculty lecture, March 20 at 4 p.m. in Winship Ballroom.

To close the meeting, Sharon Strocchia reported that the ad hoc committee on communication has added a “governance” link on the internal home page that gathers information on Emory’s various governance groups. Strocchia also said that an online discussion area for faculty is in the works; the effort is “piggybacking” on a similar project being undertaken by the presidential search committee.

The next Faculty Council meeting will be held Tuesday, March 18, at 3:15 p.m. in 400 Administration.

If you have a question or concern for Faculty Council, contact chair William Branch at william_branch@emoryhealthcare.org.






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