Discussion of Emory’s new pre-employment drug testing
policy dominated the Jan. 28 meeting of University Senate, held
in Woodruff Library’s Jones Room.
The issue arose when Cheryl Bowie, president of Employee Council,
reported that her group had voted to support a resolution drafted
by Carter Center employees that calls upon the University administration
to suspend drug testing of prospective Emory employees “pending
a full consultative review and redesign of a more effective and
Bryan Conley, senior associate director of development at the Carter
Center, spoke in defense of the resolution, which says (a) there
is no documented need for the drug testing policy; (b) that it will
not accomplish its stated goals of improving safety at Emory and
contributing to a drug-free environment; (c) that it puts Emory
“well out of standard practice” for peer institutions;
(d) that the money it costs could be spent more wisely; and (e)
that it “violates individuals’ rights” to privacy.
Vice President for Human Resources Alice Miller spoke in defense
of the policy, giving a history of its formulation and adoption
and the rationale behind it. Miller said Emory had been the only
major employer in Atlanta that did not test prospective employees
for drug use, making the University an “employer of choice”
for drug users, she said. Testing costs from $18–$35 per individual,
she said, calling it a fair price for reducing the chances that
individuals with drug problems might come to Emory.
Debate over both the Carter Center/Employee Council resolution and
the policy itself lasted nearly the entire Senate meeting, with
numerous opinions seeming to fall on all sides of the issue. Some
of the major points of contention were:
• why all staff positions are subject to testing instead of
only those individuals who come into close contact with students
or for whom on-the-job drug use would be especially dangerous (i.e.,
shuttle drivers or campus police officers). Miller said division
leaders were concerned about singling out certain groups of employees,
and testing for all staff positions seemed more egalitarian.
• why prospective faculty members will not be tested. President
Bill Chace, who reserved his comments until the meeting was nearly
concluded, said faculty are and always have been afforded special
privileges (such as tenure) at colleges and universities.
• whether the practice is working. Conley cited a 1993 study
by the National Academy of Sciences which he said found that drug
testing does not help foster a drug-free workplace. Miller said
some 28 applicants out of 811 have had employment offers rescinded
because of positive drug tests since the policy was implemented
Ultimately, the Senate voted to postpone further discussion until
its February meeting. Chace called the debate “one of the
best discussions the Senate has had in a long time.”
But it was not the only order of business. To open the meeting,
interim Provost Woody Hunter said the process to approve Emory’s
Educational and General Budget for fiscal year 2004 has been pushed
back a month in an effort to align it more with that of Emory Healthcare.
Citing the recent appointments of Michael Awkward and Yusef Komunyakaa
to the English faculty, as well as certain acquisitions by Special
Collections, Hunter also said that soon Emory will boast “unquestionably
the largest and best collection in African American arts and letters
in the world.
Don Harris, vice provost for information technology, reported that
Jack Schuster, professor of education and public policy at Claremont
Graduate University in Claremont, Calif., will speak on Feb. 24
about how universities are dealing with financial difficulties.
Next, Harris announced the second EduCATE (Educational Conference
on Academic Technology at Emory) conference will be held March 25–26.
Finally, Harris said the Information Technology Division is considering
a new awards program for faculty and students to recognize collaborative
computing approaches that have been integrated into coursework.
After the drug-testing debate, Chace closed the meeting by lauding
the recently closed “Without Sanctuary” exhibit of lynching
photographs at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site,
which he said drew some 170,000 viewers over its eight-month run.
Responding to recent newspaper reports about Emory’s decision
not to purchase the photograph collection from its owners, Atlantans
James Allen and John Littlefield, Chace said Special Collections
simply does not have the resources to purchase every collection
of note, and the sellers’ asking price was too high.
“I am proud of our African American collections; they are
some of the finest in the world,” Chace said. “But Emory
cannot acquire everything.”
The next Senate meeting will be held Feb. 25 at 3:15 p.m. in the
have a question or concern for University Senate,e-mail President
William Branch at email@example.com.