February 3, 2003

University Senate takes up
drug-testing issue


By Michael Terrazas mterraz@emory.edu

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 just policy.”

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 last March.

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 Jones Room.

If you have a question or concern for University Senate,e-mail President William Branch at william_branch@emoryhealthcare.org.






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