June 23, 2003

Drug testing to remain in place

By Michael Terrazas

President Bill Chace announced recently that he has decided to leave in place the University’s pre-employment drug testing policy as written, rather than adopt a recommendation of the University Senate to implement a new system using the Senate to review divisions’ request to drug-test prospective employees.

Chace’s decision caps a year of contentious debate over the policy, first instituted in spring 2002. Currently in place for selected Emory divisions such as Campus Life, Facilities Manage-ment and Community Services (which includes the Emory Police Department), the policy calls for all potential new hires to submit to a drug screening or have their employment offer rescinded.

Early in the 2002–03 academic year, a group of Carter Center employees brought their objections to the policy before various governance groups, and the debate culminated in the Senate’s recommendation at its final meeting of the year in April. Chaired by Senate President John Snarey, an ad hoc committee recommended that, beginning this fall, any division wishing to test prospective employees come before the Senate and make its case for doing so; the Senate would then recommend to the president whether the division’s proposal be accepted or rejected.

Snarey said the Senate executive committee will continue to oppose the policy next academic year.

“We are disappointed and saddened that President Chace saw fit to reject the Senate’s proposal out of hand,” Snarey said. “Nevertheless, we remain hopeful. We have robust support on campus and believe it is possible to eventually achieve a policy that would be more in line with the policies of other great research universities, such as Stanford and Harvard.”

Many universities, including those Snarey mentioned, drug-test only certain groups of employees, such as police officers and shuttle drivers.

“Although I greatly respect the hard work the Senate group invested in this issue, and although I think its advice was intelligent and well-considered, I decided to continue the policy of pre-employment drug testing on the basis of my belief that the University should have one policy, and not two, to govern our interest in setting forth the belief that Emory should be as drug-free as possible,” Chace said. “Substance abuse is costly and injurious to morale in every workplace.”

Debate over the policy touched on a range of social issues, from employee productivity to student safety and civil liberties, to the fact that the policy applies only to prospective staff and not faculty. Bryan Conley, senior associate director of development for the Carter Center and one of the primary figures in the opposition to the policy, said he was surprised and disappointed by Chace’s decision, citing the range of campus groups that favored revising the policy.

“With such solidarity against the policy, I just don’t understand a ‘no changes’ decision,” Conley said. “I remain hopeful that Emory’s tradition of respect for democratic values and worker rights, as expressed so strongly by the community on this issue, will eventually win out. And I hope the Emory community will continue to explore alternatives to this deeply flawed policy.”

Chace said he is still “60-40” in favor of the policy, as he indicated at an Employee Council town hall meeting last fall when asked about it. “I am not reluctant to say this was a hard decision, for I understand many of the objections to our policy,” he said.
Human Resources Vice President Alice Miller said the policy remains mandatory for all new staff hires to the University, and Director of Employment Del King said all Emory departments should be sending prospective employees for testing by the end of this summer.

King said that as of the end of May, some 1,410 individuals had been tested, with 42 testing positive.