Over the last few years, many members of the Emory community increasingly
came to feel that their voices were not taken seriously. Faculty
regularly asked for greater transparency and consultation from
the administration; staff employees called for a greater voice
in decisions that impact them directly; misunderstandings grew
between the Board of Trustees and those who work here; and emeritus
faculty and others protested that their concerns were simply ignored.
sum, it became evident that shared governance needed to be strengthened.
University Senate is the campus' broadest forum for democratic
and social interaction among the people who make up the Emory community:
faculty, staff, administrators, students, emeriti employees and
alumni. To the extent that the Senate functions as a forum for
democratic shared governance, it strengthens the entire academic
on this understanding, the Senate's executive committee began the
2003-04 academic year with the conviction that the time is now
right to establish new norms of shared governance.
American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has suggested
that at least three roots are needed to sustain genuine shared
governance. First, shared governance requires, and results from,
cooperation. In a strong shared-governance model, collaboration
among the various governing bodies is the rule. Conflicting
opinions are inevitable (and useful), but should not escalate into
combat. Nevertheless, confrontation should be used without hesitation
if and when core values are at stake and the administration ceases
to demonstrate good faith.
shared governance and academic freedom must be linked. Shared governance
(along with tenure) protects academic freedom, and this freedom
in turn makes shared governance possible. Shared governance, according
to the AAUP Redbook, is "a necessary condition for the protection
of faculty rights and thereby the most productive exercise of essential
governance and academic freedom also are linked for nonfaculty
employees. Without the understanding that their right to freedom
of speech is protected from retribution, staff members feel forced
to silence their voices rather than become involved in efforts
to reform policies.
shared governance is an ethical enterprise. On one hand, members
of a university community, by virtue of their membership, have
entered into a social contract to share in the work of governance.
On the other hand, as C.S. Lewis commented, we need to support
democracy not because people are good, but because they often are
not. By exercising our ethical responsibility to share in the governance
of our community, we provide a system of checks and balances that
prevents anyone from gaining excessive power.
shared governance can be distinguished from a counterfeit version
by the fruit it bears, that is, by what actually happens in the
customary patterns of university life. Consider these three questions:
- Do administrators function as partners in university
governance, or are they reluctant to share information and authority?
The well-intended old idea that "secrecy protects the university" does
not work; secrecy breeds mistrust. Reluctance to share information
also reflects a reluctance to share authority, thus undercutting
genuine shared governance. Under old-guard administrators, for
instance, requests for information often were stonewalled with
the explanation, "This
is the way we do it at Emory."
- Do academic deans aim to make sure that each
voice is heard and every vote is counted within the schools they
administer? Those who appreciate the positive role shared governance
plays in academic life will enhance the voices of their faculty
and staff. The old idea of administrators as kindly, trustworthy
parents who know what is best does not work with adults; it demeans,
undercuts motivation and violates the norm of shared governance.
- Do faculty and staff experience the empowering conviction
that the University belongs to us? On occasions of heightened
collective awareness, such as graduation ceremonies and town
hall meetings, many do. This is an important step toward valuing
Emory as a community distinct from or beyond the relationships
among its members.
employees, however, also receive the message that they are "human
resources," not human beings. This sentiment was communicated through
several decisions made last year: All new employees must urinate
in a cup; all current employees must accept benefit cuts; all retired
employees are disposable. The collective good of the University
lost its meaning when the rights of the people who make up Emory
year we are on our way to a much better outcome, largely due to
a respectful partnership that is slowly but steadily being forged
by and between the Senate, the University president and the Board
of Trustees. The fruits of this new spirit of shared governance
have included the Senate's unanimous passage and the president's
prompt signing of a balanced pre-employment drug-screening policy.
new spirit has included the Board of Trustees welcoming faculty
representatives to their major committees, which should go a long
way toward building more effective partnerships. It has included
a renewed sense of hope that we may be moving ahead again and that
we at Emory may someday be able to claim our rightful place at
the table with our nation's greatest universities.
much, of course, remains to be done. Emory's fringe benefits policy,
for instance, needs to be addressed, not only because benefits
were cut recently but also because it appears that some benefits
were always less competitive than those offered by our nation's
best research universities (e.g., frequency of research leaves;
flexibility of sabbatical policies; transferability of tuition
benefits for faculty children attending other universities; vesting
provisions for faculty and staff employees).
address this challenge, the Senate's fringe benefits committee
chair and the Faculty Council's executive committee will work in
close collaboration with Executive Vice President Mike Mandl. As
partners, we aim to conduct a broad review of fringe benefits in
order to ensure that Emory's benefits are equal or superior to
those of other top-tiered research universities. Such a comprehensive
plan, however, will take time; it must be thoughtfully prepared
in consultation with others, not cobbled together in haste or in
benefits item that cannot wait, however, is a reconsideration of
Emory's health insurance premiums for retirees. The Senate's executive
committee is acutely aware of the financial hardship that has been
imposed on retired employees, especially those too young to qualify
for Medicare. Current faculty and staff, as well as emeriti professors
and retired staff members, continue to voice their deep ill feelings
around this issue. They have experienced a break of trust that
must be addressed now if Emory is to move ahead with other projects.
University Senate will seek to work as a cooperative partner with
the administration to provide affordable health care for the most
vulnerable members of our community. This collaborative effort
also will test the strength of shared governance at Emory. I ask
that all members of the Emory community closely watch our collaborative
efforts and contribute to a positive outcome through their constructive