When President Jim Wagner talks, the Emory community listens.
A lot of people listen.
A record turnout—more than 150 people, several of them spilling outside
the doors of Winship Ballroom—came to see Wagner make his first appearance
at the Employee Council’s annual Town Hall meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 11.
Wagner discussed his intentions of making Emory a “destination university” not
only for faculty and students, but staff as well. He talked about the draft Vision
Statement, which had been making the rounds for about a month and recently moved
one step closer to becoming official. Wagner then answered several questions
both from the floor and by e-mail from employees watching the event’s webcast.
“We have to work toward a day when the jobs at Emory are the plum jobs
to have in Atlanta,” Wagner said, during 20 minutes of commentary that
preceded the question and answer session.
While saying that Emory already possesses these qualities in certain quantities,
Wagner had he wanted Emory to be an inquiry-driven, ethically engaged, diverse
It was the last of those terms—diversity—that Wagner tackled in the
first question from the floor. In response to coverage in The Atlanta Journal-Constitutionabout
racial incidents on campus (see story), Wagner was asked about his long-term
plan for diversity and diversity training.
Wagner said he will meet later this month with members of the President’s
Commission on the Status of Minorities and the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs
to discuss a course of action.
“I think this is a wakeup call for us to put something very specific in
place,” Wagner said. He also referenced one published idea to make diversity
training mandatory for all Emory staff, faculty and students.
“That may be one of the ways to go,” Wagner said. “But I’m
not ready to say, ‘By golly, that’s the one.’”
Many audience members applauded when a question was asked about
of upward mobility” for staff on campus as well as a lack of promotions.
Wagner answered first by promoting the idea of mentorship—not just junior
employees seeking mentors, but senior ones as well. He then said he supports
true merit pay increases. When money is plentiful, supervisors are generous
with pay increases, but when funds get shorter, the trend is to give small,
equal increases to everyone, regardless of job performance.
“When in tight financial times, our instincts betray us and [we] do the
wrong thing,” Wagner said. “When we suffer, we all suffer the same.”
Wagner said that in the future, even if times remain tough, the pay formula
may change. Some employees may receive 6 percent raises. “And some might
get zero. Some of you may hate me for that.”
Other topics of discussion included the importance of college rankings, diversity
in upper administration, the campus master plan, alternative transportation,
servant leadership, the Board of Trustees (“It’s dangerous to talk
about the Board of Trustees, because they’re my boss,” Wagner quipped.),
the addition of Universitywide holidays, and retirement benefits. The last
subject of that list was what Wagner closed with.
“Benefits are an item that has to go on the agenda,” said Wagner,
who while noting that benefits cuts took place under the administration of Bill
Chace, praised his predecessor for making Emory a “great place.”
“It is not just on the agenda,” Wagner continued. “It is an
active item on the agenda.”
For the last 12 years Employee Council has sponsored its Town Hall with the
University president. A brown-bag lunch event, it is designed to give staff
members an opportunity to speak directly with Emory’s top administrator. Normally held each September,
this year’s meeting was moved back to allow President Wagner, who began
the job Sept. 1, more time to get acquainted with the wider community.
The webcast is archived on the Employee Council’s website at www.emory.edu/