Emory Report
December 6, 2004
Volume 57, Number 14


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December 6 , 2004
Senate debates University ethics statement

BY Michael Terrazas

T o open the University Senate’s final meeting of the semester, held Nov. 23 in the Woodruff Library’s Jones Room, President Sharon Strocchia gave an update on the ongoing comprehensive review of Emory’s employee benefits package. Strocchia chairs the ad hoc committee conducting the review, and she said a benchmarking study shows the University compares favorably to peer institutions in some areas, while Emory “has some work to do” in others. Strocchia said the committee hopes to bring something before the Senate for review in March.

Gerald Lowrey, senior director of campus relations for the Association of Emory Alumni (AEA), gave a brief description of AEA’s programs and services, as well as a breakdown of the demographics of the University’s alumni. Of Emory’s more than 102,000 living alumni, half have graduated since 1986, and as a result AEA in recent years has begun focusing more on programs to involve younger alumni.

Michael Huey, director of Student Health Services (SHS), appeared before the Senate to announce that the Board of Trustees voted to ban smoking in all indoor campus areas, effective fall 2005. Since smoking already is banned in all academic and common buildings, the decision effectively will prohibit smoking in residence halls. Huey said the move is a reflection of Emory’s desire to discourage smoking—a legal activity in Georgia for persons 18 and older—among all its community members simply by making it more difficult to do so.

Huey said statistics show that Emory freshmen arrive on campus smoking less on average than their peers by age and gender; by the time they leave, however, Emory students are smoking more than both peer groups. “During their time at Emory, something happens—they learn to smoke,” Huey said.

Enforcement of the new prohibition likely will be a three-step process, he said, with the first being peer enforcement and discouragement; the second being verbal warnings and smoking-cessation information from resident advisers; and the third, for repeat offenders, being a trip to the Conduct Council. Huey said SHS, the Counseling Center and the Faculty Staff Assistance Program all will ramp up their smoking-cessation efforts to help community members who want to quit.

Chris Grey, chair of the President’s Commission on Race and Ethnicity (PCORE), briefed the Senate on the Campus Climate Survey that began appearing in all employees’ mailboxes last week. The survey results are expected to be returned to the University in February. President Jim Wagner echoed Grey’s request that all Emory faculty and staff complete the survey, data from which will inform—not dictate—policy changes in regard to diversity, Wagner said.

“You can ask any administrator about the racial climate at Emory, and they’ll say, ‘I don’t know [the facts]; all we have are impressions,’” Wagner said. “That’s what we’re trying to remedy.”

The final agenda item was a discussion of Emory’s recently re-drafted statement of ethical principles. The statement first was proposed last summer, and draft language was distributed via all-campus e-mail for community comment. The Senate reviewed a new, six-paragraph statement that flatly states the pursuit of knowledge of truth is Emory’s reason for existence and that the University “will pursue these ends honestly, unflinchingly and whole-heartedly, as we treasure and seek to foster academic freedom and civil discourse.”

Several minor, friendly amendments were suggested and passed by unanimous vote following the Senate’s discussion. For example, in the above sentence, the last phrase was amended to read, “… as we treasure and seek to foster academic freedom and the widest possible diversity of opinion within an atmosphere of civil discourse.” Other friendly amendments included affirming basic human rights of all persons, and recognizing that Emory should create a “living enviroment” that fulfills its aspirations.

One amendment that was tabled for further discussion concerned the statement’s last sentence, which read: “Compliance with the law is a minimal exception; members of Emory should do what is right, even if there is no governing legal requirement to do so.” Several Senate members agreed that, on rare occasions, non-compliance with the law is “right” when that law is unjust. The Senate agreed to strike the sentence until language could be developed that satisfactorily addresses this and related concerns.

The full text (as amended) of the draft statement can be found on the University Senate website (www.emory.edu/SENATE/) under “Resolutions.”

The Senate will next meet on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2005, at 3:15 p.m. in the Jones Room.

If you have a question or concern for University Senate, e-mail Strocchia at sharon.strocchia@emory.edu.