Last fall Emory experienced the pain of a difficult
discussion about race. The actions precipitating that discussion
have been well documented and need no further comment here.
Nevertheless, I take these matters and the questions arising from them with profound
seriousness, and at the beginning of a new calendar year it is appropriate to
reiterate my full commitment and personal investment in helping Emory live up
to its high ethical standards.
Among the many recommendations offered to move Emory toward a fuller realization
of its ideals are several in an open letter from African American faculty and
staff published in the Dec. 15 issue of Emory Report.
I welcome and endorse the call for an “immediate action plan” to
address issues of race, and of diversity generally, at Emory. As part of the
larger social context of the United States, Emory and other complex institutions
can hardly be considered immune to the forces of prejudice and poor habits that
vex our social fabric. Rather than attempt (once again) to “resolve” racial
issues episodically, we must not only seek to move beyond these confining forces
and habits but also develop a practice of community that transcends our current
The second recommendation—to review the mission, policies, procedures and
practices of the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs (EOP)—seems reasonable.
Periodic external reviews of all of our units are valuable ways for Emory to
compare our practices against the best practices of other universities. External
reviews not only require accountability but also provide new ideas, corrective
suggestions and validation of those things we do right. Such a review of Emory’s
EOP office was conducted recently by the federal Office of Civil Rights, and
the findings from that review are worth sharing with the campus. I have asked
Vice President Bob Ethridge to provide copies of that report to The Emory
Wheeland Emory Report for wider reporting.
Other recommendations and voices from many quarters
make it clear that those who live and work at Emory or associate
with this great University harbor a strong aspiration for community.
Emory therefore must find the courage to lead in the practice of
community. During the next 18 months the University will engage
in a wide-ranging and comprehensive strategic-planning process.
If the practice of community is to become a distinctive part of
many people seem to be suggesting that it should—then the manner in which
we keep that mission on track—by what office, with what accountable officer,
and through what reporting lines—will need to be addressed in that strategic
I am heartened by the commitment shown to civil discourse on this campus. Students,
staff and faculty want to effect full consonance between the University’s
language and its practice, and between the ingredients for a truly diverse
community and the still-elusive reality. I look forward to working with faculty
colleagues, as well as with staff and students, in making Emory a leader in
the practice of community. Only in this way will Emory move beyond episodic
efforts to address disharmony and create a community where diversity and inclusiveness
are more real than rhetorical.
(Editor’s note: This is the first in an occasional series
of columns by members of the Emory community about “The Practice
of Community.” Anyone wishing to contribute to this column
should contact Managing Editor Michael Terrazas at
email@example.com or 404-727-0645)