A group of Emory faculty and staff met with President Jim Wagner
April 30 to discuss a report chronicling five diversity dialogues
that took place in the spring as well as take another step forward
in the campus-wide conversation on community.
Attending the meeting were faculty members Richard Doner (political
science), Leslie Harris (history and African American studies),
Darryl Neill (psychology) and Beverly Schaffer (economics and violence
studies), and staff members Art Linton (violence studies) and Donna
Wong (Multicultural Programs and Services).
The 60-page report,
delivered to Wagner earlier in the month, contained comments from
more than 220 people who attended the meetings. Those comments
were grouped into three major categories (symptoms, sources and
solutions) related to the high-profile and sometimes-controversial
diversity conversation that continued throughout the 2003–04
Hard copies of the report are available at the Woodruff Library circulation desk
and in the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services. Electronic copies can
be downloaded from the violence studies website at www.emory.edu/COLLEGE/
“I think this is a good first step in improving communications between
people at Emory at all levels,” said Schaffer, who prepared the report.
The dialogues grew out of an effort that began following an Emory College faculty
meeting when Schaffer offered to help widen the diversity conversation to include
staff and students.
Schaffer and Linton worked with Multicultural Programs and Services to set
up the dialogues, held March 6, 16, 26 and April 7 for faculty and staff, and
April 15 for students. The March 26 meeting was particularly popular, attracting
120 attendees to the Jones Room.
So everyone could speak freely, participants
wrote anonymous comments on index cards and submitted them to facilitator David
Hooker, who then led the group discussion. The report reprinted each comment
with minimal editing but did not cover the discussions.
The symptoms and their
sources centered on four primary concerns: communication, fairness and equity,
faculty and staff numbers, and segregation. Schaffer said that from the very
first meeting, the majority of concerns gravitated those themes.
The comments were at times disturbing (“feel treated differently from white
colleagues”), vague (“education”), optimistic (“don’t
be afraid to step out of your element”), ambitious (“if we could
somehow switch jobs with each other occasionally”) and thought provoking
(“the institution does not compensate you or recognize you for your relations
with others of a different race”).
“It was encouraging to see the freedom people felt during the dialogue
sessions to be open and honest,” Wagner said. “On the other
hand, it was terribly disappointing to learn of some past incidents.”
While the comments were almost always passionate, the perceptions behind
them weren’t always accurate. One, for instance, claimed that Emory
did not have any African Americans in the upper administration. Incoming
Provost Earl Lewis and John Ford, vice president for Campus Life, are
both African American.
The April 15 meeting was an invitation-only dialogue that included 24 students.
The format was similar to the previous dialogues, but the data were organized
differently, highlighting a primary student concern (self-segregation, including
the prevalence of narrowly defined ethnic, racial and religious groups on campus)
and solutions that included addressing freshman orientation and student activities.
Just before Memorial Day, Schaffer was able to upload a copy of the report
to the web so the entire community could access it easily. “The dialogue participants
wanted the report to be shared with the President, other top administrators and,
if possible, the community at large,” she said.
Wagner and Lewis have begun a discussion about whether an upper-administration
post to advance diversity and community should be created. Wagner hoped
to make a decision within the new provost’s first 90 days on campus.
Wagner also received a letter from the president’s commissions
and the Employee Council recommending that progress toward broad community
diversity be included in the strategic planning process. He endorsed
that recommendation and passed it along to the strategic planning steering
“In building community, as in building any interpersonal relationship,
there will always be ‘next steps,’” Wagner said. “It
requires constant effort, and we must resist the temptation for complacency.”