March 15, 2004

EOP office, DH policy under review

By Michael Terrazas

Two separate but related reviews—one of the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs (EOP) and another of the University’s discriminatory harassment (DH) policy—are under way to evaluate both entities and suggest what improvements, if any, should be made.

The EOP office review will be handled by an external, three-person committee working in cooperation with Amy Adelman, associate general counsel. Atlanta attorney Adrienne Fechter, a consultant who specializes in workplace disputes, training, mediation, discrimination and harassment, will head the panel, and she will be joined by Benjamin Reese, vice president for institutional equity at Duke University, and Jeanne Arnold-Mann, executive director for affirmative action and equal opportunity programs at the University of Pennsylvania.

The committee was selected from a list of EOP officers around the country provided by EOP Vice President Bob Ethridge, who currently is president of the American Association for Affirmative Action. One “problem,” according to Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Alexander, was that Ethridge’s national reputation is such that it was not easy to find reviewers not already familiar with Ethridge and his office.

“We asked Bob if he could get us a list of people around the country, but he didn’t pick anybody on the committee,” Alexander said. “We tried to find people from institutions with good operations—strong heads of effective offices who could provide us with good input.”

Meanwhile, a University Senate-appointed committee will examine the DH policy (which is posted at Chaired by Emory College Dean Bobby Paul and Alexander, the eight-member committee will invite input from a range of offices and departments on campus, as well as study similar policies at other universities to determine whether any changes need to be made to Emory’s policy.

President Jim Wagner has asked that both reviews be completed by the end of spring semester, though Paul said, if need be, his committee would ask for an extension rather than produce something “slapdash.”

Alexander, whose office is involved in both projects, admitted that last semester’s racial-language incident in the anthropology department was a factor in prompting the reviews, but he added that the efforts would benefit the University regardless of the context in which they were done.

“There should be no stigma attached to this,” Alexander said. “Reviews are commonplace in academic institutions; these are things we’ve wanted to review for some time. We simply want to see how the office could be most effective, and we’re going to give the committee a lot of latitude. They’re an independent committee, so we don’t want to tell them what to do.”

Apart from its chairs, the DH committee is made up equally of faculty and staff. Professor Bill Branch (medicine), Professor Richard Doner (political science) and Associate Professor Maggie Gilead (nursing) comprise the faculty component, while Accountant Cheryl Bowie (radiology), Research Specialist Susie Lackey (Yerkes) and Accountant Don Newsome (theology) represent staff. Adelman, Professor Eugene Emory (psychology), Assistant Director Sylvester Hopewell (EOP) and employee relations Coordinator Jill Vogel (Human Resources) are ex officio members.

“Faculty don’t always realize that harassment is an employment issue, and most of Emory’s employees are staff,” Paul said. “Many, many more harassment complaints are made by staff against their supervisors than by faculty. A balanced number of faculty and staff on the committee is only natural.”

Regarding the issues of academic freedom that have been raised in relation to the DH policy, Paul was quick to point out that the policy is not a “speech code.” Since much if not most harassment takes place in the form of speech, it is unavoidable to consider speech when reviewing and forming a policy such as this.

“One of the challenges is we don’t have an explicit definition of what ‘harassing speech’ is,” Paul said. “Many of the other [schools’] policies are more extensive in that regard.”

Rather than present a finished, revised policy, the DH committee simply will make recommendations, and Paul hopes the University community will provide input. Both before and after the committee’s recommendations are published, individuals can send comments either to or

Whatever changes end up being made either to the DH policy or to the EOP office, Paul said it’s important to remember that no policy or procedure can ever be perfect or 100 percent effective against preventing honest disputes.

“Sooner or later situations are going to come up where human beings are going to have to make judgments—and I personally think that’s a good thing,” Paul said. “Obviously we should be guided by clear policies as far as we can, but there is no substitute for careful consideration of each circumstance as it arises.”