Emory Report
October 25, 2004
Volume 57, Number 9


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October 25 , 2004
Surveying the climate at Emory

Jim wagner is president of the university

The old joke about the weather is that everybody complains, but nobody does anything about it. And while that may be largely true, human discontent about the weather has led to such taken-for-granted features of our lives as watertight roofs, central heating and suitable clothing for every climate. We may not be able to control the weather, but we can sure decide how to live in it.

One of the things that surprised me about Emory during my first year as president was that, to some extent, this observation about the weather seemed stuck in people’s minds as a commentary on our community. Particularly when it came to issues like diversity, racial dialogue and understanding among persons of different ethnicities, there seemed to be an underlying tension that went back many years. It’s not that these issues had not been addressed, or that nothing had been done about them. But the tension flares up periodically nevertheless, and the result is an articulation of the sense that the climate has never changed—and that no one is working to change it.

It’s clear that many people have worked very hard for a long time to make Emory a richly diverse place—to change not only the way we live in the weather, but even the weather itself. The numbers show that. We need only to walk across the campus, look around our classrooms, and take note of student leadership in every arena to know that Emory is a preferred destination for African American and Asian American students, as well as for a growing number of Latin American students. Among our peer universities, Emory has the largest percentage of African American faculty members.

Still, numbers alone do not make a community. In the past year we have reflected in these pages about “the practice of community” and have undertaken initiatives that help to shape us as a community. We have collaborated on a vision statement for our community, as well as on a Code of Ethics, on strategic planning and on far-reaching discussions about transportation and campus management. These efforts draw us together in common ownership of our destiny, common discourse about our beliefs and what we value.

Has the weather changed? And, if it has not changed, what more we can do about it?

As we continue through this academic year, and particularly as we strive toward our goal of being a diverse and ethically engaged community, it is important to take stock of what we think, collectively, about the Emory climate—to gauge the weather. I want to invite and encourage your participation in this climate survey.

Beginning in late November, all employees (faculty and staff) will be asked to complete a confidential survey on the campus climate for diversity. This is a new undertaking for Emory, so to ensure the confidentiality and accuracy of the information gathered, the University has engaged an independent consultant, Kevin Nolan of Atlanta SurveyNet. Kevin has more than 18 years of experience conducting workplace surveys for such corporations as the Southern Company, Georgia Power and Lockheed Martin.

The particular survey Kevin will conduct for Emory was developed by him in close cooperation with the President’s Commission on Race and Ethnicity (PCORE), formerly the President’s Commission on the Status of Minorities. PCORE has worked hard to develop a guideline for the survey that encompasses the very broad range of areas and interests that make up Emory. The survey was developed on the basis of a wealth of research about diversity as well as the years of wisdom shared by both Kevin Nolan and PCORE members. I am grateful to PCORE for its initiative and perseverance in ensuring that this survey comes to fruition.

All responses to the survey will be kept in strictest confidence; no one at Emory will see the raw data or the responses, which will be sent directly to the consultant. He then will analyze the responses and prepare a report for the University, as well as reports about each school and division. The reports will include the top five positive attributes of Emory’s climate, the five most negative attributes and recommendations for follow-up opportunities.

More communications about the survey will be forthcoming over the next several weeks. A similar survey is being conducted among Emory students as part of a national effort in which our Division of Campus Life is playing a key role.

It is important that each of us at Emory have an opportunity to express our thoughts. Without these candid perspectives, we cannot accurately gauge the weather and determine what we can do about it.