Emory Report
February 21, 2005
Volume 57, Number 20


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February 21, 2005
LGBT to reach out through pair of March dialogues

BY eric rangus

The President’s Commission on LGBT Concerns will host two community dialogues in March so members can hear openly from constituents and converse about LGBT experiences on campus.

The plan for the dialogues was introduced at the commission’s latest meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 15, in 400 Administration. Originally conceived as “forums,” the events were changed to dialogues to create a greater sense of audience interaction. The conversations will be moderated, but open discussion is expected (and encouraged).

The dialogues will take place Monday, March 7, in room 335 of the Dobbs Center and Wednesday, March 23, in Winship Ballroom. The dialogues, an effort by the commission to ramp up its outreach activities, are free and open to the Emory community.

Also practicing outreach at the commission meeting was Provost Earl Lewis, making his first visit to LGBT. Lewis has been barnstorming the president’s commissions, having met previously with the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) and the President’s Commission on Race and Ethnicity (PCORE), to talk up Emory’s strategic planning process.

Lewis not only discussed strategic planning but also outlined the responsibilities of his office (to which the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, sponsor of the commission, now reports) and highlighted some current efforts.

Lewis said he is seeking a senior vice provost for academic planning and faculty development to lead administrative efforts to help faculty climb the academic ladder from assistant to associate to full professor and beyond. He also is involved in the search for a permanent dean for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Finally, Lewis said he wants to fill a position he helped create: senior vice provost for community, divesity and institutional development. Lewis said the position will be filled last—not because it is least important, but because he needed more experience on campus before he could craft a job description. He said the title would carry with it a tenured faculty position.

Lewis wrapped up his comments with a discussion of community on campus. “When you talk about community in a place of 19,000, there are a whole range of needs,” he said. “In my conversations with [Vice President for EOP] Bob Ethridge, I’ve said the toughest thing to figure out is what you’re not going to do.”

During a brief question-and-answer period, Lewis envisioned some of the responsibilities of the new senior vice provost, saying that his or her job won’t necessarily be to stamp out controversy.

“I don’t want this person to think they are responsible for preparing for the next flareup,” he said. “The question is, what do you do with it? How do you use it in an educational setting?”

Lewis then asked the commission what its most pressing issues were, and Chair Cathi Wentworth said restructuring and outreach. “We publicly represent the LGBT aspects of the community, but we may not have our fingers on the pulse [of that community].”

The upcoming dialogues are one way the commission hopes to read that pulse. Another option was proposed by graduate student Jakub Kakietek, who suggested the commission offer ex officio status to representatives from other campus LGBT groups such as Emory Pride or Sacred Worth. If that would be too formal, Kakietek said, the groups could send representatives as guests. The commission already has informal working relationships with some campus groups, but their attendance at meetings is infrequent.
Sending out explicit invitations would be a way to strengthen those ties. After some discussion, the idea was tabled, but would be revisited during the wider restructuring conversation.

Building on a suggestion from President Jim Wagner, the commission voted without dissent to hold the first 15 minutes of each meeting in “exec,” in effect closing that part of the meeting to nonmembers (president’s commission meetings have been customarily open to the community). Wagner told the commission during a January visit that, when his schedule allowed, he would like to briefly attend each meeting, to stay current on the commission’s work. By closing the first 15 minutes of each meeting, it was stated, the commission as a whole—rather than through a single representative—could freely fulfill one of its core roles as an adviser to the president.

The next LGBT meeting will be Tuesday, March 22, at 6 p.m. on the Oxford campus.