Emory Report
March 28, 2005
Volume 58, Number 24


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March 28, 2005
Faculty Council talks trust with Wagner, Lewis

BY Michael Terrazas

Chair Sharon Strocchia opened the March 22 Faculty Council meeting, held in 400 Administration, by introducing three new members: Nadine Kaslow and Kate Heilpern from the School of Medicine, and Frank Maddox from Oxford. Chair-elect Mike Rogers then reported that the Distinguished Faculty Lecture committee has selected a nominee to deliver the 2006 lecture; the Faculty Council unanimously approved the choice, who will be publicly announced upon accepting an invitation from President Jim Wagner.

The rest of the meeting was devoted to two open discussions: one, requested by Wagner, covered issues of trust between faculty and administrations; the second, led by past-chair John Snarey, examined three proposed changes to the council bylaws.

Wagner said, in a recent conversation, a senior faculty member described to him three reasons why faculty are suspicious of administration: first, the perception that administrators do not have deep roots in academic values; second, that administrators and faculty have fundamentally different roles and lifestyles; and third, there is a constant suspicion that administrators always have immediate access to more funding for things the administration wants.

The president compared a university to a professional sports team, which may have thousands of employees. “But when people think of the Atlanta Braves, they think of the folks who wear the uniforms,” Wagner said. “Similarly, when people think of a university, they think of the faculty.” He then asked for ways the administration could better support “the ones who wear the uniforms.”

Tom Frank from theology said a “remarkable” amount of work has been done in Wagner’s short time at Emory, starting with the vision statement and progressing through to the strategic plan, and it’s only natural that some would be left dizzy by the pace. Frank said he was encouraged by the “whole new language” that is being spoken in the Emory community.

Kaslow said trust takes time to build, and though Wagner has made a lot of progress in this respect, there are still people who do not yet feel engaged with what’s going on. Carol Hogue from public health said faculty trust is more important today than ever; though in some institutions in the past, faculty may have played central—even predominant—roles in governance, modern research universities are so complex that it may be beyond the ability of faculty to run them. Professionals are needed, Hogue said, and that’s why faculty and administration must establish trust.

Another theme of the discussion was the challenge in balancing personal goals with investment in the institution. Embracing Emory’s signature themes, several faculty said, could be a risky undertaking; though doing so may serve Emory, will younger faculty pursue research that, if it does not bear fruit, could hurt their careers?

In the second half of the meeting, Snarey proposed changes (drafted by the council’s Futures Committee) to Faculty Council bylaws that would: require that all 26 members be elected by peers (currently eight are appointed by the president); and require that all faculty counselors to the Board of Trustees (BOT) be selected from the 26 elected council members. In another proposal, Snarey recommended the Futures Committee consider whether to request that academic issues and policy recommendations to the BOT be vetted through Faculty Council, whether a full-time administrative assistant is needed to support the council, and whether face-to-face consultation with the BOT is warranted.

In the following discussion, several council members questioned whether all 26 council members should be elected. Retaining some number of appointed slots—though appointed by the elected members themselves, rather than by the president—would give the council flexibility to address problems of underrepresentation that could arise through a strictly electoral process.

Other ideas included whether to increase the size of the council; more members, some people said, would enable the council to do more work. For example, Wagner said that Johns Hopkins University’s comparable Academic Council reviews all tenure and promotion files.

Snarey said he will take the points raised back to the Futures Committee and come up with a new resolution to be submitted for vote at the council’s April meeting. That meeting will be held Tuesday, April 19, at 3:15 p.m. in400 Administration.

If you have a question or concern for Faculty Council, e-mail Strocchia at sharon.strocchia@emory.edu.