November 14, 2005
Lewis tackles wider aspects of community
BY eric rangus
The second annual Diversity and Race Dialogue with Provost Earl Lewis, part of Emory’s Unity Month celebration, encompassed much more than the always-provocative aspects of community listed in the title.
Subjects of discussion at the event, held Tuesday, Nov. 8, in Winship Ballroom, covered the wider aspects of community—how it can be transformed and strengthened; what role the strategic plan plays in community development; and the importance of internationalization and even athletics in strengthening connections across all of Emory.
As one of the co-chairs of Emory’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee, Lewis led off with discussion of the document that will guide the University’s progress for the future.
“It is part of a great opportunity for this University over the next seven to 10 years to take the words on the page and the beliefs behind them and create this destination university,” said Lewis, who spoke for about 20 minutes before the dialogue began. “It’s both humbling and inspiring to know that perhaps only once in a generation you have an opportunity to really transform a place.
“Given that we have this opportunity,” he continued, “we have to step back and ask what we mean by ‘diversity.’” Lewis said that Emory may have decent statistics as far as the number of minorities on campus, but if those minorities self-segregate, the community will suffer.
He said the steering committee considered many creative options to address self-segregation, even the possibility of adding football as a varsity sport. When your team scores a touchdown, “you’re not part of this group or that group,” he said. “Everyone is together. There is a full embrace of community.”
Lewis said that no one person can make the Emory community better. “The creation of community is the steady movement of individuals, one at a time, doing the right thing,” he said.
Along those lines, he offered an update on the status of the creation of a vice-president-level position related to diversity he floated last year. A search committee to fill the position will be formed before the end of the month, with University Secretary Rosemary Magee at its helm, and the search itself will begin soon after.
Following Lewis’ address, there was quite a bit of dialogue, as thoughtful questions filled the second half of the talk.
Undergraduate student Jamar Brown asked, because of the administration’s recent focus on the business side of the university (opening a comprehensive campaign and hiring a new vice president for marketing), whether it had lost sight of its place as an institution of higher learning and if students were getting “the short end of the stick.”
Lewis spoke of the “dynamic tension” of working at an academic institution that also has a $2.4 billion operating budget. “We are a major university that is also a major business, and we need to be responsible stewards of that,” he said.
He also answered questions about how to connect with communities off-campus: “We need to do a better job explaining to people where we are and what we are doing,” he said. “We need to make sure we are good neighbors and make it easier for people to see and understand what this place is.”
He discussed plans for an institute for policy studies that would bring international scholars to campus to help solve real-world problems, and also discussed the complications of internationalization, mentioning there has been some discussion about raising Emory’s international-student rate to above 10 percent in the next decade.
“But would that be with our current student population, or would we increase the number of students on campus?” he said. “What would be the social implications?”