November 28, 2005
trustees find common ground on BOT committees
By hal jacobs
Before 2003, Emory’s faculty and trustees found
few opportunities to sit down at the same table and shape the University’s
future. They may have met and talked informally, and trustees sometimes
invited faculty to share insight at board committee meetings (other
than Academic Affairs, of which the University Senate president and
president-elect are members). But melding faculty and trustee viewpoints
was more the exception than the rule.
Two years ago, the rules changed. Thanks to efforts
by William Branch, Carter Smith Sr. Professor of Medicine and the
Senate president, and
Board of Trustees (BOT) chair Ben Johnson, Emory began an experiment in shared
governance that is earning rave reviews from those involved.
“We’ve gone from feeling disempowered to a university that is out
front in empowering its faculty as stakeholders,” said Branch, a “faculty
counselor” on the Real Estate, Buildings and Grounds Committee.
Now professors have a place on most major board committees.
As counselors, they participate fully in committee deliberations,
and though they are nonvoting
the counselors generally agree that a voice is more important than a vote
because almost all decisions are reached by consensus.
Branch said the experience has given him new insight
into the trustees’ dedication
and willingness to work for Emory—and their awareness of faculty-related
“Members seem aware of the faculty viewpoint, about the importance of keeping
green space and woodlands, for example,” Branch said. “Of course,
it helps to have someone on the committee to remind them.”
Sharon Strocchia, associate professor of history and
another University Senate past president (whose term on the Academic
expired in May),
said her experience reaffirmed her conviction that it is essential to bring
faculty perspectives to bear on board deliberations.
“Faculty are obviously crucial stakeholders in this enterprise,” she
said. “It’s incumbent upon us to educate the trustees about faculty
priorities; we also have to be willing to partner with them in finding solutions.
The key is open communication. [Adding faculty counselors] helped create the
sense that faculty and trustees were involved in a common project, despite our
Kathy Parker, professor of nursing, described her nearly
three years on the Woodruff Health Sciences Committee as “invigorating.”
“I’m excited about being part of a larger organization,” she
said. “And I’m intrigued by how the place runs. I’ve learned
a lot more about how and why decisions are made, and what kind of thought process
goes into some very important decisions that affect a lot of people.”
Marshall Duke, Charles Howard Candler Professor of
Psychology, said it took about a year on the Finance Committee for
him to gain a
and how it works. The light bulb came on for him during a discussion
about renovations to the food court; he brought up a concern about the
needing more performing
arts spaces. “Suddenly, bang, it was there,” he said, and
he realized that a small tweak at this level of decision making can have
Duke believes he can make an added contribution by
talking about what’s
meaningful at different points in a faculty member’s career—for
instance, the importance of retiree security, or how senior faculty can
value time as much
Finance chair John Morgan said Duke’s advice
has provided the trustees “with
a point of view previously not available, but now invaluable.”
“I can understand why the deliberations of the other board committees have
also benefited,” Morgan said.
Laura Hardman, chair of the Campus Life Committee,
also welcomed the contributions of faculty representatives, citing
of epidemiology at Rollins School of Public Health, who suggested two
that the committee
invite Campus Life Senior Vice President John Ford’s Faculty
Advisory Committee to its annual spring meeting. Students also participate
actively in the Campus
Life Committee meetings.
“Faculty/student interaction is a key aspect of the Campus Master Plan
for community life at Emory,” said Hardman. “As trustees consider
development of new residence facilities and programming, career and health services,
athletic and multi-cultural activities, dining and gathering spaces, other community
building and community service opportunities, it is indeed essential to have
the benefit of faculty counsel.”
Given the success of this approach, the Faculty Council
recently forwarded to the Board of Trustees a process for the selection
of future faculty
counselors. James Ferman, chair of the Trustee Committee on Governance,
found the selection plan thoughtful and consistent with the aims
of the committee, which will support the proposed process.
Rosemary Magee, who began her duties as vice president
and secretary of the University last winter after years of working
faculty, said she
is struck by the commonalities between trustees and faculty.
“In both groups, you have serious people who are dedicated to the long-term
interests of the University,” said Magee. “Now there is a structure
to allow for consultation and collaboration. In this important way, Emory is
ahead of its peers in our shared commitment to governance.”