Emory Report
April 7, 2008
Volume 60, Number 26


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April 7, 2008
Challenges issued at Employee Town Hall

By Elizabeth Elkins

The mood was immediately jovial at the Employee Council’s annual Employee Town Hall. More than 200 employees gathered at Emory School of Law March 27 to offer their feedback to President Jim Wagner and Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Mike Mandl. When Emory Law Dean David Partlett quipped “the whole idea of free speech is vital to the law school, so I know we will apply that today,” Mandl joked in reply, “I don’t think these people need encouragement to be more aggressive in their questioning.” This set the tone for a conversation-style dialogue that touched on topics from the location of the hospital (it will not move to the Clairmont Campus) to a 35-hour work week (worth considering, but not practical).

Mandl provided an update on the University’s strategic plan, noting highlights such as the funding of a work/life resource center, the start of supervisory training classes and the steps taken toward the 2015 goal of consuming 25 percent less energy on campus than in 2006. Mandl also announced that a University-wide calendar system is being developed.

Wagner explained that the Town Hall’s theme, “Emory’s Excellence…A Role for Everyone,” means that each employee must strive for optimal performance, a “difficult” concept because it is “potentially offensive, boring and dangerous.” He challenged the audience by asking four key questions: Applying the “Lake Wobegon principle” — are we ready for every employee at Emory to be above average? What can be done to improve the work/toil balance? What characteristics should be emphasized in new hires? And what changes would you make at Emory to enhance your life by more than just a paycheck?

Audience members answered these questions by discussing their concerns about the lack of in-house promotions (which Mandl replied would be an emphasis in coming years) and the lack of cohesiveness across units, and expressed their satisfaction with the “greatness” of co-workers, salary levels and the ability to work with students.