Emory Report
February 9, 2009
Volume 61, Number 19



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February 9
, 2009
Panel mulls issues of race

By Carol Clark

“In 1976, the number of black faculty at Emory College was zero,” noted Gary Hauk, vice president and deputy to the president, during opening remarks at the “Experiencing Race at Emory” panel discussion. The Transforming Community Project and the Founders Week Committee organized the fourth annual discussion, titled “The Cost of Hope: No Small Change.”

The panel considered the changes brought about since 1979, when the President’s Commission on the Status of Minorities (PCSM) was founded, and Emory received a gift of $105 million from Robert and George Woodruff.

The idea behind PCSM, now called the President’s Commission on Race and Ethnicity, was to “build a community of scholars that was representative and inclusive,” said Jim Laney, president emeritus of Emory, and the founder of PCSM. “Scholarship can be very individual and isolated, but the idea of a community of scholars is that we enrich ourselves in non-academic ways that we don’t even think about until we leave,” Laney said.

The commission has given voice to underrepresented faculty, staff and students, and served both an advocacy and advisory role, said Vera Dixon Rorie, dean of students at Spelman College, and former assistant dean for campus life at Emory.

Rorie noted that she joined Emory in 1987, the year the campus was thrown into turmoil after an African-American student reported receiving racial threats. In the end, it was discovered that the student had written the threats herself, but the incident sparked much soul searching about how issues of race are handled at Emory, she said.

Emory’s future challenges concerning race are deeply rooted in its past, said Ozzie Harris, vice provost for community and diversity. “The number of faculty of color on this campus today is really quite amazing, it’s really a strength of Emory. The number of faculty of color who are tenured is actually a weakness,” he added.

“We have to become much more precise, much more focused about what issues we have to prioritize,” Harris concluded.

Other panelists included Lelia Crawford, direct or of International Student and Scholar Programs, and Simona Perales, senior admissions advisor.