How about the broader questions of our university’s financial health? Have recent financial exigencies compromised our tradition of shared governance?
There is a regrettable perception that universities are becoming increasingly “corporatized”—that, for instance, Emory University has become “Emory Inc.,” made into a top-down organization that has given up on traditional reliance on faculty leadership and staff ideas. Nothing could be less the case. It is imperative that universities in general, and our community in particular, continue to strengthen both the concept and the practice of shared governance, and we have a right to expect that our forums for shared governance will live up to their charge of active engagement with the issues before us.
President Wagner talks about the Emory Advantage program, developed to ensure that low- and middle-income students who academically qualify will have a place at Emory, regardless of their family's ability to pay. As the president says, "Excellent students must be able to pursue an education according to what is in their hearts, not what is in their bank accounts."
On the other hand, we cannot lose sight of the purpose of some administrative decisions. Under Mike Mandl’s leadership, our Division of Finance and Administration has undertaken a wide-ranging initiative in Business Practices Improvement. This initiative is not intended to impose arbitrary inconveniences on departments but rather to contain administrative costs, so that more of the budget can be devoted to Emory’s principal academic mission.
We are fortunate to have in finance and administration very talented and smart men and women who not only understand spreadsheets and the economy but also value the culture of the academy. Their sole aim is to make certain that Emory has the resources to carry out its academic mission. Their search for the best business practices is not carried out at the expense of the academic mission; it is done for the sake of that mission.
Our business principles are in place to provide a solid foundation for teaching, research, scholarship, and service. We need that foundation to be built according to the very best principles derived from our own experience or from the best practices at other universities, nonprofits, and, yes, even corporations. The way to think of this is to imagine a dance floor. We want the floor to be well engineered, solidly built, and resting on a rigid foundation, so that those who dance on it—our creative thinkers, artists, and scholars—can do so freely with gusto and joy. In short, the reason to pay attention and innovate in the business areas of our university is to protect the flexibility and necessary inefficiency of academic pursuits.
As Campaign Emory enters its final months, we will improve our health still further, as we close in on our goal of $1.6 billion in support of academic programs, academic facilities, and financial aid by the end of 2012. Although we will not be immune to the effects of the global financial challenges ahead, we are well positioned to address them.