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May 13, 2002

College faculty speaks on cuts

The Emory College Executive Committee, made up of members elected to three-year terms, is the official representative body for the faculty of the college. Its current members are Robert Agnew, Thomas Burns, Myron Kaufman, Robert McCauley, Judith Miller, Sidney Perkowitz, Vernon Robbins, Richard Rubinson, Karen Stolley, Elaine Walker and Stephen White.


It’s hard to get more than a few faculty to agree on anything, but the large number of faculty at the April 30 Emory College faculty meeting unanimously approved the “Statement of Grave Concern” reprinted below. Hundreds of additional faculty and staff signed this statement in the few days following the meeting.

The statement represents the response of the faculty and staff to the large cuts in benefits announced by the administration, including cuts that will eliminate retiree medical benefits for future employees and probably put such benefits out of reach for most current employees and retirees in the next few years (see the April 15 Emory Report for the announcement of these cuts and see for an extensive analysis by John Boli and others of these cuts and their impact).

The faculty and staff have come together as a community to: (1) condemn both the cuts in benefits and the decision-making process leading to the cuts; (2) request a more meaningful and inclusive role for faculty and staff in key decisions involving the University; and (3) express their support for a more ambitious vision for Emory —a vision that will treat all past, current and future employees with the respect they deserve and that will carry Emory into the top ranks of American universities.

The faculty also approved two additional proposals at the April 30 meeting. The first, proposed by history’s Tom Burns, states that, if necessary, the faculty are willing to consider medical plans that incorporate retirees into the general health care pool, even though this would minimally increase health care premiums.

The second, proposed by educational studies’ Eleanor Main, requests that Ben Johnson, chair of the Board of Trustees, and other trustees of his choice meet with representatives of the faculty and staff on or before May 13. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the benefits cuts and ways of improving communication between the faculty/staff and trustees. (Editor’s Note: This meeting was scheduled to take place May 9.)

Several faculty have commented that, while this year may represent a low point in relations between the faculty/staff and administration, it represents a high point in faculty and staff involvement. We hope to build on this involvement in the near future by developing better mechanisms for the faculty and staff to communicate with the administration and trustees and by improving the faculty governance structure.

The “Statement of Grave Concern” expresses faculty views in these areas far better than we can, since scores of faculty contributed to its development (under the wonderful coordination of Judith Miller).

Statement of Grave Concern
The College faculty registers grave concern about the impact of the benefits cuts and the process that produced these cuts. These reductions in compensation are lowering morale among faculty and staff; they will make it difficult to retain and recruit talented faculty and staff, thus jeopardizing Emory’s academic reputation; they reflect a limited vision for Emory; there is good reason to believe that they are unnecessary; and they were made without adequate consultation between the involved parties. The College faculty therefore urges that the benefits cuts be rescinded and that steps be taken to improve consultation between the faculty and the senior administration/Board of Trustees. Moreover, we recommend that the senior administration affirm the definition of consultation as “ongoing and transparent two-way communication between the College faculty, or its representatives, and senior administration.”

1. From Our Perspective, the Cuts May Be Unnecessary and Counterproductive: The cuts are anticipated to save an average of $12–$14 million per year during fiscal years 2003–07, a figure that is likely exaggerated because it fails to take account of the delayed retirements, reduced productivity and reductions in contributions and bequests to the University from faculty and staff that the cuts will cause. Emory has substantial resources and, with anticipated endowment growth and the planned capital campaign, Emory can afford continued growth in faculty, staff and programs without these detrimental cuts. Furthermore, the federal government is poised to increase Medicare coverage for drugs, which would slow the increases in the costs of health insurance for retirees. We therefore object to benefits cuts as permanent and irrevocable. Nowhere have we seen mention of a commitment to rescind any or all of the cuts at a future date.

2. The Impact of the Benefits Reductions on Faculty and Staff: The cuts are severe, especially in the area of retiree medical benefits. Faculty, staff and retirees see these cuts as a betrayal of the commitment Emory made to them, because they reflect a lack of appreciation for the increased workloads that faculty and many staff have assumed in recent years, and because they come on top of reduced funds for salary increases. Responses to reductions in compensation from faculty and staff already reveal demoralization and deepening distrust of the administration as a partner in the shared enterprise we take Emory to be.

3. The Impact of the Cuts on Emory’s Academic Standing: Emory stands out among all other institutions for the large gap between its endowment and ranking. The reductions, within the context of that already-existing gap between endowment and ranking, reflect a lack of ambitious vision for Emory. The cuts will make it difficult to retain and recruit talented faculty and staff. Several department chairs note that they are already experiencing problems in these areas. The University will lose the increased indirect costs recovered from external grants that the most talented faculty and staff would obtain. Moreover, the reductions will cause faculty and staff to delay their retirements, possibly well beyond age 65. Such delays will prevent Emory from benefiting from the retirement of more senior, higher-paid faculty and staff, and will be costly to the University. The reductions will prevent the University from recruiting younger colleagues and staff who will re-energize our campus.

4. Consultation and Process: The College faculty condemns the lack of sustained consultation with the faculty on the issue of benefits, and specifically the senior administration’s unwillingness to engage constructively with the proposals in the College Faculty’s Resolution and the Open Letter. In addition, the inability of the faculty and staff to undertake substantive dialogue with the key decision makers, such as the Board of Trustees, has limited the means by which the University community could participate in these discussions. Moreover, we see the absence of significant consultation with faculty on this issue as part of a general pattern when the senior administration proposes major changes in University policy or structure. For over a year, ill-considered administrative pronouncements have forced the faculty to divert its energies from its primary responsibilities of teaching, research and program-building. We seek a more systematic and positive process.

5. Structures for Consultation: The College faculty recommends that formal mechanisms for ongoing and cooperative communication with the Board of Trustees be established that might include elected representatives from the University faculty, with the right to vote, on the Board of Trustees; and that the College faculty and its representatives have regular meetings with the board so that matters vital to our University’s mission and future can be discussed openly and collegially and the perspectives of the faculty can be better represented.

We believe that the faculty of Emory University must participate actively and collegially in the plans that will lead our university to greater eminence. We look forward to working with the senior administration and the Board of Trustees to institute processes and practices of consultation, an essential foundation for a stronger Emory University.