The three President’s Commissions will be replaced by an Advisory Council on Community and Diversity in fall 2014. The purpose of the council is to institutionalize and broaden the University’s involvement in issues of diversity on campus.
Senior Vice Provost for Community and Diversity Ozzie Harris established the council, which will begin transitioning during the summer with presentations to the University’s governance committees.
The three commissions currently consist of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), the President’s Commission on Race and Ethnicity (PCORE) and the President’s Commission on Sexuality, Gender Diversity and Queer Equality (PCSGDQE).
Each commission advises members of Emory’s community about matters pertaining to each respective area.
The Advisory Council is designed to take on the responsibilities of the three President’s Commissions as well as advise on other matters pertaining to diversity. Harris referenced other potential areas that need attention, such as class, religion and disability.
Harris said he views the Council as a broader reaching continuation of the Commissions’ work.
“We need to create something much more robust,” Harris said. “[The Council] is the next stage of work that needs to be done.”
The Council’s goal is to institutionalize the progression of “our community in the areas of race and ethnicity, [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] concerns and women’s issues … while maintaining a dimension of volunteer service that can still bring a sort of freshness to it,” University President James W. Wagner said.
The Council will include three major divisions, according to Harris. The first division would be an executive committee, and Harris said he envisions senior administrators of the University making up this committee.
This committee would include President Wagner, Provost Earl Lewis, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Mike Mandl and Executive Vice President for Health Affairs S. Wright Caughman, according to a March 5 Emory Report article.
The second committee, termed the Steering Committee, would consist of current staff and faculty members whose jobs deal with concerns about diversity. The last committee, the Division Committee on Diversity, will include liaisons for major divisions and each of Emory’s nine schools.
According to Harris, the Division committee will have six areas of focus: faculty, staff, students, local and global programs, facilities and data and collection of data.
“The fundamental thing is trying to create an infrastructure that is better capable of supporting the work that needs to be done and the work that has been done on campus and in our community,” Harris said.
According to the Emory Report article, Harris plans for the Council to host four “Town Hall-type presentations” each year to inform members of the Emory community on issues of diversity as well as create an open forum where questions can be asked and effectively answered.
These President’s Commissions, which are currently funded through the Office of Community and Diversity, offer a means for the University to uphold its values of “access, equity and inclusion,” according to the Office of Community and Diversity’s mission statement on its website.
Currently the co-chairs of each Commission are volunteers, and the position changes each year, according to Wagner.
This rotation in commission leadership inclines the co-chairs to choose one-year projects, Wagner said.
A permanent and robust infrastructure will allow the University to “focus on things that may take more than a year to do,” Harris said.
Felicia Bianchi, co-chair of the PCSW, wrote in an email to the Wheel, “We [the Executive Committee of the PCSW 2011-2012] feel that an advantage [of the Advisory Council] would be the ability to address all of Emory’s diversity needs with a larger group focusing on these concerns.”
Some of the current chairs of the President’s Commission expressed hesitation regarding the efficacy of the Council.
“One of the key items that we hope will remain is the ability for the minority voices to be heard and to have access to the president’s ear as it could be lost in the larger organization.” Bianchi wrote. “This is something that needs to be clarified.”
Sheryl Heron, co-chair of PCORE, said in the March 5 Emory Report article that the structure of the new Council “is the biggest question on the table.”
“But I concluded [the Council] would give us the opportunities to do some great things ... and provide opportunity for some really important dialogue around diversity,” she said.
Although Wagner will be a part of the Executive Committee, he stressed the need to keep all channels and opportunities open for communication and advising about these issues so he can make changes that are in the University’s best interest.
“It’s really important for me to hear the perspectives and sensitivities of those that the Commission speak for,” he said. “So we … have to ensure that within in this new structure there will continue to be an avenue of communication to me, even though they are now organized within Ozzie Harris’ office.”
— Contact Arianna Skibell at