CFP “After Emory”

Bill Gaskins and Kirstin Buick, of Cornell and the University of New Mexico respectively, are soliciting abstracts for a panel at next year’s College Art Association conference.

After Emory: Redefining Art and Art History in the American University

Bill Gaskins, Cornell University; and Kirsten Buick, University of New Mexico. Email: and
In the fall of 2012 the visual arts department at Emory University was terminated as an academic unit. The department was assessed as no longer representative of Emory’s core mission. For the art departments left standing, and the institutions that house them, this is a moment for a robust public discussion about the future of art and art history in the American university. This session will not readjudicate the decision made by Emory but rather focus on the external challenges, internal dynamics, and critical questions about the prudence, relevance, and sustainability of fine art as an academic project in the twenty-first century. We are calling for solution-themed papers from studio and art history faculty, administrators, alumni, and contributors from related disciplines.

Here’s the original call (it’s on page 8). (Just what does “Emory” signify to the largest organization of art scholars in the U.S.? Well, a cursory search of journals and conferences brings up “After Humanism,” “After the World,” “After Sex,” “After the Postsecular,” “After Life”–you get the idea.)

Speaking of Visual Arts, don’t forget to check out “Cross Reference,” the final exhibition in our beautiful Visual Arts Building, before it closes on April 5.

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Two faculty manifestos

Two distinguished professors, formerly of the ILA (and currently in English, Comparative Literature, and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies), have published their thoughts on the meaning and value of interdisciplinary work in the liberal arts in a time of combined austerity and administrative bloat.

First, Walter Reed, laying down some Luther- or Spinoza-inspired “Theses on the Liberal Arts” for Durham University’s Centre for Humanities Innovation:

3.1 Teaching is the transmission of information, knowledge and (ideally) wisdom, either as ends in themselves or as the means to other ends. The traffic moves in both directions on this highway as well—from the masters to the disciples and from the certified professionals to those in training for certification, but also from the disciples back to the masters, from those in training back to the professionals. The balance between teaching and learning is dynamic and inherently unstable….

3.1.3 This dynamism and instability carry over to the relationship between emerging disciplinary specializations (new sub-fields within a discipline) and the disciplines as already established. New specializations both instruct and depend on older ones, though a balanced appreciation of the new and the old is difficult to maintain for those most closely involved. A similar dynamic instability informs interdisciplinary initiatives setting up shop between established disciplines. (Interdisciplinary inquiry is not the same as undisciplined study.)

And Michael Moon comments on “English Departments at a Crossroads”:

What some administrators currently mean by an “English department” seems to me in the main not to be a place or a project that serves the intellectual and professional needs of my students or myself very well. English departments turned out to serve the needs of faculty and students in queer studies for the first twenty years or so of my career in large part because many of them had – often through a process of prolonged conflict and division – turned themselves into major seedbeds of interdisciplinary growth during the 1970s and ‘80s, so that many fields which have since developed in varying degrees into autonomous disciplines, departments, and programs (critical theory, gender studies, lesbian and gay studies, queer theory, film and media studies, the whole spectrum of ethnic studies, postcolonial studies, cultural studies, etc.) spent their first decade or so as emergent academic fields as flourishing sub-projects of this or that English department.

So one feature of the current academic landscape that disturbs me is the relentless shutting-down of anglophone literary studies as the kind of expansive set of interdisciplinary intellectual spaces which they’ve provided at many universities for the past several decades….

Professor Moon’s piece comes courtesy of U to the Rescue, a blog curated by scholar-activist Christopher Newfield.


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Bylaws “not violated,” offer little guidance for faculty

According to a report just released by the Process Review Committee (PRC–um…), better known as the Payne Committee, the current and former deans of Emory College did not violate any bylaws in abruptly closing Educational Studies, the ILA, Journalism or Visual Arts and downsizing several other programs. However, the report also observed that the existing bylaws do not contain sufficient guidelines for how such restructuring should take place (read: the rules were not broken because they did not exist).

The eight faculty members who served on CFAC, the body which orchestrated the cuts, refused to be interviewed for the report. They were evidently wary of having one group of professors review the decisions of another “duly created faculty committee,” or of compromising a promise of confidentiality (read: no accountability) afforded by Deans Paul and Forman.

Since it’s a snow day, why not catch up on some reading about Emory’s record of scholarly integrity, treatment of researchers who raise alarms about the safety of clinical trials, and ambiguous advances on issues of labor and dissent.

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Vulnerable programs in N.C.

Elizabeth City State University, a historically black college in North Carolina, is likely to eliminate their undergraduate programs in history, political science, studio art, and physics. It’s part of a wave of targeting “low performing” programs across the UNC system. Right now, about 25 programs are expected to be cut, and 22 more to be merged or reduced in size.

Roopika Risam, assistant professor at Salem State University (and Emory PhD ’13) and a trenchant critic of Emory’s “compromise” debacle last winter, found herself in the strange, saddening position of giving a virtual guest lecture in the history department a few days before the proposed closures were announced. She, along with the executive director of the American Historical Association, notes the irony of a historically black college symbolically severing its tie with history.

What we are seeing now, in the threatened cuts at Elizabeth City State University and in the cuts at Emory, is the corporate mentality trickling down through the cogs of administration, past faculty governance, over departments, and into classrooms. This mentality implies that there is little difference between professors offering a history program and teaching history courses. It presupposes that courses are moveable parts that do not need departments or disciplinary formations to thrive.

Some readers may be surprised that physics is on the chopping block at ECSU, as well as several other colleges. Basic research has long trailed behind patent-generating science in terms of institutional support, a consequence of which has been the increasing vulnerability of physics programs. Historically black colleges, subject to more budget strife in general, are at greater risk of losing their pure science programs.

Speaking of professors stranded without institutional support… Emory’s PR department has taken the opportunity to spin a symposium on the 60th anniversary of the ILA and the future of interdisciplinary studies as a celebration.

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Press release: Emory faces “Sorry” shortage

Emory University Facing Critical Shortage of “We’re Sorry” Stationery After Anti-Gay Incident at Candler

After controversy erupted over Emory’s Candler School of Theology’s decision to present an award to the anti-gay activist H. Eddie Fox, Emory University officials realized that they were facing a severe shortage of “We’re Sorry” stationery.

“We really dropped the ball tracking the inventory of the cards,” said President James Wagner. “I guess we were so busy last year with our courageous inquiring and noble compromising, we didn’t even realize it was time to re-order!”

Dean Robin Forman, however, expressed concern about locating a new supplier. “We’ve relied on cards produced by laborers… I mean, freshmen – yes, freshmen in the Visual Arts Department, but since cutting the program, we may have to turn to Staples inkjet stationery.”

The supply of apology cards was rapidly depleted last year when Emory apologized for the anti-semitism at the Dental School. An administration official asked, “Do you know how many Jews there are at this school? Jesus!”

The administration briefly considered using some old “My Bad!” cards from the 90’s, but opted for the classy “Mea Culpa” embossed cards leftover from February. President Wagner spent most of his week carefully scratching out “three fifths” and “blacks” and replacing them with “the gays.”


-Andy, Laura & the SRC


Faculty grievance stands

What’s harder than gathering a critical mass of professors on a Friday afternoon, the last day of the semester? Evidently, shutting down a well substantiated grievance on behalf of numerous cut departments.

As we reported a few weeks ago, a group of faculty members filed a grievance regarding the cuts to the College Grievance Committee, who shot the issue down. The professors appealed the Grievance Committee’s decision. According to university bylaws, grievances and appeals have to be dealt with within one semester. So Stefan Lutz, noted chemist, Governance Committee chair and former CFAC member, called the meeting for the latest possible date (i.e., today). Clearly, enough faculty cared enough about the issue that a quorum was reached. And we hear that they successfully made a motion to have the grievance committee’s decision reversed, then tabled the motion so as to consider it more fully in the fall.

In short: this is not over. The Governance Committee will have to reckon with the (il)legitimacy of the cuts come September.

Edited 5/10 for accuracy.

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Camp Compromise, Day 1

Welcome Prospective Students

About ten minutes after we set up camp, Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair e-mailed the entire Emory community to inform us of a new, not yet finalized edition of the university’s Freedom of Expression Policy, a project of the “Stage 2” Task Force on Dissent, Protest, and Community. The takeaway is: Emory “values, protects, and affirms” students’ right to criticize internal or external policies, but you should probably reserve any space in advance, and Dr. Nair has the right to “observe” any student meeting or to appoint others to do so.

making buttons


But that’s just formality. See, Pat had this hat…

mushroom hat2

And Katherine had this wig…

katherine wig


I kept hearing about certain Emory faculty members who get mad when any funding goes to the humanities. In like these, what could we I except find some shade and review Dialectic of Enlightenment?
reading in tent


Later, another dean asked us if we had a permit. Not being aware that one was required for painting on the quad on a weekday afternoon, we had to say no. No hard feelings.

Painting Student Power

still here


Dusk fell. We heard there was a pink moon.

Four or five activists are spending tonight in the tents. For most of them, it’s a reminder of their own camp-outs and arrests as part of Students and Workers in Solidarity, two years ago tonight. S’mores and ghost stories are in order…

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Setting up camp

painting compromise mural

Two years ago today, Emory ordered the arrest of seven students for peacefully protesting in tents on the quad. The charges have yet to be dropped. In honor of that anniversary, and to remind everyone that student and faculty dissent is not going anywhere (nor does it take itself too seriously), the SRC is staging “Camp Compromise” on the quad this afternoon at 1:00. Join us!

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Profs in cut departments file formal grievance

18 faculty members, all from departments that are being eliminated or downsized as a result of Dean Forman’s cuts last fall, have filed a formal grievance with Emory College. The complaint, which alleges numerous violations in CFAC’s handling of the cuts, was written in consultation with a prominent Atlanta lawyer. (One professor who signed the document told us that any administrator who glances at it will know that the signatories mean business.) It demands that Emory annul the cuts and “affirm the primacy of the [Emory] Bylaws” and the official principles governing faculty regulations.

You can view the original document here [PDF], courtesy of the Wheel.

The 18 signatories are David Armstrong and Sheila Tefft (journalism); Walter Reed, Angelika Bammer, Kevin Corrigan, Sander Gilman, Anna Grimshaw, Sean Meighoo, Catherine Nickerson and Kimberly Wallace-Sanders (ILA); Juliette Apkarian, Vera Proskurina and Elena Glazov-Corrigan (Russian/REALC); Samiran (Shomu) Banerjee (economics); Jason Francisco and Julia Kjelgaard (visual arts); and Robert Jensen and Carole Hahn (Division of Educational Studies).

Needless to say, the Grievance Committee has denied the signatories’ requests to repeal the cuts and affirm the university’s commitment to uphold its own bylaws. (The only request it did grant was to respond to the grievance during this semester.) English professor Sheila Cavanagh, writing on behalf of the ten-person committee, reportedly “finds no cause to pursue this matter further.”

Faculty members, including AAUP representatives, insist that the battle isn’t over.

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#WagnerForum: Many metaphors, few verbs

“When asked what he thought of the liberal arts and their place in the world, Wagner said that people join the liberal arts to join something. It’s the same mentality, he added, that you see in the inner city with gangs. Yes, Wagner compared an ethnomusicology degree to gangs.”
-A. J. Artis, “A. J.’s Response to Wagner” (exaggerated, but not by much)

The liberal arts instill values, Wagner said, but our society has lost the value of values. Later: “We’ve heard what society wants. They want job-ready citizens.” And Emory has to separate itself from the whims of the economy, except when it comes to international students, tuition hikes, subcontracted labor, course offerings, or the value of scholarship.

Wagner complained that “some graduate students are taking ten years to complete their PhDs”–reflecting a national statistic of little validity to Emory, whose average time to completion is closer to six years.

As for the impediments posed to research by cuts to language programs, and the lack of well-paying, secure jobs, well, we’ll need to think about that. His parting words were disheartening.

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