Forman speaks to Creative Loafing

Here’s a revealing interview by Max Blau: http://clatl.com/freshloaf/archives/2012/09/21/qanda-with-emory-college-dean-robin-forman.

I appreciate that the first question deals with the fine-toothed semantic distinction between “excellence” and “eminence” (remember?). Actually, semantics is a recurrent issue. Witness also the craftiness with which Forman glides from “cuts” as in programs to “cuts” as in college-wide budget.

Blau raises the question of why one department chair (namely Karen Stolley of Spanish) seemed to have been included in the deliberation process in a way that most faculty were not. Forman tries to lodge the answer in practical terms. In relation to Spanish, as well, he describes a shift from Spanish and Portuguese to a broader Hispanic/Latino Studies program. Indeed, students in Spanish, comparative literature and a few other departments have been thinking along those lines. There has been a large, successful Comparative Caribbeans conference, as well as a smaller colloquium on Native American and Latino/a contributions to sexuality studies (with presentations on reggaeton, science fiction, and sovereignty). No one is explicit about how suspending the PhD program would contribute to these developments.

Forman nods to the vigorous yet civil handling of Monday’s outdoor meeting:

I’ve been, in many settings, arguing for a couple years that we need to do more to make the Emory campus a place where dissent is not only safe and tolerated, but encouraged. A great university should be a place where ideas, often-inconsistent ideas, have their chance to be heard by the community. I thought the idea of the discussion was a great one and an important process. I was grateful for those who made an effort to organize it.

We agree. Of course, we have questions about the way dissent is handled at the systemic level, with several arrests from last year still fresh in our minds.

And come to think about it, we never did get a definition of excellence or eminence out of him.

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