What counts as prestige for a college program in a depressed economy? Students landing high-paying jobs or being admitted to prestigious graduate programs? Celebrity professors? How about making a material contribution to the integrity of government?
David Michaels and Aaron Gregg, recent alumni, describe the work journalism courses allowed them to pursue before they even graduated. One wrote a front-page story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution exposing legislators who accepted illegal gifts from lobbyists in 2011. Another produced a series of articles for an online news site uncovering the Georgia State Senate Minority Leader’s involvement in offshore gambling. They also mention a classmate whose web-based publication led to an ethics investigation and a criminal investigation against a state senator.
Did I mention that “before they graduated” part?
Michaels and Gregg point out that before Emory’s PR caught on to their hard work, Emory was not altogether supportive:
Not long after our class began contacting story subjects in the legislature regarding the document-based findings of our investigations, we were told by University administrators that we would not be able to publish our stories on an Emory platform. In response to a letter we wrote to Forman pleading for the University to allow us to publish our work, the dean said that it was the administration’s job to “understand that role fully before taking it on.” […] The administration also told us that our work was not covered by the University’s liability insurance, although we were not allowed to see the policy. [Cough, cough. -Ed.] Over the summer, weeks after we had already published our work with outside media outlets, the University changed its tune again and agreed that an Emory website could be set up to link to our stories. But the excitement of that development was short-lived, as the news of the department’s elimination came just two weeks into the following semester.
We wish all Emory alumni the best in their endeavours, and hope more will come forward to defend the liberal arts. Write to the press, post a #MyEmoryCutStory on YouTube, and think carefully the next time you receive a letter asking for your donations.