Category Archives: Meetings and Rallies

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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#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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Our Dooley


Photo: Jason Francisco.


David Mullins: Complexity pedagogy must define the university

David Mullins, an undergraduate student of comparative literature and one of the SRC’s most visible representatives, has sent us the text of his presentation at the symposium.

“Complexity Pedagogy Must Define the University”

Many commentators tend to talk about science and math as if they were neatly separable from language, liberal arts, and literature. That we can shorten column B (say liberal arts) and lengthen column A (say, science or business) and then we will have less B and more A. This presentation will argue that this is a bit of a devil’s bargain, and we will end up losing both. We will lose both because something that might be called complexity is both what the liberal arts excel at navigating, and that which underpins breakthroughs in science and business. so it is not that the liberal arts are somehow parasitic on scientific or economic breakthroughs, it’s actually precisely the opposite. That complexity, and creativity in the face of complexity, is the basis of groundbreaking investigation in all three: the liberal arts and the sciences, and economics and that the liberal arts, because they do not have this input/output fixation, this focus on efficiency they are in a privileged position because generally better situated than a Management 101 class to navigate complex systems, which have multiple and sometimes unknowable variables, not just one variable that we might call profit or empirical success, empirical success from the perspective of a rather naieve sort of modern, pre-Einsteinian, pre-quantum physics science.

Continue reading

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Tressie’s RVE speech and reflections

Tressie McMillan Cottom has published her talk from the Re-Visioning symposium on her blog, along with afterthoughts. You wouldn’t have known from listening, but much of her talk was edited at the last moment, in response to AIDS researcher Dr. Kimberly Hagen’s earlier talk about teaching one of Emory’s first MOOCs.

The panel on which Tressie spoke, which also featured Michelle Ledder of the Graduate Division of Religion and David Mullins of Comparative Literature, was one of the more electrifying conference experiences many of us had witnessed in a long time.* Jason Francisco, our faculty ally in Visual Arts, remarked that it was definitely the most compelling performance he had seen in the VAB gallery. We hope to make more of the presentations available in the coming days.

*I write this even having been present at the seminotorious Lee Edelman/Jack Halberstam standoff at the last MLA.

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Grab a No Confidence shirt tomorrow

The SRC will be giving away these striking t-shirts tomorrow (April 10) on Asbury Circle from noon to 12:30. Donations are appreciated to cover printing costs.

T-shirt with inverted Emory crest: "Wagner, resign. No confidence"

Since Essence of Emory is over, we can’t imagine this will make the university antsy at all. In fact, Wagner has already approved. Giving the shirt a test run, Andy Ratto ran into President Wagner outside the Administration building: “He gave me a wave and smile,” Andy said, “so I paused for a moment so we could do a stop and chat. When he got up to me and saw the shirt, he said something like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know about those.’ I said, ‘Yeah, too bad I don’t have my camera or we could get a picture together,’ I think he said something about wondering if it is a Laney thing, and then asked where I got the shirt from. I said I got it from a friend, and we parted ways.”

Tomorrow will be the halfway point in the week-long anonymous faculty vote, and we don’t want it to be pushed off the radar or watered down to an airing of concerns about the “vibrancy” of the university.

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Symposium: Presentations still welcome

We’ve extended our call for proposals to next Monday, March 25. Whether you’re a student, a faculty member, or a non-Emory-affiliated ally, a humanist or a scientist, please share your work and your vision on April 8! Email for more details.

We’re also tremendously thankful to the departments of English and visual arts and the ILA for sponsoring the event. We’re continuing to raise funds to keep the symposium free and fabulous. Individual or anonymous supporters may contribute via our Indiegogo page. Of course, the cheapest, easiest way to support intellectual innovation at Emory will be to attend.


Navyug’s speech on the racialization of the cuts

Here is the text of Navyug’s speech on behalf of the SRC at the Rally Against Racism last night.

There is a problem here at Emory.

What brought all of us together today is what appears to be only the latest in a series of blunders by the administration. From exploitive labour practices, to the suppressing of student dissent, the dishonesty of data-reporting, the ignoring of racism, the drastic cuts to programs, and the latest comments by President Wagner – Emory is all the more prominent for all the wrong reasons.

In fact, last semester around this time, opposition to the sweeping and unilateral cuts to academic programs announced by Dean Foreman on September 14th animated our campus. It was to these very cuts that President Wagner referred to in his infamous article.

One indication of what these cuts are about is through the logic of proportion.

Whenever people in power attempt to implement narrow-minded and regressive decisions, they always present them as neutral, efficient, responsible, prudent, inevitable – or, especially in this case, ‘in the pursuit of eminence.’

Yet when we use the critical faculties that are a central purpose of the university – when we examine the details, read and discuss carefully, and analyze the processes – we see that these cuts were far from neutral.

As you all know, the cuts target the Division of Educational Studies, the department of Visual Arts, the Journalism program, the Institute for the Liberal Arts, the department of Physical Education, the graduate programs in Economics and Spanish, as well as some language instruction in Russian, Farsi and Hindi/Urdu.

Taken together, these programs contain some of the highest numbers of students of colour and from abroad. Just two examples: 25% of the ILA students are minorities, while 40% of students in the DES are African-American, the highest population of any department in the university. In terms of faculty, whereas only 15% of the total University faculty is of colour, the cut departments contain anywhere from 20% to 48% faculty of colour. And the decision to make these cuts…was made by a group of 8 white people, 6 of which were men.

In other words, these cuts disproportionately impact people of colour: students, faculty and departments that have a vital role in communities across Atlanta.

To make sense of what this means, contrast it with another glaringly disproportionate relation in our society. Take, for example, US incarceration rates.

While African-Americans are 14% of the general population, they are 40% of the prison population. Now, unless one is either hopeless or ignorant, it is clear that issues of poverty, criminality and the justice system are far from neutral, but instead deeply implicated in a politics of race and racism.

The further question to ask, however, is that if African-Americans, as 14% of the general population, came to constitute 14% of the prison population, would the problem be solved? Would proportional representation in prisons be the answer to the contradictions of poverty, crime and justice?

Disproportion is therefore an indication of a problem, but it is not its entirety.

This is where President Wagner’s comments are actually illuminating. What he said in praise of the decision of a few white property-owning men to quantify the humanity of slaves as a fraction is not merely clumsy and insensitive. It also contains an insight into how the administration understands governance and the process of decision-making.

President Wagner’s use of the 3/5 example unwittingly draws a parallel between the actions of those in power. In this case, in mobilizing against these cuts, the Student Re-visioning Committee organized three major public demonstrations, wrote scores of op-ed pieces in different publications, sent letters, requests and petitions, met and spoke with administrators for hours, garnered local and national media coverage and held a seven-hour sit-in at the administration building. In response, the administration listened, shrugged and proceeded to do exactly what they set out to do.

This is what the language of dialogue and compromise is designed to conceal: the disparities of power that, again in this case, exclude students from meaningful participation in how our university operates. President Wagner’s error was therefore not only an odious comparison, but an honest revelation. And it is a profound lack of vision that allows him first to make the mistake, and second to apologize to deny its truth.

Indeed, by their own words, the administration acknowledges that they do not have the right set of eyes to edit their own publications. While I agree that they are grossly inadequate, this issue involves more than simply iris colour and skin pigmentation.

So, there are problems at Emory. What is needed is a movement of people in a range of capacities to come together to think through a different way of identifying priorities, addressing needs as well as aspirations, and implementing sound policies. We need a project of re-visioning to democratize our university.

And for that, what this latest uproar demonstrates is that we are probably better off attempting
this difficult task without the current administration.

[The same, as a PDF]

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