Category Archives: News

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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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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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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Grad vote results: no confidence, low turnout

Question: Do you have confidence in James Wagner as President of Emory University?

433 students, or 22% of the Laney Graduate School, voted. While that percentage is lower than we would have liked, it’s worth noting that we still turned out more voters than the faculty poll, which provided a week-long window. (We might also note that only 90 students voted in the last GSC officer elections.)

All votes
117 (27%) Yes -­‐ I do have confidence in James Wagner as President
295 (68%) No -­‐ I don’t have confidence in James Wagner as President
21 (5%) Abstain -­‐ I abstain from this vote
As a percentage of all LGS students
6% Yes -­‐ I do have confidence in James Wagner as President
15% No-­‐I don’t have confidence in James Wagner as President
1% Abstain -­‐ I abstain from this vote

Edited 4/17 to correct number of voters.

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Confidence games

Last week, 133 College faculty, or 40% of voters, declared that they had no confidence in President Wagner as a leader of Emory. Wagner and his supporters are calling the referendum a victory. Here’s why we don’t think it’s that simple: The motion for a referendum survived three faculty meetings (including one at which Wagner was present), as did the Payne motion calling for a review of the cuts. 133 votes on a symbolic, non-binding motion cannot be ignored. And the high number of eligible faculty who didn’t vote at all (47%) speaks to the obscurity of governance and the president’s responsibilities.

Finally, we are still awaiting the graduate student vote. Go to tomorrow (April 16) between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

This morning, Wagner emailed the entire Emory community with a veritable Mad Lib of administrative clichés. We couldn’t help but notice a striking resemblance to last week’s “Keep Wagner” campaign:
Wagner email and Keep Wagner petition

The creator of the campaign, which appeared halfway through the faculty vote and appears to target undergraduate students (who were denied the right to an actual vote on the matter by the SGA), has “requested anonymity because of his affiliation with a student organization.” He implies that SRC activism, rather than any particular contribution Wagner has made to the university, was the catalyst. To which we reply: It must take a lot of courage to defend the status quo, word for word.

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Essence of Emory = censoring student expression

In the wake of yesterday’s Re-Visioning Symposium, which was a tremendous success (photos and reflections to come), one of our organizers received the following polite but loaded e-mail:

I hope your event went well last night and we need a favor. Can you please pull your signage and yellow ribbons from trees, poles, etc, on campus today?

We have many future college students touring campus this week and we want their “vision” of Emory to be as clean and neat as possible.

Thank you,

Jimmy Powell
Director Exterior Services
Campus Services

In fact, campus workers began tearing down our signs (none of which were as imposing as a 60-foot tall Dooley) and erasing our sidewalk chalk on Sunday night and Monday morning, before the symposium began. This was an academic conference sponsored by three Emory departments. Can’t let potential freshmen be exposed to any of that!

Powell and Exterior Services have also run into conflict with Students and Workers in Solidarity over student activists’ banners.

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Faculty no-confidence vote on Wagner this week

We’ve just received word that the faculty-wide vote on Wagner’s conduct will run from Monday through Friday this week.

The ballot will precede a similar vote by graduate students (administered by the GSC), scheduled for April 16.

Perhaps the Re-Visioning Emory conference will be a catalyst for participation?

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CFAC disbanded, members’ departments reap rewards

Remember CFAC? Well, almost immediately after Matthew Payne’s motion calling for a review of the decision-making process behind the cuts passed, and a review committee was formed, the 8-person committee responsible for orchestrating the cuts disbanded. As the Governance Committee wrote in a recent email to faculty, CFAC’s “members interpret the decision to establish the Payne committee at the February College faculty meeting as a vote of no confidence in the current CFAC. Consequently, they feel that any further advice to the Dean would be placed in question. GovCom thanked the committee members for their service and accepted their resignation effective immediately.”

One of the startling features of the CFAC was its lopsidedness: Of the 8 members, none belonged to departments that were subject to cuts or downsizing. None were in lecture-track roles and all, for what it’s worth, were white. The two women on the committee were also the only two humanists–both professors in the division of religion, which Dean Forman affirmed as being good for the Emory “brand.” Of three scientists, two were from the chemistry department (one, Stefan Lutz, is also the chair of the Governance Committee).

Well, the chemistry department has just announced it will start a $52 million renovation of its building–“an expression of the collegiality of Emory,” as a representative of the department put it. We’re not screaming blood money, since the project is “largely” funded by proceeds from an HIV/AIDS drug developed by Emory chemists, but we are demanding accountability. Why does one science building reap the visible rewards of “collegiality” when other science buildings are known to have leaky pipes and holes in the floor?

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Faculty “confidence” vote confirmed

At a “special” faculty meeting this evening, professors agreed to hold an electronic vote asking the faculty whether they had confidence in James Wagner as the president of Emory. The meeting was prolonged by filibustering efforts and some barely veiled hostility between humanities and sciences faculty members, with social scientists evidently caught in the middle. Apparently, some professors believe taking a principled, protected stand amounts to a “temper tantrum.” The vote is slated to take place…ASAP.

The Student Government Association, on the other hand, opted not to include the referendum question “Do you have confidence in the direction of the University on tomorrow’s election ballot. It was another dragged-out affair: 4 non-voting SRC members came to support Andy Ratto’s bill, which was largely supported by graduate student leaders, but overwhelmingly dismissed by undergraduate representatives and by SGA President Ashish Gandhi.

What’s the significance of all this (well, the faculty referendum, anyway)? SRC member David Mullins reflects on the tense meeting with President Wagner last December. He recalls Wagner saying, “If you wanted a democratic university, you’d need another president and a vote of no confidence.”

So, let’s answer Wagner’s rhetorical question. Do we want a democratic university?

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