Tag Archives: Emory University

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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Faculty votes to review cuts, censure Wagner

Tonight’s faculty meeting was momentous for everyone who is upset with the department cuts, among all the other symptoms of administrative bloat, systemic racism, and institutional complacency we have seen lately.

Here’s the rundown; we expect more details will emerge over the next few days (or hours).

  • Faculty agreed to a formal and neutral review of the decision-making process behind the cuts. Specifically, they voted 103-96 not to rescind Matthew Payne’s motion to conduct the review (PDF), which passed last month.
  • They also voted, by a large majority, to formally censure President Wagner for treating the Three-Fifths Compromise, a constitutional scaffold for slavery, as a model of university governance. Wagner will be asked to address the faculty and hopefully the student body as well.
  • Many also seconded a stronger motion, calling for a vote of no confidence against Wagner. The vote, however, was postponed.
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    McAfee addresses the “facts”

    Noëlle McAfee, professor of philosophy and an affiliate of WGSS, has written a very detailed blog post breaking down Emory’s public claims about the cuts. As she explains, the CFAC’s covert operations violated Emory’s bylaws concerning subcommittees’ accountability to the Governance Committee, flouted AAUP guidelines ensuring professors have a say in their college curricula, and even misrepresented former Provost Earl Lewis’s opinions regarding the whole process.

    Thanks for your scrupulous research!

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    Faculty governance means faculty governance

    As we noted a few days ago, college faculty are meeting next Wednesday, Jan. 23, to vote on a motion raised by Stefan Lutz and the Governance Committee to annul an earlier motion brought forth by Matthew Payne. The Payne motion called for an independent review of the decision-making process behind the cuts, to be carried out by a committee of 5 professors beginning in April.

    Here is the text of Dr. Payne’s motion, which passed by a vote of 64 to 54.

    Obviously, the SRC supports Dr. Payne’s amendment. It fulfills our third mandate, disclosure and investigation of CFAC operations. But it’s not a blanket solution; the text doesn’t mention the possibility of reversing the cuts, nor does it grant students any official power. As minutes from the December meeting show, the modest scope of the proposal was what allowed it to pass. We’re also disappointed that the Governance Committee is pushing against the faculty’s decisions, but since a few professors have remarked that the first vote felt muddled, it’s within the Gov Comm’s power to re-open it. As always, we encourage all faculty to attend and vote.

    As a student group that relies on and honors our faculty supporters, we respect the AAUP’s wish that we not turn 1/23 into a rally. (Yup, shelving the armadillo costumes for now.) Ultimately, what’s at stake is the integrity of faculty governance, and sometimes the best way to support that is to take a back seat. That said, individual students may choose to demonstrate in White Hall on Wednesday afternoon, and it is within their rights to do so (it is not in their rights to crash the meeting or be disruptive). Any actions on Thursday do not represent the SRC.

    TL;DR: Important faculty meeting. Students, focus your energy on building awareness and fostering conversation.

    Edited 1/20 to correct an organization’s name.

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    Gov. Comm. continues to intimidate faculty

    On December 12, the Faculty Council passed two motions: the first, initiated by Pamela Scully (WGSS), to reform faculty governance; the second, brought forth by Matthew Payne (History), to conduct a thorough review of the process leading to the cuts. You can read Dr. Payne’s very reasonable-sounding motion here (PDF). Each motion was subject to a vote and passed by a majority.

    Now, the Governance Committee has resolved (with 66 signatures) to “vacate”–that is, annul–the second motion. They will be presenting this resolution at the next faculty meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 23. In other words, the GC is directly intruding upon professors’ democratic decision-making process and their demands for transparency.

    Stefan Lutz, professor of chemistry and chair of the Governance Committee (and one of the FFAC/CFAC “deciders”), has appointed an “expert parliamentarian” to run the meeting. Who is an expert parliamentarian? All we know is this individual has been hired by Emory to control who has the power to speak and, perhaps, decide whose remarks go on the official record. This is not third-party mediation and this will not be a fair vote. Indeed, the entire “parliamentary” procedure is a ruse to obscure the fact that the Governing Committee is trying to overturn a democratic motion made by the faculty.

    The AAUP is encouraging all faculty members to attend the meeting on Jan. 23. The event is for faculty only, which means that any “intimidation” will proceed from the administration.

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    Emory altered student’s family income

    From a New York Times feature about the difficulties, financial and otherwise, confronting low-income college students:

    [Angelica] sensed she was on shakier ground than other low-income students and never understood why. The answer is buried in the aid archives: Emory repeatedly inflated her family’s income without telling her.

    Angelica reported that her mother made $35,000 a year and paid about half of that in rent. With her housing costs so high, Emory assumed the family had extra money and assigned Mrs. Lady an income of $51,000. But Mrs. Lady was not hiding money. She was paying inflated post-hurricane rent with the help of Federal disaster aid, a detail Angelica had inadvertently omitted.

    By counting money the family did not have, Emory not only increased the amount it expected Angelica to pay in addition to her financial aid. It also disqualified her from most of the school’s touted program of debt relief. Under the Emory Advantage plan the school replaces loans with grants for families making less than $50,000 a year. Moving Angelica just over the threshold placed her in a less-generous tier and forced her to borrow an additional $15,000 before she could qualify. The mistake will add years to her repayment plan.

    She discovered what had happened only recently, after allowing a reporter to review her file with Emory officials. […] Emory officials said they had to rely on the information Angelica provided and that they will not make retroactive adjustments. “The method that was used in her case was very standard methodology,” said J. Lynn Zimmerman, the senior vice provost who oversees financial aid. “I think that what’s unusual is that she really didn’t advocate for herself or ask for any kind of review. If she or her mother would have provided any additional information it would have triggered a conversation.”

    Just remember, students. If the administration places extra barriers between you and your education and doesn’t inform you, it’s your fault for not fighting back. Unless you do, in which case you will be accused of exaggeration and intimidation.

    Times writer Jason DeParle adds, “Emory can hardly be cast as indifferent to low-income students. It spends $94 million a year of its own money on financial aid and graduates its poorest students nearly as often as the rest.” The Emory Advantage program is a tremendous initiative, allowing the College to uphold a need-blind admission policy at a time when many other schools are abandoning theirs. It made possible by large donations within the last 15 years. Yet stories like this cannot but make us wonder about the discrepancy between PR and on-the-ground operations.

    Thanks to Tressie MC for the Twitter heads-up.

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    Not Your University

    “In all three cases, administrators faced the charge that they were acting dictatorially.”

    An article published on Inside Higher Ed yesterday highlights a vote of no confidence against the president of NYU for what faculty perceive as too many unilateral decisions (hostile expansion rather than hostile contraction). The author draws a comparison to the situation at Emory, as well as controversies at Duke, Saint Louis U. and Yale. Further proof of Emory’s ties to thought-leading peer institutions.

    Talk of a no-confidence vote among faculty has been circulating for some time, and the College’s dismissive response to the AAUP letter might fan the flames…

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    College defends itself against AAUP

    Continuing the Emory tradition of making announcements on Fridays (waiting for classes to end?), Nancy Seideman has put out a press release announcing that Dean Forman is very, very disappointed in the AAUP’s recent letter denouncing the procedure behind the cuts (reprinted on this blog and on the local AAUP website). According to the press release, Forman “takes the concerns expressed by the AAUP ‘seriously’ and has met with leaders of the local AAUP chapter and is willing to continue to meet with its membership to discuss governance issues.” (We welcome confirmation from AAUP representatives on that account; his tone is certainly more generous than it was toward students).

    Earlier this week, the College Governance Committee sent a letter responding to the AAUP (linked here [PDF]). Forman himself did not sign the letter. Gray Crouse, professor of biology and current president of the University Senate chair, was the primary author. The current and former chairs of the Governing Committee, chemistry professor Stefan Lutz and physics professor Eric Weeks, also signed.

    The GovComm representatives argue that the creation and entrenchment of the FFAC/CFAC complied with the principles of government. “Your [AAUP’s] letter implied that CFAC was too small, but that is a subjective decision that you surely don’t have the standing to make.” The word “small” was indeed used to describe the FFAC, but the committee size was not one of the AAUP’s main grounds for criticizing it. Their objections (see the last paragraph of page 1) are only subjective if you consider verbatim transcription of the national AAUP policy on academic governance subjective. Edited to add (12/17): We should also note that Dr. Lutz was one of the original seven members of FFAC. Dr. Weeks joined shortly thereafter, and was personally responsible for reporting to the rest of the Governing Committee about CFAC’s doings while he was the GovCom chair. Thus they could claim formal accountability without actually being accountable. [1]

    They make no mention of the second half of the AAUP’s recommendation, “the suspension of any implementation of the closures pending such a review” (i.e. of the decision-making process), nor do they address the organization’s concerns with granting long-standing lecture-track faculty due process before terminating them.

    Crouse, Lutz and Weeks add: “It is surprising that you would identify those decisions as curricular rather than financial, because they were clearly made out of financial necessity.” That curricular-not-financial framing was posed by the college dean and president, to be retracted on occasions when it seemed expedient.[2]

    Overall, their position seems to be that any road other than the one taken would have led to stagnation and anarchy.

    “In closing your letter,” they conclude, “you write of upholding faculty governance, and yet you ignore the existing, elected, faculty governance in favor of a small group of faculty who have no standing within elected faculty governance.” We find this tremendously dismissive to the growing number of AAUP members on the faculty. And who’s calling whom small?

    Edited to add:
    [1] See the GovComm minutes of August 31, 2011 (PDF courtesy of the Wheel).

    [2] For example, on page 2 of Dean Forman’s original letter announcing the cuts (PDF).

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    Notes from Negotiations with Wagner, Forman, and Hauk 12/7

    Here is the full text of the notes taken by the SRC Team during their negotiations with President James Wagner, Dean Robin Forman, and VP Gary Hauk on December 7, 2012.

    You can find a PDF of the document here.

    Please share widely!

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