Tag Archives: ILA

Two faculty manifestos

Two distinguished professors, formerly of the ILA (and currently in English, Comparative Literature, and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies), have published their thoughts on the meaning and value of interdisciplinary work in the liberal arts in a time of combined austerity and administrative bloat.

First, Walter Reed, laying down some Luther- or Spinoza-inspired “Theses on the Liberal Arts” for Durham University’s Centre for Humanities Innovation:

3.1 Teaching is the transmission of information, knowledge and (ideally) wisdom, either as ends in themselves or as the means to other ends. The traffic moves in both directions on this highway as well—from the masters to the disciples and from the certified professionals to those in training for certification, but also from the disciples back to the masters, from those in training back to the professionals. The balance between teaching and learning is dynamic and inherently unstable….

3.1.3 This dynamism and instability carry over to the relationship between emerging disciplinary specializations (new sub-fields within a discipline) and the disciplines as already established. New specializations both instruct and depend on older ones, though a balanced appreciation of the new and the old is difficult to maintain for those most closely involved. A similar dynamic instability informs interdisciplinary initiatives setting up shop between established disciplines. (Interdisciplinary inquiry is not the same as undisciplined study.)

And Michael Moon comments on “English Departments at a Crossroads”:

What some administrators currently mean by an “English department” seems to me in the main not to be a place or a project that serves the intellectual and professional needs of my students or myself very well. English departments turned out to serve the needs of faculty and students in queer studies for the first twenty years or so of my career in large part because many of them had – often through a process of prolonged conflict and division – turned themselves into major seedbeds of interdisciplinary growth during the 1970s and ‘80s, so that many fields which have since developed in varying degrees into autonomous disciplines, departments, and programs (critical theory, gender studies, lesbian and gay studies, queer theory, film and media studies, the whole spectrum of ethnic studies, postcolonial studies, cultural studies, etc.) spent their first decade or so as emergent academic fields as flourishing sub-projects of this or that English department.

So one feature of the current academic landscape that disturbs me is the relentless shutting-down of anglophone literary studies as the kind of expansive set of interdisciplinary intellectual spaces which they’ve provided at many universities for the past several decades….

Professor Moon’s piece comes courtesy of U to the Rescue, a blog curated by scholar-activist Christopher Newfield.

 

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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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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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ILA faculty join critics

“For us in the ILA, President Wagner’s ill-chosen “Three-Fifths Compromise” model has a clear and direct tie to the cuts in academic programs announced last fall. These decisions, in violation of Emory’s established principles of shared governance and of all proper procedure, are immensely damaging to Emory’s much vaunted commitment to diversity. They impact faculty and students of color disproportionately and indicate that President Wagner has, after all, a limited commitment to the ideals of a diverse and mutually respectful University community.”

Read the entire letter in today’s Wheel.

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An archive of resistance

On Tuesday, February 26, the ILA hosted a colloquium titled “Re-Visioning What is and What Can Be: Activism, Art, and the Creative Edge of Change.” The speakers talked about recent student-led activism at Emory–the SRC’s work, Students and Workers in Solidarity’s fight for subcontracted workers’ rights, the fight to get Chick Fil-A off campus, and more.

Many participants commented on the role of images and humor in creating a grassroots movement. You can download the PowerPoint presentation featuring some of our “greatest hits” here, but note that it’s quite a large file at 30 MB.

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Surprise SCLC protest draws media attention

The Black Student Alliance, Black Star, Change@Emory, the SRC, and faculty supporters staged a silent protest at the lavish launch party for And the Struggle Continues: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Fight for Social Change at the Woodruff Library. We objected to the positioning of President Wagner and Emory College as patrons of the African-American civil rights and global anti-poverty movements.

Protesters greet Wagner at the SCLC launch. Photo: Jason Francisco.

Protesters greet Wagner at the SCLC launch. Photo: Jason Francisco.

Our banners bore statements like “Civil Rights is not a photo-op,” “I am not an afterthought,” and “Happy retirement, President Wagner.” We also distributed our fact sheet on race and the cuts and a statement from Change@Emory, “A Call to Action.”

Reporters from the New York Times, NPR, Fox 5 Atlanta, and the Emory Wheel were present.

Attendees–guests and honored speakers alike–were overwhelmingly supportive of our message. We received comments like, “50 years later, we’re still protesting?” and (from a SCLC speaker) “This is the First Amendment right we fought for.” As quoted in the NYT, Brenda Davenport, who has worked as the national volunteer and youth organizer for the SCLC, said, “I love it. Where else would you want protesters to show up but at something that is about the value of protesting?”
Dorothy Cotton, the director of the SCLC’s Citizen Education Project during the 1960s, and current national CEO Charles Steele both emphasized the role of education and engagement in the fight against Jim Crow, voting rights infringements, and other injustices.

For many in the room, the disintegration of the DES, the ILA, and the Journalism program was a bitter subtext. The exhibit was co-curated by a doctoral candidate in the ILA, an irony we didn’t want anyone to miss.

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Vital upcoming events

Emory students are setting the agenda once more, with characteristic passion and creativity. These two events next week promise to be far more inspiring than anything that comes out of the PR machine.

1. ILA colloquium: “Re-Visioning What is and What Can Be: Activism, Art, and the Creative Edge of Change”: Tuesday, Feb. 26th from 11:45-1:00 pm in Callaway S423, the ILA conference room.

COLLFeb26

2. Rally Against Racism, organized by members of the Black Students Alliance, Black Star magazine, and Change@Emory and the NAACP, next Wednesday (the 27th) at 6 on Asbury Circle.

The organizers write: “This is NOT a FORUM, but a CALL TO ACTION.This will be an opportunity for students to come together to unite against the systemic racism on Emory’s campus. Issues covered at the event include (but are not limited to): President Wagner’s “Compromise” Article and Failure to Understand Wrongs Even in Apology; The Dooley Show; The Racialization of Labor Issues and The Labor Movement; Lack of campus spaces for Black students and race issues; Disparities in Student Conduct Outcomes; Treatment of Minority Students on Frat Row; Administrative Processes; Removal of the BSA house; The suspension of Alpha Phi Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta. Explorations of solutions include: Auditing/Reforming Student Conduct Process; Emory University taking a clear and committed stance on racism (using the work on Sexual Assault and Sustainability as a model); the creation of a Black Student Union for formal space as well as resources on campus for black students; Campus Life hiring a team of experts to be proactive in working with racial issues as well as responding to racial problems; the development of a Bias Reporting System; instituting new GERs; transparency.”

Edited 2/21 to correct the organizers of the Rally Against Racism.

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Local artists and activists, I

Meredith Kooi is an artist and PhD student whose specialties (visual culture, biopolitics and disability, deconstruction) overlap beautifully with the ILA, where she enrolled before the cuts were announced. She shares her thoughts on Emory’s loss at Burnaway, a newish blog covering the Atlanta art scene:

“Many students in the ILA…feel that this move has been an attack on our work and who we are…. Since the graduate students in the ILA work with ‘unconventional’ methodologies and produce ‘unconventional’ dissertations—the first dissertations with visual chapters were just accepted by the graduate school—it is hard for traditional disciplines to recognize the work we do.”

Meanwhile, the Crunk Feminist Collective blog has been garnering attention and passion on a national scale since it was established by a group of African American women grad students at Emory. At a recent Collective soiree, the topic of the cuts was an emotional one for presenters and audience members alike. The department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, which sponsored the event, continues to be a beacon for that courageous inquiry thing, and its high rankings ensure the administration will not be trampling on it anytime soon.

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Wagner: “Disruptively innovative”

President Wagner delivered his annual State of the University address to a packed room this afternoon. We bring you some highlights:

  • The state of the university is “goooood” (imagine the pitch dropping halfway through, with a tiny question mark at the end).
  • Campaign Emory is likely to hit its goal of raising $1.6 billion by December. We should also expect an announcement of an “anchor” donation for the next fundraising campaign. This one’s gonna fund really wild things like student financial aid.
  • Speaking of which, Oxford College no longer has a need-blind admissions policy. The Druid Hills campus stands by its policy of selecting students based on merit rather than their deep pockets, but the $84 million a year cost of financial aid is a burden. Everyone wants to reduce attrition rates and put scholarship money to better use.
  • As one of only 200 research universities among 4600 institutions of higher education in the U.S., and one of a smaller group of R1 schools, Emory represents a “tiny niche” in the education market, but an important one.
  • Gray Crouse, professor of biology and president of the Governing Committee, has advised Wagner that the old way of running research universities is economically unsustainable. Crouse warns that “most faculty are oblivious” to this fact. (Wonder if that includes the economists and education policy analysts?)
  • The economy will affect “the college experience at the most fundamental levels”: curriculum, teaching, promotion and tenure standards, lab management, the residential experience… We couldn’t tell you how any of these items will actually change.

Clearly, what we really need are “new income streams.” Apart from expanding our partnership with Georgia Tech, examples were scarce.

  • There is a new holding company called “Emory Innovations Inc.” Officially separate from the university, it will retain patents for things that would “support our revenue goals.”
  • Where business practices are concerned, we should learn from former Emory president Atticus Haygood, who said, “Let us stand by the good and let’s make it better.” Presumably, this only applies to investment portfolios.
  • Pres. Wagner has spoken to Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-Fil-A, on two occasions, but he has not responded to letters on behalf of 9 GLBTQ student groups and GALA, the Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association. He will “not stand in the way of Sodexo” (loaded words) if it chooses to change up the franchises on campus. Emory students seem to have been voting against the company with our wallets…
  • We need to “capitalize on our literary assets” and live up to that #1 ranking in USA Today without encouraging literary scholarship or creativity in other languages or connecting literature to other endeavors.

Thanks to a strong showing by the SRC and supporters, the cuts dominated the Q&A. Andrew Zonderman presented the SRC’s statement of demands and handed Wagner a list of prepared questions. To the question “Are you willing to work with us?” Wagner answered yes.

  • Katherine Bryant of neuroscience asked about the crises facing Emory’s reputation, capped off most recently with the threat of censure by the AAUP (“where we’ll join a long list of eminent peers inclunding the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the University of Dubuque, and North Idaho College”). Wagner responded, “Quite the contrary”: peer institutions have been commending Emory for its courageous leadership. He wasn’t too concerned with the AAUP statement insofar as it represented opinions from on campus. The only faculty who count teach at other universities.
  • Amber Jones of the DES wanted to compare the university’s rhetoric of diversity with its actions with regard to the compromised positions of African American and Latino/a undergraduates, graduate students and faculty (“we know that because that’s part of what we study”). They quarreled over the figures on minority students’ dropout rates. Asked how he justified cutting a division that has produced the highest proportion of black PhD graduates in the country for the last twenty years, Wagner replied, “Whatever rationale the deans have used, I’m sure they took that into account.”

According to Wagner, the faculty need to take more initiative in governing the institution and examining the status of the liberal arts.

  • Professor Kevin Corrigan of the ILA: “Why would you allow the effective dismemberment of the ILA before the committee on the liberal arts, headed by Provost Lewis, got down to business?” No definite answer, although Wagner was sure he had sent Corrigan a warning letter back in March.
  • Corrigan also asked if Wagner had a “real vision for the liberal arts.” Wagner had come prepared. A liberal arts education requires critical thinking, creativity, integrity: “I think we’re failing because we just emphasize the critical thinking part.” (Cf.) The liberal arts also requires an “authentic identity,” something that isn’t defined by an institutional tie–thus, Wagner says, the Goizueta Business School, the medical school and the law school are all liberal arts schools. (I always knew my humanities background made me a phony.)

I’ve compiled this from my own notes, and am happy to correct inaccuracies or omissions. @EmoryCuts and the Wheel are following the speech as well.

Tomorrow The next day, the zombies walked on Asbury Circle.

Edited to add: You can now watch Wagner’s speech–sans Q&A–on YouTube.

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Braswell: Cuts betray students

In today’s Wheel, Harold Braswell, PhD candidate in the ILA, gets to the heart of the matter once again:

“Traditional” disciplines teach students critical skills to question, reformulate, and, if necessary, reject “tradition,” but they do not advocate an adherence to tradition for tradition’s sake. These very fields thus undermine Dean Forman’s stated reasons for preserving them.

In methodological and demographic terms, Dean Forman’s decision excises the margins from the Emory community. But the margins represent the true heart of the university tradition. The university tradition is grounded in its critical distance from both “tradition” and popular demand.

Additionally, first-year student Brett Lichtenberg shares the way he’s learned to “make the best out of the cuts.” support he’s gotten from his advisers in the journalism program. In a show of dedication, professors David Armstrong and Hank Klibanoff have tried to permit first-year journalism students to complete a minor or co-major in the program by spring 2014. Said permission isn’t official, though: Klibanoff later explained that he had merely won “the right for you to make a case” for completing the program.

Lichtenberg also remarked (in a somewhat different context) that noted Holocaust and Jewish historian Deborah Lipstadt has described Emory as “overall pretty apolitical.” The bulk of the issue and the culture around here say otherwise.

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