A Message From Dean Forman to the Faculty: A Follow-Up to Wednesday’s Faculty Meeting

The Wheel has obtained the following letter, which is from College Dean Robin Forman addressed to the College faculty.

Dear Colleagues,

I write to add to the thoughtful and respectful conversation we had at the faculty meeting yesterday. To be clear, my goal here is not to offer any opinions on the variety of issues discussed, but rather to offer some information that I think may be relevant to this deliberation.
Two speakers offered their assessments of how forcefully President Wagner has supported the College relative to the other schools. It is my experience – admittedly limited to the last two and a half years – that he has been a very strong supporter of the College. I have on several occasions heard him talk to the Board of Trustees about the centrality of the liberal arts, and the necessity of a strong College. I have heard him remind members of the Board of Trustees that there is no such thing as a great university without a great college – and that, in fact, one can make the more precise statement that with very few exceptions, every great school of medicine (and great law school, and …) is affiliated with a great college – and hence they should all focus attention and energy on the College.
As evidence of significant action I can point to two items. As you all may know, over the previous two academic years, the college spent a total of $22 million more that it took in, leaving us – after spending down our reserves and other undesignated funds – $13 million in debt. We started this year with no debt only because of the additional financial commitments from the central administration. Perhaps more significantly, as I have told the chairs and directors as well as other groups,  in this interregnum between the recently completed development campaign, and the campaign to follow in a few years, the university will carry out a focused initiative to raise money to support financial aid. I think it is fair to say both that most in the professional schools would not list financial aid as among their highest priorities for such an initiative and that nonetheless President Wagner selected this as the focus precisely because it is one of the College’s greatest needs.
Robin
  • Thanks Robin, But

    I seem to remember an article in the New York Times this past December – “For Poor, Reach to College Often Ends in Hard Fall.” in that article, which merits reading, an Emory financial aid officer says it is “standard methodology” to unilaterally adjust student’s reported family incomes without telling them. In the case of the student profiled, this adjustment – which incorrectly doubled her single mothers reported income – resulted in her being placed exactly one thousand dollars above the qualifying limit for financial aid. She has since dropped out and works a minimum wage job. The admissions officer is quoted as blaming the student for insufficiently “advocating for herself” – when in fact it took a reporter digging through her data to find Emory’s manipulation of her numbers.

    I have heard similar stories for many of my students. Is this what we’re so proud of?

  • grad student

    Cool story, Dean Forman. So the President… is doing his job, which is fundraising? And we should be grateful only 7 programs were cut back, because that’s the result of Wagner standing up to the Board? Couldn’t we find a better advocate for the university than someone who views the entire university community as the group to compromise upon so that he can grow his cuddly and tidy relationship with the BOT?

    And no worries, I totally get that we outspent ourselves in the aftermath of the crash, and so we all need to tighten our belts. Maybe, in the spirit of openness and trust, you could, you know, give us a breakdown of the expenditures so we could all get a sense of just how wisely this university’s finances have been managed by JimBob, BJ III, et al. Because I’m sure the recent resignation of the CFAC, including two Chem professors, has nothing to do with the recent construction of a $52 million building for the Chemistry department.

  • Andy

    Yes, grad student, the CFAC squeezed $52 million from other departments to fund a building for the chemistry faculty. It had absolutely nothing to do with proceeds from the drug Emtriva, which was discovered in the chemistry department and netted the University >$500 million dollars.

    • grad student

      Check out the Emory University fb page – they themselves say the building was “largely covered” by proceeds from drug revenue. What’s the rest? How much? We saved $4.5 million by gutting the liberal arts infrastructure and outreach to Atlanta communities… so I’m curious why some of this lovely revenue couldn’t support the college as a whole.

      • Andy

        It does, and will continue to do so.

        • grad student

          Oh, glad to hear it – could you point me to a citation to that effect?

          • Andy

            If you look at the University IP policy, you can get an idea of how the money was divided among various stakeholders (inventors, departments, colleges, and the university). The college did not spend its entire allotment on a chemistry building.

          • grad student

            And I never said they did… I’m saying, perhaps we should reconsider allotments when the Chem dept, which already has a large building, gets a $52 million dollar building, meanwhile we cut entire departments in order to deal with “financial strain” – and the grand savings there is $4.5 million. I fail to see how the intellectual property policy of the university will give me insight into the breakdown of expenditures for the college.

          • Andy

            (I am unable to reply to your message of 7:36 pm directly, so I am replying to this one) You are the one that implied that something was amiss in the construction of the chemistry building. “Because I’m sure the recent resignation of the CFAC, including two Chem professors, has nothing to do with the recent construction of a $52 million building for the Chemistry department.”

            That building has been in the plans since before CFAC existed. See: http://www.campserv.emory.edu/pdc/planning_construction/Documents/construction_report.pdf

            With respect to the allotments, the dean was pretty clear. The college could fund everything as is (i.e., after infusions from the central administration to help with financial aid, the college could balance its books), but it couldn’t invest in anything new. The dean made a decision to take funds from some areas and invest them in others. You may not agree with the decisions, but there is a logic to them.

            It sounds like you are arguing that every program that was created and invested in should continue to be supported forever.

            p.s. the university IP policy would give you some indication how much of that money went to the college. You would realize that my previous response to your comment “I’m curious why some of this lovely revenue couldn’t support the college as a whole.” (that it does) is true.

  • Forman lied

    Forman lied to everyone. He first made the case that the college wasn’t cutting because of finances, now he is saying that the university is in debt (without the backing of the central admin) and needs to make the cuts. What game is he playing at?

  • What we really should be cutting

    Poor people are screwing over Emory. The financial crisis happened because the government forced banks to give loans to poor people and minorities. This hurt the endowment of Emory at the same time that more students were receiving financial aid. Financial aid should be dramatically reduced or eliminated. It’s not sustainable long-term and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. It’s a simple issue of supply and demand. There is too much demand for education at top colleges because many people don’t have to pay the bills. Going to a top college should be considered a luxury, just like having a fancy car. Almost any car can get from point A to point B, and you can get a degree from a cheaper school. You just won’t have as many concerts, or fancy buildings.

    • grad student

      “because the government forced banks to give loans to poor people and minorities”
      ….
      Maybe try wiki or something? You are really confused.

      By the way, is it poor people, or minorities, or both that are troubling you? You seem to have trouble distinguishing the two…

    • Rachael

      Really?

      Please don’t play the “poor people are parasites card.” As a student who relies entirely on financial aid in order to attend this school, I assure you that I am not here for the “concerts and fancy buildings.” I am here because great colleges, like Emory, offer opportunities that are not available at state or community colleges. I worked as hard as anyone to get into this school, and I should have access to the same opportunities as anyone else. People who “don’t have to pay the bills” contribute a great deal to the university as a whole (though, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m guessing you’re not a big fan of diversity), and have the potential to contribute to society as well. Many of society’s brightest minds do not attend college (any college, not just elite schools) because they are poor, and because they are exposed to the disgusting Ayn Rand shit you’re spouting right now. And so they end up in degrading, low paying jobs, miserable and stuck.
      I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m at Emory instead of working 40+ hours a week scanning groceries for minimum wage. But taking away financial aid would change all of that. It would close one of the only avenues for upward mobility left in this world, and it would screw over more than just the people who would be left unable to attend schools like Emory; the entire Emory community and the rest of society would certainly suffer as well.

      • Andy

        Very well said, Rachael!

      • Mike Hunt

        Not true about many of society’s brightest minds not attending college because they are poor. Read “Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life”.

        • Rachael

          I have, actually. There are SO many problems with the arguments the authors make, not the least of which is the assumption that IQ scores are an accurate measure of intelligence–they’re not. Most IQ tests are culturally bounded, and certain groups, like minorities and the poor, tend to score significantly lower than the groups (white middle/upper class) for whom the test was designed. There is also the fact that they base their central argument on something that smacks a little too much of social Darwinism, and I’m pretty sure that they actually make the recommendation that poor or undereducated mothers should give up their children for adoption… Plus it’s such an outdated text and there have been much more accurate and unbiased studies since then. An article in the Times last week cited a study (the link was actually posted here by someone else, the next comment down) about how poor students approach applying for college, which differs substantially from how more privileged students go through the same process. Poor students (especially first generation college students) often hesitate to apply to selective school and end up at schools where they don’t fit in intellectually, which all too often leads to becoming discouraged and not finishing college at all.

          • Common Sense

            Poor people need to stop having so many children. If you’re poor that means you can’t take care of yourself, so why do you expect to able to take of other people? They are incentivized to do this by the current system with welfare, Medicaid and financial aid.

          • Rachael

            Great idea, Common Sense. Or, alternatively, we can go full-on “A Modest Proposal” and eat the children of the poor. That would solve so many problems, wouldn’t it? Now you feel like an idiot, right? Tell me something, do you have to work to be that much of a bigot, or have you always been that way?

            Anyway, yes, poor people do have an incentive. To live. And to improve their lives any way they can. No one should have the ability to deny those rights to anyone else, and certainly not because they happen to be wealthy. I also would like to add that most poor people do a hell of a lot more to provide for themselves than most rich people. A lack of initiative or willpower is not a prerequisite for being poor, and the possession of those qualities is certainly not a prerequisite for being wealthy. There is a serious lack of advancement opportunities in this country, and it is only by changing this that there will ever be a change in the state of poverty and of need for government assistance. Far from being a way for the poor to rob the rich, financial aid is an important step in permanently solving the issue of social inequality.

          • Raoul Dukakis

            Preach, Rachel!

            +1

        • Raoul Dukakis

          Hey “Mike” –

          Thank you for your nuanced views on social mobility and family planning. One thing I’m not seeing explicitly here, though, is a frequent element of your other posts, namely, race. In fact, in another post on another article where you recommended the Bell Curve, you highlighted how “intelligence levels differ among ethnic groups.”

          I keep finding myself asking you to lay out how you feel about race (and I’m sure you have feelings, both on the topic in general and at Emory) but you never really spell them out. The suspense is killing me. So could you maybe spend a few minutes and go whole-hog on this one? I confess I have some suspicions as to what you’ll say, but it would be nice to have your own words. And who knows, you might surprise me!

          Best,

          Raoul

          PS. If you need a conversational prompt, consider a reply to the question “Are you a white supremacist?” You could also reflect on the question of whether or not there have been other occasions in your life when someone else has asked you this question. Don’t rush, by all means, take your time. Have a glass of Chablis, mull it over, and then get back to me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joey.shea1 Joey Shea
  • Big Slick

    No money for financial aid for students who need it, but lots of cash for academic scholarships for those who don’t

    • Raoul Dukakis

      Anybody specific in mind?

  • Mark

    If a dean posts something to the faculty listserv, I think that’s fair game for the Wheel, just as it would have been fair game if he had said it in a faculty meeting. However, I am curious if the Wheel contacted the dean for further comment and context. I would hope that the Wheel would extend that courtesy to me if I posted a comment on faculty listserv. (One reason I don’t post things to the faculty listserv is precisely because you never know where they will end up.)

    There have been a number of occasions recently where things have shown up on the Wheel only a few hours after being sent out by faculty. That’s fair and ethical journalism. But since these are not being released as public statements, I hope their authors get a chance for follow-up before it gets published. (Maybe that happened here; it doesn’t say.) I know in one case, the Wheel published something else as an “open letter” when the writer did not intend it that way.

  • Forman’s words then and now.

    I don’t see Forman as a legitimate actor on our campus. His guidance and endorsement of the cuts was a slap in the face to Emory students and faculty. I do not trust what he says to be in the interests of the Emory Community.

    I want Emory to get rid of administrators that have taken the trust of our community and discarded it. Starting with Wagner and moving on to Forman would be a step in the right direction.

  • Raj

    The cuts are necessary to pay for Wagner’s and Forman’s salaries.