An Open Letter from the Student Re-Visioning Committee

February 4, 2013 

Mr. Ben F. Johnson III
Chair, Board of Trustees
Emory University
Atlanta, GA 30030 

Dear Sir:

As you know, on September 14, 2012, Emory College Dean Robin Forman announced the most extensive cuts and closures in Emory’s history, eliminating or indefinitely suspending seven departments and programs. The Emory community has since learned of the flawed and secretive manner in which the cuts were determined and enacted, in violation of Emory’s own bylaws1, 2 and endorsed ethical principles.3Concerned Emory undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff have organized to form the Student Re-Visioning Committee, in order to object to the content of the cuts and the manner in which they were devised. The ostensible goal of the cuts was to free up $4.5 million dollars for reinvestment,4 under the pretext of limited financial resources. Yet our financial situation is far more rosy: Emory currently enjoys a budget surplus,5 a $100 million return on endowment investments in 2012 alone,6 and a successful fundraising campaign that has exceeded donation goals by $90 million.7 Conservatively, these gains equal 40 times the amount of money that was “re-allocated” in the dismantling of these valuable programs.

Given the flawed governance processes, the violation of Emory’s ethical principles, the indefensible loss of valuable programs, departments, faculty, and staff, and Emory’s newfound financial windfall, we, the Student Re-Visioning Committee, demand that the Board of Trustees, in partnership with the Emory administration: 

1. Reverse the cuts.
2. Implement formal and meaningful student, faculty and staff participation on all key decision making bodies.
3. Fully disclose and investigate all College Financial Advisory Committee proceedings. 

The SRC would like to request a meeting with the Board to discuss these demands. The Emory community looks forward to the Board’s response.

Sincerely,
The Student Re-Visioning Committee 

Cor Prudentis Possidebit Scientiam: “The wise heart seeks knowledge.”
Emory University motto, Proverbs 18:15

1 http://gonepublic.net/2013/01/19/reviewing-the-facts-on-emorys-cuts/
2 http://www.emorywheel.com/an-open-letter-from-the-aaup/
3 http://www.emory.edu/president/governance/ethical_principles.html
4 http://www.emorywheel.com/college-to-end-fiscal-year-2013-with-balanced-budget/
5 http://www.emorywheel.com/visual-arts-journalism-educational-studies-p-e-and-russian-econ-spanish-grad-programs-suspended-ila-to-be-downsized/
6 http://news.emory.edu/stories/2012/11/er_take_note_university_endowment/campus.html
7 http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/emory-surpasses-fundraising-goal/nTwjx/

  • http://gravatar.com/testing2 lol no

    I suppose we need to start a ‘not in our name’ initiative since this group literally speaks for no employee group (faculty or staff). Your message is becoming stale, quickly. The group advocated for their cause and did not prevail. Please, just move on now…

    • Question

      Faculty, students, and staff joined the Walk-Out, Sit-In, and other SRC-organized events in December. Likewise, faculty, students, and staff are lively participants in SRC organizing and meetings – and hundreds of people have signed up to regularly receive SRC mailings this semester. So I have to wonder : who are *you* speaking for? And would you perhaps like to direct your instruction to “move on” to the people who are being laid off, the students who can no longer major in the programs they want, the faculty who fear they might be next, the alum donors who are refusing their contributions, the local Atlanta students who are no longer beneficiaries of DES programs, groups concerned with the breakdown of faculty governance at Emory, etc.?

    • S is for student.

      The name of the group that presented this letter is the Student Re-Visioning Committee…

      • Question

        The SRC leadership is all student, and the group is student-led, student-focused, and student-driven. But we are a community and we exist in relation to multiple groups and constituencies – and we embrace this and work together. Likewise, we reject any divide and conquer logic that seeks to fragment the Emory group along lines that can be used to further the corporatization of OUR university. Now maybe you’re advocating for some students who don’t agree with the SRC, but that’s not the same as saying none do, or that the hundreds who have turned out for SRC events need to “move on.” We are just as much a part of this community as you are.

  • Look

    How can you claim the SRC is irrelevant or not making progress when many of the cuts have been frozen and space has been opened up for faculty to begin a transparent review and potential reversal of the cuts? By saying that the message is “stale” and the group “hasn’t prevailed” you’re just revealing that you’re not following the issue closely and aren’t aware of the substantive gains that have been made against the cuts these past months. I know it can be hard to track and follow all of this stuff, but a *lot* of people DO care, and passionately, about what’s going on – and progress IS being made.

    • Active Student

      To begin, I am a student here at Emory – one who has somewhat been affected by the changes. The comments you make show how little you know about the reorganization in the first place. Nothing has been “frozen” – actually, the pace at which things are moving is that which was desired in the first place. Nothing was supposed to happen overnight, not even over a period of a single month or semester. The response to allow more time for students to complete their majors/programs was in direct response to student concerns in those programs. It had nothing to do with the SRC – they’ve just been white noise behind the whole thing. While they have brought up some substantive issues, their legitimate concerns have been undermined by false accusations of assault, promotion of the destruction of school property (whether or not they actively spray painted that bathroom, they literally “opened the door” to it happening), posting childish posters about Dean Forman, and creating two fake Twitter accounts to undermine the authority of Dean Forman and the reputation of this university.

      Students, faculty, or administration – nobody is in the position to “demand” anything. Yes, discussion stemming from these decisions will be useful (and hopefully productive if we can all act like adults), but repeating the same message over and over isn’t going to help — or change anything. It has been made clear that the university is moving on, many of the faculty have moved on, and so have most of the students. It’s time for the SRC to either dissolve and have its more educated and mature members participate in these discussions, or realize that they have no authority to be “demanding” anything and keep quiet so those of us interested in progress can move forward and start making changes to get to a better Emory.

      • White Noise?

        Actually job terminations in several cases have been frozen for an additional year and two cut departments may now be allowed to reconstitute – which was previously unthinkable and are all developments directly the result of student activism and the media attention they worked to bring to campus. And as for demanding things, admin demands things all the time – and if by “many” faculty members moving on you mean “a minority in two separate faculty votes” then, sure, some are, and want to, but not most. It just seems to me that you’re not following these developments closely.

        • Active Student

          You don’t really understand the vote that happened, do you? If you had been paying attention, you would have known that the December vote (vote #1) was on two motions. The first (which was the majority of the faculty voting in favor) was to look at other colleges and see how their GovCom-like units work. The second, which passed by a small margin (not a majority, at all), was to review the process that led to the cuts/reorganization. There was nothing in it about reversing them. The second vote, which was again two votes voting on both of the original motions, went the same way – a majority to look at improving GovCom, and a small margin to review the process. There is no minority of which to speak.

          You’re right to say that a majority of these freezes were in response to student concerns – but not those of the SRC. The departments of which you speak are ones that contained a lot of student interest, and to allow students to finish their majors, they’re being “kept open”. As far as the reconstituting of those other departments, that was always somewhat “in the plan”. A good example of this is the Economics grad program – there was never any plan to close it, only to suspend admissions so it could be reorganized. I think the undergrad Economics department could use some reorganizing as well – and I’m an Econ major.

          • Don’t be Silly

            Is there another organized activist group of students advocating for student concerns re the cuts that you’d like to credit? Because I can’t think of a single one.

          • Majority is a Majority

            Here’s the thing – when a vote carries, and when more people vote for it than against it, even by a small margin, that’s called a majority. A majority of faculty support comprehensive review of the cuts. An even larger majority support overhauling GovCom. Given that I’ve read the minutes of those meetings, and had multiple faculty colleagues who attended tell me about the proceedings, I’m not sure where your claims of superior knowledge are coming…especially given your insistence on being an undergraduate,

          • Active Student

            @Don’t be Silly: there is not a group specifically advocating for student concerns re: the cuts, but there are a few new groups formed regarding Student Concerns. I am a member of one of them, and you will be hearing more about them all shortly.

            @Majority: Looks like I had a typo in my previous reply. I was not arguing over the definition of a majority – I was actually taking issue with the use of the word “minority”, which connotes that there were a few dissenters. My point is that while there was an overwhelming majority asking to review GovCom, there was not that overwhelming aspect to the vote to review the cuts. Yes, it was still a majority, but there were nearly as many against the review as for it. To put it this way, would you say an overwhelming majority of Florida voted for President Obama over Romney? Of course not. It was 50% to 49.1% (and for those who will ostensibly call me out over the fact that that does not add up to 100%, there were other candidates who received votes in Florida).

      • SRC member

        There’s no way that you are a student – but nice try.

  • http://gravatar.com/testing2 lol no

    SRC is irrelvant because the group will never get the demands listed in the open letter met by anyone at Emory. Advocacy is one thing, but arguing for an unwinnable argument is what makes SRC irrelvant, especially among employee groups. Move on please…the cuts will not be reversed.

    • http://gravatar.com/jlfrancisco Think Again

      On the contrary, it seems to me that the SRC’s agenda has been very consequential, and already created serious change. Think about it: SRC demands 2 and 3 are noticeably close to the independent reviews of the College’s governance structure and of the cuts specifically that a majority of the College faculty has now twice voted to authorize. SRC demand 1 has not happened, it’s true, but a lot of people see these independent faculty reviews–unprecedented at Emory–basically as votes of no confidence in the dean’s leadership concerning the cuts. Yes the administration keeps repeating that the cuts will not be reversed, but I’m going to sit back and watch. Things are in flux, and I’m guessing that when all is said and done, several of the cuts will have been walked back in substance if not in name. Whatever you think of SRC’s confrontational style, their arguments, distilled in this letter, have been out in front of everyone else’s, and have made a big impact.

    • Grad Student

      That’s not a very nuanced understanding of politics. The simple fact that ANY movement is happening agains the cuts is because of the advocacy of the SRC. A strong left voice on these issues allows for more moderate progress to be made – otherwise there would have been no review at all. In other words, the SRC may not get it demands, but that may not be the point – it’s the space and possibilities having those demands opens up that really matters.

    • SRC member

      For someone who think the SRC’s work is pointless, you sure spend a lot of time responding to it on the Wheel comment board.

  • Grad Student

    Well put think again.

  • Emory student

    These comments show what an echo chamber the SRC has become. It’s too bad. It started out as a really open, inclusive group. Now if you don’t agree with them on everything you get shouted down as a tool. I especially like the way they try to discredit some student here by claiming he’s not a student. Classy.

    • SRC member

      Have you been to a meeting?

      • Active Student

        Also, I want to point out that I have been to a meeting where the SRC has attended – President Wagner’s State of the University address. I went in supporting the SRC’s mission, and left in disgust. I even deleted a posting I had made supporting them. Why? Members booed the President and other speakers, there was one gentleman who thought it appropriate to cackle throughout the speech, and when it came time for open floor questions, there were few constructive questions being asked – only red herrings, long statements, and loaded questions meant to make the President and the University look bad. The questions weren’t the worst of it for me, though – the blatant disrespect to the President, his staff, the faculty, and everyone else in that room took it too far.

        • SRC member

          I’m asking, have you been to an SRC meeting?

          • Active Student

            No – actually, I’ve never seen any information on when or where these “meetings” are taking place. If you’re asking about the meetings with the administration, no, I have not been to those.

        • Calling It

          Meetings are weekly, as are subcommittee gatherings.. Maybe actually attend one of those before commenting on what goes on in them. Making claims about the group meetings without any firsthand knowledge combined with dismissing the SRC as being disrespectful to authority figures is probably part of why people in this thread doubt the authenticity of your arguing from the position of being a student, let alone an informed or active one.

          • Active Student

            As I mentioned below, I’ve yet to see open invitations to said meetings. I did just check out the website and the Facebook page, as mentioned below by @SRC Member, and could not find any information about these meetings.

            I’m going to quickly respond to your two-part accusation above:
            a) re: making claims about the group’s meetings: I have never claimed to have been to an SRC meeting. Another student started this particular thread, and did appear to claim to have attended a meeting. You should ask him if he has. I have been to meetings where members of the SRC have been in attendance, and have seen nothing but disrespect.

            b) re: dismissing the SRC: well, you’re right, I’m going to dismiss them. If they cannot articulate their positions calmly and collectively without booing, heckling, name-calling, etc…, there is no reason they should expect me or any other member of Emory’s collective student body to listen to them. The posters up on the blog are not productive input, nor are the unfounded accusations of assault that I’ve alluded to before.

    • Active Student

      No kidding – it’s one more reason that I can’t take the SRC seriously. If, after all that, the only retort they have against me is that I can’t possibly be a student (which, to clarify, I most certainly am), then how can they be taken seriously by the administration, or by anyone, to help enact change at Emory?

      • SRC member

        Oh, well that certainly clears things up.

        • Active Student

          Do you have something you’d like to ask me? Or would you like to just continue throwing around unfounded false accusations?

          • SRC member

            If you’re interested in helping enact change at Emory, you should check out the SRC’s facebook page (facebook.com/EmoryCuts) or their blog (stopthecutsemory.com). I don’t think you know as much about them as you think you do, and if you’re interested in these issues, you can find about about their meetings on those pages.

          • Active Student

            As I mentioned above, please get me some direct information on these meetings. I’ve just gone about both sites, and can’t find any information.

    • The Meetings Are Advertised Online

      You can check the SRC Facebook feed and Twitter account for meeting details man, that might be place to start getting better informed.

    • Doubtful

      Said student is near verbatim quoting an Emory press release as his own words, which raises skepticism. The bit RE: “spray painting” and vandalism is also a particular tell – that’s what some admin have been saying in their PR talking points, but in reality the destruction of property was just some fool with a sharpie marker … which most everyone who was at the event and isn’t trying to echo the administration’s spin on this knows.

    • Wait

      Wait, you’ve never been to a meeting, but can speak authoritatively on the group dynamics, membership, and how these have changed over time, etc? Sounds like BS to me.

  • Emory Student

    I was at a couple early meetings, and then later ones. It moved from being an open group to a party line – more interested in scoring points than in being a real group. All the name calling above shows what the SRC has become. Too bad.

    • Another Emory Student

      It’s too bad you feel that way. Having been to every single group meeting since the beginning, I for one have a hard time perceiving the “party line” or failures at group inclusivity you mention, and don’t really understand what you mean by scoring points (against whom?). Then again, your attendance at a only handful of meetings may account for that impression – showing up for the beginning of a conversation and then at the end may make someone feel like they aren’t part of the core group of interlocutors, and can give rise to all sorts of mis-perceptions as to who is advocating for what or even as to what the core issues in the dialogue are.

      • Another Emory Student

        Actually now that I think on it the only time I can ever remember anyone doing any shouting or wholesale jettisoning the meeting procedures in the aim of yelling at people, etc., the person or to who did that only had come to the first few meetings … and then one or two at the end …