Last week, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) lifted its month-long, self-imposed suspension on social activities in fraternity houses and released its working action plan to combat sexual assault on Emory’s campus. According to a Nov. 3 statement by the IFC, the organization wanted to “produce tangible and proactive steps mending the flaws in our social culture at Emory” and to “reevaluate how we address the intolerable issues of sexual violence, substance abuse and discrimination” before lifting the ban.
IFC delivered, and the result, after a month of deliberation, is a “living document” that offers short- and long-term solutions within three categories: sexual violence prevention, social event management and communication within and without the Greek community. Although the plan is now being offered up for public feedback online, implementation of short-term goals, such as a test of the new “Safe Walks” program — which will offer escorts and medical assistance to those who need it — are required to be completed by January 15. Long-term projects, including a revised IFC mission statement, are required to be completed by fall 2015. The much of the language in the action plan is clear and unambiguous, and we at the Wheel appreciate that the IFC established a concrete timeline for the completion of its goals.
With respect to the issue of sexual violence prevention, much of the IFC’s plan consists of education and outreach to the Greek community, such as a requirement for each chapter to host a semesterly seminar on either substance abuse or sexual assault prevention, where the chapter will be subject to social probation if less than 75 percent of its members attend. Under the plan, executive chapter members are also required to participate “The Talk,” a program on sexual health education, and a bystander intervention training program will be added to Greek new member training.
When organizing social events, fraternities will be required to hire a licensed bartender or have trained members on hand to tend the already required “beer check.” The action plan provides concise definitions of different types of parties and mandates that, when fraternities co-sponsor an event with other organizations, the partner organization will be required to provide sober risk managers in addition to those provided by the fraternity. In the long term, the plan also asks the University to develop further alcohol education programming for first-year students that will be more engaging than AlcoholEdu, which is currently the only mandatory alcohol education program for incoming students.
We feel that the tasks outlined in the IFC’s plan are important first steps towards solving the problems of substance abuse and sexual violence on Emory’s campus, and IFC deserves recognition for the work it has done in compiling these steps. However, this plan needs to do more to solve problems of sexual violence on our campus. IFC’s plan focuses on issues often related to sexual violence, such as event management and substance abuse, but as this action plan moves into its public feedback phase, we urge IFC and the community to amend the plan to focus more on sexual violence itself. Raising awareness of substance abuse is important in promoting public health and safety, but sexual violence is a multi-faceted issue. Instead of allowing chapters to choose a semesterly seminar on sexual violence or substance abuse, IFC should ask that the seminar solely focus on sexual violence, or have two seminars to focus on each issue. We fear that the root causes of sexual assault, which we do not attach to substance abuse, will be looked over, and instead many events will opt to discuss substance abuse and not engage the Greek community on the issue of sexual violence. We also fear that through these discussions substance abuse will be directly tied to sexual assault – a notion we must try to combat. Additionally, “The Talk” focuses on the importance of sexual health and communication, but we hope that its meetings will discuss sexual violence specifically, and succeed in raising awareness and education on sexual assault on campus.
Furthermore, the plan does not address the male-dominated nature of the space in which fraternity parties are held, an element that can create an unbalanced power dynamic or pressure to engage in sexual activity. The plan rightfully and thoughtfully recommends more collaboration with other student organizations and the creation of the Safe Walks program, which could help students who have lost their friends return to their dorms safely. However, we again recommend the creation of a neutral social event space on campus — without accessible bedrooms upstairs — in order to help combat this uneven power dynamic.
Finally, while the action plan has created positive first steps, IFC should not have lifted its social ban before its action plan was properly communicated or before its short-term goals had been implemented. IFC put this ban into place in response to a sexual assault reported on Nov. 2 and in response to other reported sexual assaults in fraternity houses. While it has already worked to change some procedures in chapters, IFC should not have lifted its ban until fraternity houses were made tangibly safer spaces. In a campus-wide email that was mistakenly sent to many junk email inboxes, IFC President Brian Diener explained that “the prohibition on social life is no longer necessary, as these problems were never going to be solved over the course of a few weeks.” While IFC has certainly worked to create tangible steps, the ban should not have ended for one last weekend of social events. Instead, IFC and the Emory community should have continued to reflect on these problems and returned to school in the spring with thoughts of how to make our school safer for everyone. IFC should have allowed for student responses to its proposal to ensure satisfaction prior to doing so.
As the plan moves into its feedback phase, we hope the Emory community will speak its mind and help IFC work towards improving the state of safety on Eagle Row. IFC should make more effort to promote both awareness of the ban’s end, its action plan and its feedback form and process over social media and other methods. We urge campus organizations that deal in the areas of gender equality and sexual violence – including Sexual Assault Peer Advocates (SAPA), Feminists in Action (FIA), the Respect Program and others – to offer their guidance, and we call on IFC to work enthusiastically with them.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
This upcoming week, students in most academic divisions of Emory University will attend their final lectures of the semester on Monday and Tuesday. Those enrolled in Emory College of Arts and Sciences are granted a single reading day this fall to prepare for their finals.
This “reading period” is a longstanding practice in universities and is among the shortest amidst comparable academic institutions. Harvard University grants students of its college seven reading days, while Washington University in St. Louis sets aside five days before the start of final examinations.
We strongly believe that a single reading day is insufficient for the academically engaging nature and tremendous rigor of the courses taught in the College, and it does little to diminish students’ necessity to forgo sleep in order to prepare themselves for upcoming final examinations. Studies by researchers at The University of California, Los Angeles show that the loss of sleep in favor of studying late into the evening, otherwise known as cramming, is counterproductive for the students involved.
We wish to, once again, urge Dean Robin Forman, The Office of the Registrar, The Office of the Provost and other college administrators to take steps in order to ensure students have an adequate period of time to prepare for their final examinations.
Though the ideal solution would be to allocate at least one additional reading day in the future for the fall semester, which would bring it to parity with the spring’s standard two reading days, we recognize the possible cost this could have on the university in order to retain faculty and staff for an additional day.
Alternatively, Emory College can adopt a policy used at many universities around the country of deeming the week before final examinations a “dead week.” Adopting this policy will not limit a professor’s ability to cover new topics and assign homework in order to reenforce lectures, but would prohibit any projects, essays, quizzes or tests during that period.
We think that a standardized and enforced “dead week” will allow students to begin studying for finals earlier than they have been able to in the past because it will clear away the threat of other academic distractions which, remove a student’s attention from finals.
Until the administration acts, we hope the Student Government Association and divisional councils will use their power as student advocates to lobby for positive change as the transition from the academic year to final examinations occurs at Emory.
We recognize that professors are at the heart of the academic inquiry this university is noted for, and the ability to learn from them is a distinct privilege of each student enrolled at Emory. However, we ask professors to understand the time constraints that each student is under near the end of the semester and be considerate when determining whether to schedule assignments that are due as the term comes to a close.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel.
This article was corrected on Dec. 7, 2014 at 8:10 p.m. to reflect a change in the fifth paragraph, where the word “parody” was changed to “parity.”
Since Wednesday, there have been two protests on Emory’s campus in response to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two highly publicized cases of unarmed black men killed by police officers. In each of these cases, a grand jury declined to indict the police officer involved with the killing, inciting outrage across the country.
On Wednesday night, a crowd of protesters marched from Asbury Circle to the intersection of Clifton Road and Eagle Row, chanting slogans commonly associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, such as “no justice, no peace.” Protesters physically laid down in the intersection, disrupting traffic and evoking images of Brown’s body, which was unmoved from the place where he died for hours after he was shot. On Thursday afternoon, around 200 protesters participated in a “Die-In” in front of Cannon Chapel, featuring speakers from the Candler School of Theology and the Emory community.
We acknowledge that many of us cannot relate to the many acts of aggression our black peers face daily. However, we stand as allies to this cause and hope that our voice contributes to the dialogue surrounding oppression and institutional racism. By no means are we trying to speak for others, and we hope to try our best to stand in solidarity with members of our community. We hope this staff editorial represents our commitment to the movement.
We at the Wheel applaud the protesters and the protests’ organizers for their initiative and courage. These protests are a timely and compelling example of constructive and productive disruption. This disruption was all the more impactful because of the stark contrast it created with Emory’s typically serene, quiet campus — both events utilized the human body to literally stop Atlanta’s traffic, using symbolism as a means to raise awareness. These protests were not solely about Brown’s and Garner’s deaths; these were protests against the systematic and institutional oppression of black people, a calamity that occurs across the United States.
Aside from drawing public attention to the mounting injustice being perpetrated across the country, the protests also called on those who have remained silent on the issue to speak up. Protesters compared silence to the tacit approval of institutionalized racism and asserted that silence is a form of passive violence because it violates the ethical injunction that obliges us to speak out against this barbarism.
Furthermore, the fact that the protest was organized on Facebook attests to the increasing influence of social media and its potential to bring about change in the world.
While we acknowledge the importance of speaking out against injustice, we also recognize that certain members of the community — especially those who have not experienced institutionalized racism in the same way — might feel hesitant to engage in the discourse brewing on campus for fear that their perspectives could be overlooked as irrelevant or deemed offensive. These fears are understandable but, instead of being a deterrent from participation, we believe that members of the community should speak up while being sensitive of what they say.
We applaud Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair for doing just this. In his all-Emory email regarding the protests and open expression, he not only acknowledged the existence and relevancy of the protests, but he encouraged them to continue. We call on President James W. Wagner to follow Dean Nair and make a statement on these very important instances of community outcry. As the president of our University, President Wagner symbolizes our institution, and it is imperative that he, too, stand with our community in such trying times.
The two protests on campus have been effective in drawing attention to this issue. We hope that the Emory community will continue advocating for equal rights for black people and all members of minority groups who face oppression and micro-aggressions on a daily basis. These protests have set a significant precedent for the future, and we are glad to be a part of a community that demands justice and peace. Such representations of activism are more than just members of our community coming together in solidarity of Brown’s and Garner’s deaths — they are reminders that black lives matter.
Let us also remember the civil and human rights history that exists on the ground we walk upon. Atlanta has an important and profound history with the black Civil Rights movement. Atlanta was the home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., held some of the first historically black colleges and universities and is still the home of civil rights legends like U.S. Representative John Lewis and C.T. Vivian. A portion of Vivian’s papers actually reside at Emory, and several professors engage and teach the history and philosophy behind civil and human rights on our own campus. This city has a tradition of peaceful, thoughtful protest, and members of the Emory community have followed in these footsteps.
It will take time for institutional change to happen, but members of our community are inciting social change within our own institution, and this is a necessary first step to nationwide revolution. We encourage Emory to keep fighting — and to stay angry until justice is served.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
As part of an annual tradition in its issue before Thanksgiving, the Wheel gives thanks to the positive aspects of Emory’s campus we often take for granted. Here is a list of things we’re thankful for:
Emory’s Partnership with Georgia Tech: From the most recent news of collaborations surrounding the new Library Services Center on Briarcliff campus and winning grants for research on concussion-caused brain impairment to our dual-degree programs in engineering and liberal arts, Emory’s long-standing and constantly growing partnership with Georgia Tech is something for which we are thankful. The combination of two top-tier institutions sharing their research, resources and strengths with each other continues to create opportunities, where University President James W. Wagner says that “one plus one is greater than two.” We are confident that this partnership will benefit the schools and society for years to come.
Wonderful Wednesdays: Wonderful Wednesdays make getting through the week more bearable. Seeing the festivities and happy students dancing to upbeat music brings life to the often monotonous routine we fall into every week. Through this event, students, especially freshmen, get to learn about clubs and organizations from all across campus. Whether you get a free shot glass from Residence Life and Housing or get to play with puppies in order to de-stress, Wonderful Wednesday is something central to Emory’s school spirit and history. We are thankful for the weekly fun, food, friends and free stuff that only Wonderful Wednesday can provide.
Sexual Assault Prevention: We are also thankful for a campus that is actively looking for ways to prevent sexual assault. A recent article in Rolling Stone showcased institutional, horrific problems within the University of Virginia and its response to sexual assault cases, exhibiting sexual assault survivors who felt alienated from their college administration. While Emory is also imperfect in this respect, we are thankful to be at a University with faculty, students and some administrators that have demonstrated a clear advocacy for sexual violence prevention on our campus. Programs like the Respect Program and Sexual Assault Peer Advocates (SAPA), administrative tools like the new Standing Committee for the Prevention of Sexual Violence and the many individual student and faculty advocates show that our University is moving to a view of no-tolerance towards sexual assault and towards a true community of care.
The Interfraternity Council (IFC): The IFC has taken a greater active role this school year in implementing and affecting positive changes in the Greek community on campus. With their self-imposed ban on social activities as part of “tangible and proactive steps to mend the flaws in [the] social culture at Emory,” we are thankful the IFC is standing up to make a positive change.
Guest Speakers: Emory consistently draws remarkable guest speakers and makes a point to make these lectures and events accessible to us students. Last week alone, Emory hosted Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chief of Staff Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming. The guests that Emory brings to the table have ranged from public officials to iconic artists, featuring individuals who are outstanding in specialized fields, and thus may appeal to students studying a particular topic. Emory’s consistently impressive array of guest speakers spreads a wealth of knowledge across universities and expands the community’s intellectual horizons.
Library Resources: We owe a great deal to the substantial amount of resources made available to students, faculty, and affiliates. The Robert W. Woodruff Library in particular is ranked amongst the top university libraries in the country, with plentiful resources including the Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library (MARBL), the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS), Interlibrary Loan (ILL) and the Marian K. Heilbrun Music and Media Library, the reference librarians that are always available to help, the free Lynda tutorials, the huge online databases, the large collection of books, microfilm/microfiche, the government documents and so much more. Emory is No. 5 among universities with the highest licensing revenue per dollars spent on research, based on an analysis of Association of University Technology, which would not be possible without these resources we have.
Creative Opportunities: We’re thankful for the creative outlets that are available for students throughout the community. Students are able to exercise their creative side through publications like student radio WMRE and its music and culture zine, Frequency, the literary Lullwater Review, creative anthology The pulse and humor magazine the Spoke allow students to express themselves outside of the bounds of the classroom. These are great opportunities for students to have their work published and shared across campus. Even for the less creatively inclined, these publications are a chance to read and engage with the work of their peers.
Sports at Emory: We are thankful for our student athletes at Emory. They may not always get the perks and glory of their Division I counterparts, but Emory’s athletes nonetheless work hard enough to consistently compete on the national level, all while going to class and doing homework like the rest of us. They put a tremendous amount of extra sweat and tears into making us proud to be Emory students. We are also thankful for the athletic department as a whole, especially the coaches and administrators, for fostering programs that are able to compete at such a high level. Additionally, we appreciate the University for nurturing such a wide array of club and intramural sports, as well as the students who put their time into running those club teams. Likewise, we’re thankful for the Play Emory program. Between varsity, club and intramural sports and Play Emory, there is a way for almost everyone to stay healthy and fit, while doing things they love.
Erika H. James: We are grateful for new leadership in the Goizueta Business School with Dean Erika H. James. Not only has she has accomplished much in her first couple months, she has also worked actively with the Goizueta community to assess the state of the business school. James met with students and faculty in a town hall setting to learn about challenges the school faces and ways to overcome them. In only her first few months, James was named to Ebony magazine’s “Power 100” list of “the most influential and intriguing men and women in Black America.” We look forward to where James will lead the business school over her tenure.
Ebola Treatment: We are thankful for the University’s swift and adept management of the four cases of the Ebola virus that were brought to our campus. In caring for these patients, Emory University Hospital proved itself to be one of the few facilities in the world that could contain the virus and successfully treat it without putting health care workers and other individuals at risk. The international attention brought with these patients showcased our school as one of considerable humanitarian ethics and medical expertise.
Committed Professors: We’re thankful for professors and instructors who go beyond the classroom and make it a part of their job description to help their students succeed even after their course ends. Professors are the foundation of educational institutions, and we’re thankful that Emory hosts some of the most dedicated professors, who ensure that their students’ learning experiences are applicable to the outside world. Additionally, we’re thankful for professors who not only teach their students the topic at hand but teach lessons that students can take and use to make their personal lives and the lives of others more fruitful. Without these kinds of professors — who dedicate their personal time to helping students learn and become better members of society — classroom experiences would be dull and uninformative. We’re thankful for those professors who transcend the bare-minimum.
Emory Employees: We are especially thankful for the hard work of the non-faculty employees at Emory whom we depend on whether we are conscious of it or not. We thank the exceptional shuttle service, without which we would be at the mercy of exorbitant parking rates or own feet to get around. We are thankful for the food service staff members who provide us with the means to remain focused on our academic work. We thank the custodial staff for maintaining a clean, beautiful environment. Finally, we appreciate the Emory Police and the security guards on campus who provide safety for many. Many Emory community members may take these services for granted, but the contributions of the Emory staff and employees enable us to thrive on this campus.
Many others on our campus deserve recognition and thanks. If you feel some aspect of Emory life has been left off this list, please write to Editorials Editor Rhett Henry with your contributions and reasoning. Happy Thanksgiving, and we hope everyone has a safe and satisfying break.
The Sexual Violence Prevention Visioning Task Force, convened last April by Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Claire Sterk and Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair, recently released a report detailing recommendations for sexual assault prevention at Emory, following the guidelines of a White House task force report aiming to protect students from sexual assault.
The Emory Task Force and its recommendations resulted in the Standing Committee for the Prevention of Sexual Violence, a governance entity approved by the University Senate on Oct. 28 that aims to be data-driven and to support comprehensive sexual assault programming, according to the report.
The report recommends that the Standing Committee conduct climate surveys among the student body beginning in Spring 2015 in order to gather data on the sources and effects of sexual violence on our campus. Instruments to collect this data will be both University-specific and used to compare data gathered by other colleges that are responding to the White House’s report. These findings will be widely publicized so that the community can appropriately engage in conversations on sexual violence prevention and response. The ultimate goal that the Task Force sets for the Standing Committee is to increase the number of students coming forth to report sexual assault, relative to the number of sexual assaults that occur.
We commend the Task Force for its relatively quick release of recommendations. Further, the Task Force cooperated with a representative of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and several members of the Rollins School of Public Health, and the Task Force asserts that sexual assault is a public health issue. Not only does sexual assault jeopardize the mental health of the survivor, but it is also harmful to the entire community in which the assault occurs, the report asserts.
The Task Force and its framing of sexual assault as a threat to public health challenges the belief that sexual assault is a wholly private matter. It is important that the community be made aware of the prevalence of sexual assault on campus in order for us to be able to take the proper measures to combat against it.
We hope this committee will improve sexual assault prevention programming in our community. While the guidelines and details for the function of this committee as listed in the report are somewhat vague — most of the report lacks concrete recommendations and action-steps — we understand that the Task Force is meant to be a visioning body for the University. We sincerely hope that the recommendations outlined in the report will become materialized through concrete action and programming. Additionally, we are eager to see how the Interfraternity Council (IFC) uses this report.
We applaud the concrete recommendations for enhancing existing programming with further fiscal resources and personnel, where the report specifically mentions existing programs that address sexual assault and prevention like Sexual Assault Peer Advocates (SAPA), The Talk, online module Haven and Creating Emory. While all students entering college are now exposed to sexual assault prevention awareness through programs like Creating Emory and Haven, we are wary of the engagement of students with these programs during orientation week, especially as many first-years report inattention and disengagement during the sessions. Nevertheless, we believe that the efforts put forth by these programs are still important to educate first-years on the realities of sexual assault and how they can play a part to prevent this systemic issue. For programs like The Talk, which attempts to engage the Greek community in discussion of healthy sexuality, we hope that the Committee explores ways to increase student interaction and engagement, especially with topics more difficult to discuss like sexual violence. In addition, we commend the recommendations of extending sexual violence prevention programming throughout each student’s time at Emory.
An email sent by the Office of Provost entitled “Courageous Inquiry 1.0” discussed President James W. Wagner’s commitment to Emory’s Vision Statement, stating that “during the presidency of James Wagner, Emory has embraced a strategic vision that aspires to nothing short of greatness.” While there is considerable potential strength within this University Vision Statement and its promulgation, Wagner and other members of the Emory administration should speak out directly against sexual assault, exhibiting commitment to its prevention. This is the defining issue of our time at the University right now, and it is imperative for our President to communicate on sexual assault prevention in order to uphold our own standards as an “inquiry-driven, ethically engaged and diverse community.” Let us all — committees, administrators, students, staff, faculty and Presidents — stand with survivors of sexual assault and against these intolerable acts. Let us all show members of our community who have been indirectly and/or directly impacted by such heinous acts that they are not alone.
Last Wednesday, a panel hosted by student initiative Freedom at Emory, an organization founded in response to Emory’s current policy regarding undocumented students, brought together both documented and undocumented students in a discussion of current policies limiting the latter’s right to a higher education.
Freedom at Emory, which formed this year, is an offshoot of the Atlanta-based organization Freedom University which advocates for the right of undocumented students to a higher education.
We applaud the courage of those students who shared personal accounts of growing up without the legal status of being U.S. citizens. This dialogue broadens the perspectives of those who attend Emory as documented citizens to the struggle that some face. According to the National Immigration Law Center, only about five to 10 percent of undocumented high school graduates continue to college, as compared to about 75 percent of their documented classmates.
Many of the 1.4 million college-age immigrants living in this country did not actively choose to come here. These students cannot be blamed for refusing to take the appropriate measures toward becoming naturalized citizens either, since many have gone through the process and still been unable to attain citizenship, a symbol of the inadequacies of the U.S. immigration system.
Immigration policies in the United States send a clear message to potential immigrants worldwide: although this nation was founded by immigrants and its economic grandeur fueled by immigrants, the U.S. government no longer wants any immigrants. Were it left entirely up to some, we would likely shut our borders altogether and practice migratory isolationism.
Emory admits undocumented students to its colleges; however, undocumented students are not eligible for in-state or federally-reduced tuition. Instead, the University’s financial aid system considers all undocumented students as international students, increasing the price of Emory tuition by an extreme amount.
This has important implications for undocumented students in Georgia. According to the Georgia Board of Regents’ policy 4.1.6, undocumented students are barred from applying to the top five public universities in Georgia, even if they meet Georgia’s residency requirements.
The implication alone behind this stipulation is abhorrent. The Board of Regents not only refuses to acknowledge the rights of undocumented students, some who are American in every sense other than their legal status, but the Board also refuses these students the right to attend the so-called best universities in Georgia. If undocumented students in Georgia cannot attend its best universities, Emory, a private university, should create opportunities for undocumented students to achieve the best education.
Freedom at Emory references Emory’s Equal Opportunity Policy which, similarly to the Board of Regents’ anti-discrimination policy, provides equal opportunity in terms of admission, educational programs and employment “to all individuals regardless of race, color, religion, ethnic or national origin, gender, genetic information, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and veteran’s status.” Emory does not factor a student’s documentation status in its equal opportunity measure, but in order to truly be a University that values diversity and to ethically lessen burdens faced by undocumented students, the University should include documentation status in its affirmative action measures.
In its University Vision Statement, Emory envisions itself as “ethically engaged” and “diverse.” In order to work toward these goals, the University should decrease its barrier imposed against undocumented students, which undermines Emory’s commitment to ethnic, racial and socioeconomic diversity and engaged ethics.
Additionally, as other editorials and letters to the editor have stated, the University should provide both need-based and merit-based scholarships. Emory already allows undocumented students to apply for merit-based scholarships, but these scholarships are often not enough for students who cannot accept them if limited by financial hardships.
We urge the University to actively — and ethically — engage with this issue, acknowledging the need for undocumented students to have access to all kinds of education. If some federal or state regulations impede these recommendations, the University should explicitly state so, creating online resources for undocumented students to understand exactly what kind of financial aid they are able to receive.
What is legal is not always what is ethical. As an institution with high ethical standards, Emory has an obligation to address this crisis of millions of students without access to higher education. What kind of policy is it to bar certain students from achieving the best education that they deserve, a policy that echoes historical discrimination and racism in this country?
While it is unlikely we can expect an overhaul of the state law prohibiting in-state tuition for undocumented residents, as a private institution, Emory can join the movement of schools that are differentiating themselves from long-standing exclusion of undocumented students. Universities like Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton and Yale have included need-blind admissions and met full demonstrated need for international and U.S. students. Yesterday, New York University announced that it would offer scholarships to undocumented students who have lived in New York for three years.
Let Emory lead by an additional ethical example.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
Last year, the Wheel decided to add trigger warnings on stories where we cover sexual assault.
We believe that, especially with reports of sexual assault around our campus, it was an easy, harmless addition to the beginning of our stories that might alert students of potentially triggering material.
There has recently been growing controversy over the use of trigger warnings both in the media and academia. A recent op-ed by Harvey Silverglate in The Wall Street Journal titled “Liberals Are Killing the Liberal Arts” condemns the use of trigger warnings for stifling freedom of speech.
Trigger warnings are perceived by some to verge on censorship, or at the very least to deter people from reading content they might otherwise have read. We have come a long way since the age of complete censorship and are glad that members of society today, at times, feel comfortable to talk about what previously was considered unthinkable. We are now able to acknowledge the realities of violence and recognize the many calamities that occur on a day-to-day basis. Critics argue that the presence of trigger warnings above articles prevents certain readers from exposing themselves to unsettling content. Further, when used to describe books, critics argue that trigger warnings oversimplify the content, which might dissuade students from considering them as worthwhile reads.
“The risk of oversimplification is easily countered by the fact that students will go on to read the book and experience its full complexity,” Huffington Post editor Claire Fallon writes in response to the latter allegation. “It’s hard to imagine that 10 words of warning about a graphic scene would carry more weight than the experience of reading the book itself.” Such slippery-slope arguments that trigger warnings coddle our society or that they oversimplify books completely disregard the essential function of trigger warnings in news media.
Trigger warnings serve a very specific purpose, which is to avoid causing unnecessary harm towards those who have been physically or psychologically traumatized. It is not that trigger warnings try to solely limit offense; people who have encountered sexual assault and other traumatic experiences have been shown to exhibit symptoms similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), including people that have directly experienced genocide, sexual assault or racial violence. A trigger warning makes readers who have undergone such traumatic experiences aware that the article they are about to read contains themes that might trigger those bad memories, and it allows such readers to prepare themselves for the content or to choose not to read it.
We want to emphasize the difference between a warning and censorship. Trigger warnings serve as a public service, informing people of potentially offensive or triggering content. We do not encourage professors or media providers to censor or choose not to use or show material because it may be triggering, but instead they should allow people to be informed about sensitive issues that the material may contain. There are many people at this University, a diverse community, who may have had traumatic experiences, and they should be given the opportunity to know if an article or book will contain triggering information.
Additionally, the idea of trigger warnings is not a new one. While some people may have negative connotations with the phrase, warnings for sensitive material have existed for decades, such as with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which has been warning moviegoers of violence, sexuality and profanity since the 1920s. Additionally, many people have lobbied for news television channels to warn viewers when they show disturbing images, such as when broadcasting the beheadings of Western journalists by ISIS agents or live footage of the Boston Marathon bombing, where dead and wounded bodies are shown.
Trigger warning should also be utilized in the classroom. Trigger warnings in course atlas descriptions and syllabi are appropriate. Just like in the headlines, trigger warnings do not by any means necessitate nonparticipation by the sensitive student; rather, they afford such students the decision of exposing themselves to potential triggers, just like movie ratings afford moviegoers the right to make an informed decision.
Not every material dealing with triggering content necessarily needs a label — the concept of trigger warnings can be applied through simple communication. Professors should make an effort to communicate when lectures or reading will deal with sensitive, potentially painful content. What is the harm in doing this, when it might prepare someone who could be affected? The effects of these very real situations of sexual, racial and other kinds of violence are such that affected people can have symptoms of anxiety.
We encourage professors to include trigger warnings in their syllabi and warn students when a class discussion may be particularly triggering. They should be understanding when students need to miss or excuse themselves from class due to triggering material. Students should not have to choose between their participation grade and the risk of being forced to relive distressful memories.
Many people take spoiler alerts pretty seriously and take great strides to make sure that movies and television shows are not ruined for us — things that we encounter not personally but on a screen. Why can we not practice the same due diligence when it comes to actual human encounters?
The cost is virtually nil, but the potential benefit is the avoidance of triggering sensitive readers. Why not take our mental health and that of our peers seriously?
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
This fall, Emory’s Institute for Quantitative Theory and Methods (QTM) officially announced the College’s new Quantitative Sciences (QSS) major.
According to the Institute’s website, the major will combine an approach “that is quantitatively rigorous, but with a clear applied component.” Additionally, the major will include classes that are Curriculum Committee-approved, such as informatics, biology, behavioral biology, neuroscience and majors that fall under the social sciences umbrella. Whatever concentration the student chooses will function as an additional major coupled with QSS.
Through this coupling, the QSS major takes an interdisciplinary approach, focusing elective classes within other departments, including those in the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities. Some specifically named departments that QSS majors can concentrate in include International Studies, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Psychology, Anthropology and Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology. We at The Emory Wheel find the addition of this new major to be a creative and distinct addition to the College.
The ability to gather massive amounts of information is an unprecedented turn in human development, and with it comes the need to sift through and interpret information. This turn towards ‘Big Data’ has implications across many fields. As businesses are leveraging huge amounts of information to maximize profit, so, too, do academics, non-profit foundations and governmental organizations take advantage of the research capable with such enormous data sets. The ability to effectively work with these kinds of data sets becomes an increasingly valuable skill.
In developing this program, Emory is developing a niche within quantitative science. The only prerequisite for the degree program is Calculus I, creating an accessible major that will not intimidate interested students. Because QSS is interdisciplinary in its approach, the degree will likely attract students who are interested in diverse fields but also want to concentrate their studies in data-heavy analysis. QSS offers opportunities for students to relate their academic pursuits to the digital world and creates a significant theoretical and practical advantage for Emory students engaging with the world. Many of us have access to enormous technological resources, but rarely do we learn how to engage with them beyond a superficial level. Most of us use social media websites, but learning the skills and ideas from QSS can teach us how to identify and map trends within a vast variety of fields.
QSS falls in line with Emory’s work to develop unique, substantive and forward-thinking research resources.
One such example includes the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS), housed on the third floor of the Robert W. Woodruff Library, which, according to the ECDS website, “provides consultation and support for digital teaching, research, publishing and preservation.” Besides assisting members of the Emory community in their own projects, ECDS also pursues it own research projects and exhibitions, such as the “Battle of Atlanta” tour, a smartphone-based exploration around Atlanta that details the history of the Civil War’s famous Battle of Atlanta. These, along with the rich resources of the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Library (MARBL) and Emory’s generally vast library resources show that Emory has worked to develop itself as a distinct presence among research-oriented universities. With its interdisciplinary approach, the QSS major can be used to support and expand these resources through its analytic and statistics-based education.
The QSS major offers students a valuable opportunity, and we hope it grows to include concentrations in even more departments and programs, especially in the humanities, where big data can enrich existing areas of study and discover new horizons of research across academia. We are enthused to see a program like this develop at Emory and encourage further innovations in the educational opportunities offered to students. The advances of digital technology offer fruitful opportunities to create entirely new frameworks for conducting research in the modern world. The QSS major is just one step in furthering Emory’s viability and strength as a top-tier research university.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
On Oct. 31, a female reported a sexual assault at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house, according to a Nov. 2 all-Emory email.
As a result of the reported assault and several recent instances of sexual violence, substance abuse and discrimination on campus, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) enacted a self-imposed ban of social activities until there is evidence of “tangible and proactive steps mending the flaws in [the] social culture at Emory,” according to a Nov. 2 IFC statement.
We at the Wheel would like to applaud Emory’s and IFC’s reaction to this terrible incident and the underlying issues surrounding sexual assault. As a result of advocacy from Sexual Assault Peer Advocates (SAPA), the all-Emory alert began by reminding the community that no individual asks to be sexually assaulted and included improved language regarding safety tips that avoided victim-blaming.
We commend IFC for taking an appropriate and timely response, taking ownership of enacting change within the Greek community. This response attempts to match the level of severity for sexual assault, and it is the first time in recent memory that such a response has occurred toward a sexual assault at a fraternity. While ultimately, a ban imposed by the Emory administration may have had the same effect, it is an important symbolic gesture that the call to action came from IFC, an organization led by students in fraternities.
Some members of the Greek community and fraternities have voiced perspective of the social ban as a punishment. While the ban has a punitive effect in that it withholds a privilege to have social events, it is a gross misinterpretation to see this exclusively as a punishment. Rather, the ban ought to be seen as a safety measure for students and an opportunity for fraternities to reflect on why sexual assault happens and on the measures that can be taken to prevent it. We ask fraternity members to consciously think about the culture and context surrounding certain behavior exhibited within their community, to move forward gracefully and to handle the IFC decision with maturity, patience and collaboration.
While the ban on social events is only a temporary fix to a larger problem, this is a crucial juncture for changing aspects of a negative culture surrounding Greek life and social events on campus. This is the time to reevaluate the outward reflection of what Greek organizations stand for and for members of Greek organizations to think less about partying and more about opportunities for leadership, scholarship and service.
We recognize that many students, both inside and outside of the Greek community, may still see this as a war against the lifestyle that they have cultivated, but this view impedes progress towards addressing the issue. Instead, members of fraternities should hold themselves and one another accountable for what happens in their houses and take action to prevent sexual assault.
We at the Wheel offer some suggestions that can serve as proactive steps moving forward in the coming days.
First, every member of Greek life should be educated about sexual assault, including SAPA training and bystander intervention. While incoming first-year students are now exposed to basic information about sexual assault and intervention through the Creating Emory program, there is no reason that education should not continue, especially if the trainings are tailored to Greek life and specific issues concerning it.
Although the risks and potential for sexual assault cannot ever be entirely mitigated, education is a valuable first step in fighting rape culture and promoting a safe environment. Additionally, eliminating parties with themes that are misogynistic, promote rape culture or create an atmosphere of sexual degradation should go hand-in-hand with reeducation. Parties called “Business Bros and Secretary Hos” or themed after the Red Light District should not occur on a campus that promotes equality and inclusivity.
Another step should be to increase programming and partnerships with non-Greek organizations in order to create more interconnectedness on campus. Additionally, the University should consider creating a neutral, non-residential social space on campus, perhaps on Eagle Row, where non-Greek organizations can host their own social events. There is a considerable, subconscious power dynamic that occurs in a fraternity house, where a number of private bedrooms just upstairs from a party can add to isolated encounters with strangers, pressures to have sex and perhaps entitlement for those who live in those houses. While this is not a conscious element in the minds of every resident of a fraternity house, this is the underlying structure of the space. If there was a space created for anyone to book and use for social events, Emory could create a truly neutral space for everyone.
Finally, there should be increased dialogue between the administration and Greek life. No member of campus should feel that the University is working against them, and we hope the University and IFC are taking measures to ensure that members of Greek life fully understand the rationale and importance of this ban.
For the Emory community to move forward and address the seriousness of sexual assault, we must work together to create a culture that is safe for all students and learn from our past to grow in the future. Every Emory community member should be aware of how absolutely severe this problem is on our campus, and we should all treat it with its deserving attention and respect.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
As millions of Americans head to the polls today, we at the Wheel hope that Emory students too will exercise their rights to vote — in Georgia.
Emory students can register to vote in Georgia even if they are from a different state. Students from outside the state usually spend more time in Georgia during a four-year term than their home states, and Emory students should be aware of both how their votes in local and state-wide elections can affect Emory, their daily lives in Georgia and the political makeup of the state.
While Georgia may have a reputation as a red-blooded conservative state, its demographics have shifted massively — and quickly — in recent years. With larger influxes of ethnic minorities and other group that tend to vote Democratic, Georgia has caught national attention for being “purple,” meaning that both conservative and liberal candidates have chances of success.
At Emory, we may see our time in Atlanta and Georgia as temporary and transitory. However, there is real potential for Emory students’ votes to matter and impact the community around them, whether they stay in that community for one year or 10 years. While we may live in the “Emory Bubble,” we are still members of an Atlanta and Georgia community and should recognize our role in a larger network.
Many students on Emory’s campus have significantly mobilized to assist in various political campaigns, especially for those of gubernatorial Democratic candidate Jason Carter and U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn. The political engagement of these students serves as a stark contrast to the apathy toward local politics present in other parts of the student body. We applaud those students who have acted on their civic interests, especially on those students who have attempted to increase awareness of voting registration in Georgia.
We encourage our fellow Emory students to consider participating in the local and state elections here in DeKalb County. Relevant issues with immediate, pragmatic impact are regularly on the ballot, from legalizing Sunday sales of alcohol in some counties to improving infrastructure that would directly benefit Emory. In 2012, a MARTA line to Emory was proposed in the T-SPLOST transportation referendum, but the initiative failed. Since public transit options to Emory are limited, this would be a significant issue to many Emory students. Today, Druid Hills, where many Emory students reside, is considering cityhood options and annexation by the City of Atlanta through surveys, and a referendum is likely to follow. These are issues that many students may want to participate in, but students and the University should engage with and educate themselves about local politics more.
Emory University should work to increase awareness among the student body of opportunities to exercise their right to vote. Emory University’s mission statement is “to create, preserve, teach and apply knowledge in the service of humanity.” Cultivating a sense of civic duty in Emory’s student body should be a top priority, for it helps actualize all of these goals. State and national governments should act to make Election Day a national holiday because not doing so creates an opportunity cost that may lessen voting turnout and leads to a disproportional impact on lower-income individuals and those who may not easily reach a voting location. While this national holiday may not come to fruition, we encourage private universities like Emory to consider ways to lessen the opportunity costs or other burdens of voting for students and other Emory community members. The University has already taken steps to do so by providing shuttles to a voting location today for already registered voters.
It is both our right and responsibility to get informed about current candidates and issues. We have the power to make a positive impact on our community, and even if your vote lies in the minority, your vote functions as a symbolic gesture to our elected leaders. Every voice must be heard, even when it is not the most powerful. Even if you do not vote today, we encourage you to research and explore the opportunities afforded you as a citizen and to vote in future elections.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
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