CFAC Resigns Due to New Review Committee

All members of the College Financial Advisory Committee (CFAC), the group that helped College Dean Robin Forman evaluate departments in a process that culminated in the changes announced last semester, have resigned from the committee, effective immediately.

Stefan Lutz, the chair of the Emory College Governance Committee (GovCom), announced CFAC’s resignation in an email to College faculty Wednesday morning. GovCom is Emory’s main governing faculty body under which CFAC falls.

CFAC members declared their decision to resign in a March 6 letter to Lutz, who noted that the delay in the announcement of the resignation was due to the fact that spring break took place right after he first received word of the situation.

“I didn’t think it would be helpful [to inform them of CFAC's resignation] while people were all over the country, so I made the call that I thought it was sensible to send it out afterwards,” Lutz said, adding that he had also been busy managing two College faculty meetings while teaching and working with a research group on the side.

CFAC wrote in the letter that the investigation of the process that led to the changes, currently being conducted by the newly-formed Payne committee, would entail an investigation of the counsel and CFAC’s conversations.

“The current members of the committee can only interpret this decision in the light of votes and statements made at previous Emory College faculty meetings as a vote of no confidence in the Financial Advisory Committee,” CFAC wrote in its letter. “Any further work and advice given by the committee to the Dean of Emory College after this vote would be placed in question. Under these conditions, the members of the Financial Advisory Committee see no alternative but to resign effective immediately.”

Faculty voted at last month’s meeting in favor of a motion that would nominate and elect faculty members to an independent board to review the processes involved in implementing the department changes. The College and Laney Graduate School announced in emails to the student body in mid-September that they would “phase out” and suspend admissions to several programs and departments, respectively.

In addition to Micheal Giles, a professor of political science who served as CFAC’s chairman, committee members included Keith Berland, associate professor of physics; Huw Davies, professor of chemistry; Pam Hall, associate professor of religion; Bobbi Patterson, senior lecturer of religion and Rick Rubinson, associate dean and professor of sociology.

The group slightly reduced funding for several institutes and programs starting in 2008 after its formation under former College Dean Bobby Paul. At one point, though, Forman — whom the committee reported to — requested that certain programs be eliminated, according to a Sept. 20 Wheel article.

In Lutz’s announcement of CFAC’s resignation to College faculty, Lutz noted that GovCom will not establish a new faculty advisory committee. Still, he wrote, the formation of a new committee might be considered after the investigation is complete.

“GovCom thanked the committee members for their service and accepted their resignation effective immediately,” Lutz wrote to the College faculty. He declined to personally comment further.

In an interview with the Wheel, Giles said the decision to create the independent review committee is “a clear indication that there was a lack of trust in the work that had been done.”

“That lack of trust is the equivalent of no confidence,” Giles said.

But Chair of the Department of Film and Media Studies Matthew Bernstein, an at-large representative for the Payne committee, wrote in an email to the Wheel that he does not feel the creation of the group expresses a vote of no confidence in CFAC, but rather in faculty governance as it currently stands and “the processes and procedures they were instructed to undertake by various faculty governance structures.”

At the same time, though, Bernstein wrote that he agrees that College faculty as a whole would challenge any further advice CFAC provides to Forman.

“This would happen whether or not the faculty had voted the ‘Payne Committee’ into existence,” Bernstein wrote.

He added that the vote to create the Payne committee was extremely close, which provides an “important perspective on the issue of whether or not the faculty had no confidence in CFAC.”

In terms of what Bernstein described as faculty governance being “problematic, and for many reasons,” Bernstein pointed to the development of the Scully Committee, which aims to reform faculty governance.

Forman wrote in an email to the Wheel that he understands CFAC’s decision to resign. The department changes will proceed as planned, he wrote.

“[I] agree with their assessment that at this time, it would be difficult for [CFAC] to advise me on any issue of substance,” he wrote. “… I have always greatly valued their guidance and advice, and I am sorry that I will lose that.”

Giles also described the formation of a review committee to investigative a dually appointed committee as “unprecedented.”

“I think that probably raises some issues about how faculty governance works in the future,” Giles said.

Berland agreed, noting that there is a “potential danger when faculty initiate a formal investigation of their colleague’s service.” This, he said, can discourage other faculty from serving in advisory or governance roles, especially when a major decision is being made.

“Faculty input is certainly needed, and existence of this kind of review may discourage some people … from participating in the areas [that] there may be controversy, even though that’s where they are most needed,” Berland said.

Some CFAC members had informed Forman about the possibility of resignation beforehand, according to Forman, though he did not get official word on the matter until he received a copy of the letter CFAC sent to GovCom. Regardless, he said he has “nothing but the greatest of respect and gratitude” for the faculty who served on CFAC, adding that he feels they took on an “unimaginably difficult task.”

Meanwhile, the Payne committee — named after Associate Professor in the Department of History Matthew Payne, who proposed its creation — has yet to meet following the resignation announcement, according to Oded Borowski, the Payne committee’s representative for the Humanities division in the College and a professor of biblical archeology and Hebrew.

Aside from Borowski and Bernstein, committee members include Professor of Psychology Scott Lilienfeld, who serves as the Social Sciences representative; Charles Howard Candler Professor of Chemistry Fred Menger, Natural Science and Math representative and Goodrich C. White Professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies Gordon Newby, also at-large representative.

The Payne committee has held one meeting thus far, during which its members aimed to “try and clarify the charge,” in reference to what the committee is going to study and how it will do so, Borowski wrote in an email to the Wheel.

Borowski said Humanities faculty voted him into the committee after receiving nominations from colleagues and agreeing to serve.

The Payne committee’s second meeting will take place next week.

Editor-in-Chief Arianna Skibell, News Editor Nicholas Sommariva and Asst. News Editors Karishma Mehrotra and Dustin Slade contributed reporting.

 — By Jordan Friedman

This story was updated March 29 at 11:23 a.m.

  • Dr. Matthew Payne

    I should note as the author of the motion which introduced the “Payne Committee” that nothing in the charge for the review questioned the integrity of the faculty members involved in the review and did not call for an investigation of the decisions, but rather the decision-making process (including the criteria used make these decisions, how information was gathered, how the decisions were communicated to affected departments and whether appeals of the decisions made were possible within the process). The motion argued, and the faculty agreed, that transparency was needed to understand how the cuts were decided and what precedent they were setting. I regret that the CFAC members felt that by appointing a review committee the faculty was expressing a lack of confidence in their work. I think it would be entirely inappropriate to draw such conclusions prior to the review committee delivering in its finding. I also believe that the sentiment expressed by Dr. Berland that such reviews would discourage service is problematic. I would expect all faculty governance to be transparent and open and hardly think that a committee that reviewed numerous Departments continued existence should react to a review of their own decision-making process as untoward. The analogy made at the time of debate over the review committee was to the Tenure and Promotion Committee–that while its decisions are confidential, it should be able to convey its criteria for making said decisions and, indeed, is subject to review and a process where individual faculty members can appeal its decisions. The review committee may be unprecedented, but then again, so was the formation of the CFAC and the process which has led to the shuttering of a number of departments and the suspension of graduate degree programs. As I said, I regret that some faculty believe better clarity on how these extraordinary events were decided represents a vote of no confidence in their service but I do not share their assessment. The faculty, as it proved yesterday, is quite capable of chosing to put no confidence votes on the table at the highest level. It chose not to do so in the case of the CFAC but rather opted for a review. I think that is a quite important distinction to make clear here. Respectfully.

  • Why was news from March 6 released by GovCom on March 27?

    Did the Wheel inquire as to why GovCom chair Lutz announced CFAC’s resignation to College faculty on March 27th, even though he received the resignation on March 6th? Is the delay significant? Also, there was a regularly scheduled college faculty meeting on March 20th where the news might have been delivered and even discussed. Why did Lutz wait til the morning of the special faculty meeting on the no confidence motion to deliver the news? Perhaps the Wheel can do a follow up on this angle.

    • Raoul Dukakis

      That’s a damn good question.

    • admin

      Thank you for your comment. The story has been updated to reflect this information.

      • Raoul Dukakis

        Sorry, I’m not seeing the update. Specifically RE this:

        “Some CFAC members had informed Forman about the possibility of resignation beforehand, according to Forman, though he did not get official word on the matter until he received a copy of the letter CFAC sent to GovCom.”

        The GovCom Chair received the letter on 3/6. Did Forman receive it then, too? Because it is striking that the faculty should only find out 20 days later, on the eve of a major vote concerning the President – it would seem as though Dr. Lutz was holding off on the announcement to influence that latter vote.

      • Raoul Dukakis

        OK now I’m seeing it, but, seriously, read it closely: “CFAC members declared their decision to resign in a March 6 letter to Lutz, who noted that the delay in the announcement of the resignation was due to the fact that spring break took place right after he first received word of the situation.”

        But 3/6 was a Wednesday. Spring Break ran for the week of 3/11-3/15. Lutz’s announcement was on 3/26. That leaves a full two weeks of business days when the announcement could have been made, including the whole entire week after spring break, when a full faculty meeting happened.

        Never mind that other important announcements have been made with little regard for scheduling (for example, most people learned about the program cuts in an email late on Friday PM of a Jewish holiday weekend), but Lutz’s reply is pure poppycock. Does he think people are stupid?

  • David Mullins

    Lutz- “I was busy and uh spring break and i wanted to wait till the new tyler perry movie was out”

    • grad student

      He and Wags probably bought advance tickets as part of the administration’s ‘learning process’

  • David Mullins

    i am pretty sure sending an e-mail takes like a second

  • Crafty

    So basically what they’re saying is, ”

    “We don’t want you to know what we said, so we resign.”

    Not exactly a hallmark of clean hands.

    • Officer Barbrady

      Nothing to see here, people!

  • Judith Miller

    I will reiterate Matthew Payne’s comment, which states (as he did repeatedly at College Faculty meetings this winter) that the review committee is intended to look at processes, criteria and procedures, not at individual faculty members. That is an important distinction.
    There is some information in the article that is not quite correct—but which points, indeed, to problems of process and many lingering questions. For instance, the article states that CFAC reported to the dean. Kind of true, kind of not: at the outset, the original group was established to advise the dean. Then its place in the governance structure shifted. It was made a committee that reported albeit through unclear means to the GovCom and in theory also to the College Faculty, but that also remained in some way an advisory committee to the dean. It has been difficult to reconstruct its charge. Is has been difficult to reconstruct who sat, when, and for how long, on both the CFAC or its predecessor, even if one reads the GovCom and College Faculty meeting minutes carefully. (I see a few new names here that I did not know before reading this article.)
    One thing is clear, however, that the CFAC represented only a very limited of departments and faculty profiles. Its departmental/divisional composition alone—heavily dominated by the sciences, with some social science representation, and almost no members from the humanities—should have caused both the committee members and Deans Paul and Forman to have doubts whether their work would offer reliable and appropriate conclusions about the College’s direction, as well as whether the committee’s composition would engender confidence. One could add how few women, faculty of color, or other groups (faculty rank) were represented. That is not at all to say that the individuals on the committee did not work hard and seriously. It appears, however, from the minutes that are available, that few if any—whether in the dean’s office (broadly), the CFAC itself—raised issues of its composition and almost no one questioned whether they had the right group with the right level of legitimacy to proceed with their evaluations of departments and programs. When one gets a hint that such questions were raised within GovCom, it appears that they were brushed aside.
    Moreover, at the same time as this committee was proceeding, the College Revisioning Committee was also underway, presumably working on related, if longer-term issues. Further, a Literature and Language Committee, commissioned by the graduate dean, I believe, was assessing those issues. I do not believe that either of those committees released reports publicly. Where are they? What did they say (respecting needs for privacy on some issues, of course) and how did their work intersect with that of the CFAC? We have had a long “tradition” of committees who work for months or years on such issues, only to have their reports, conclusions and advice buried somewhere in an administrator’s office—or in some cases, reports were never written up.
    If College and LGS faculty members are confused about what happened, why and by whom, it is not for lack of effort and attention. The problems are much deeper and go to the heart of faculty governance and administrative practices.