Our Opinion: Communication Failure Betrays Students, Faculty
In an email sent to Emory undergraduates Friday afternoon, Robin Forman, the dean of Emory College, announced a number of significant changes that will be taking place within the next few years. A similar letter was sent to students enrolled in the Laney Graduate School.
The letter announced the elimination, or “phasing out” of several undergraduate programs, including journalism, visual arts and educational studies. The economics and Spanish graduate programs have also been suspended for a minimum of five years, according to a statement from the University.
The changes, according to Forman, were undertaken in the pursuit of improving Emory’s “academic eminence.”
We at the Wheel support Emory’s attempts to improve its reputation amongst its peer institutions, and acknowledge that these changes were executed with the intent of improving the University as a whole. However, at this point, we are undecided as to whether the details of the plan are the proper steps. And while Forman has created committees to explore new areas of study (including contemporary China and the role of digital and new media), even he has said that he doesn’t have all of the details.
We do feel that we can comment on the way in which the University has acted with regards to communication and transparency.
While we applaud Dean Forman and other administrators in their recent efforts to communicate openly with the Wheel, we are shocked and appalled by the clear lack of communication between the College and those departments and faculty affected by its decision. Forman says that talk of these major changes began about two years ago (although the plan is rooted in a committee founded 4.5 years ago) and that the Board of Trustees approved these measures in June.
The fact that department chairs and their respective faculty and students were not informed while discussions were taking place, before the Board voted, or after the academic year started is a betrayal of trust on the part of Forman, President Wagner and other informed University officials.
Although these measures are undertaken in the pursuit of a specific academic mission, the lack of due process flies in the face of the University’s ethos that dares claim to be ethically engaged and inquiry-driven. By not consulting with the very people directly affected by this plan as discussions were taking place (i.e. faculty and student), Forman has jeopardized both his own legitimacy as a leader and his plan.
Furthermore, we at the Wheel object to the disingenuous manner in which the University first announced these changes. An email titled “A Letter from the Dean,” as Friday’s was, is decidedly ambiguous, especially when one considers that the email’s most significant content was in an attachment instead of being included in the body of the message. It is not an unforeseeable possibility that, on a Friday afternoon, a student might have simply ignored or deleted Forman’s email without a second thought.
But, regardless of the delivery, we are insulted that the content of the Dean’s letter failed to disclose all of the details and concrete effects of the plan. Precise details are provided on Emory’s news website but are buried in the “Campus News” page. The feature article on the “Campus News” page is about Emory’s environmental polices. Details regarding specific programs are available in an article titled “Academic Program Changes,” which can be found on the side under “Related Stories.”
It is not the intent of this editorial board to accuse the administration of foul play. Instead, as journalists we merely seek the truth in its entirety, and at this point, there are far too many questions and rumors to say that the communication process has been respectful and sensitive to Emory’s students, faculty and staff.
And just as we, The Emory Wheel, continue to learn more about the recent changes and continue to clarify the numerous rumors, we strongly urge that students and faculty be vocal in their opinions and discerning in their judgement.
The above staff editorial represent the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
Photography by James Crissman