Cuts Disproportionately Hurts Faculty of Color

The past two weeks have presented a maelstrom of criticism as the Emory community has reeled from the unexpected cuts to various departments.  It has become clear that the effects of these cuts will be felt across the campus and not solely in the departments which are named in Dean Forman’s plan.  One of the greatest effects, however—the removal and/or redistribution of departments and programs with the greatest numbers of faculty and graduate students of color and with some of the most demonstrable commitments to and engagements with critical race scholarship—has barely been touched upon.

According to Emory’s 2009 Diversity profile report, only 7 departments reported over 25% faculty of color.  Of these 7 departments, 4 are up for cuts.  These include The Department of Education Studies (45.5% faculty of color), Physical Education (25% faculty of color), Russian and East Asian Languages (40% faculty of color), and Spanish and Portuguese (46% faculty of color).

What is even more shocking is that, in this 2009 report, a whopping 25% of all faculty of color come from the four departments named above.  Of these 21 faculty of color, only 5 had tenure in 2009.  Which means a solid 75% of the faculty of color in the above mentioned departments are likely to lose their jobs.  Even tenured faculty, all nationally and internationally renowned scholars, are unlikely to stay.  Which is to say that these cuts, in addition to terminating departments, are essentially terminating roughly 25% of the faculty of color.

What’s more, these numbers say nothing of the graduate students in the effected departments.  Although the demographic numbers for graduate students in individual departments are not readily available, a quick perusal of student profiles in the ILA and the DES, for example, makes clear that these departments have a strong commitment to and support of not only of engagements with scholarly projects on race and racism but also of graduate students of color, regardless of their interest.

To be sure, Emory has made clear commitments to diversity within the college.  In recent years, Emory has stepped up recruitment of African American and Latino undergraduate students.  Emory continues to reach out to high school students of color through programs such as Éxito Emory and The Essence of Emory Program.  And just last year Emory boasted over 51% non-white students in its first year class.

Similarly, Emory has endeavored to build a more diverse faculty in its hiring practices.   This year Philosophy hired its first African American scholar who works directly on philosophies and politics of race.   My own department, WGSS, has recently announced that we will be hiring a scholar of Black Feminist Thought to fill the recent gap in our program.

While these are all important commitments, what do they mean when departments such as the ILA or DES, with such a strong and prominent commitment to critical race studies and to scholars of color, can so quickly be deemed inessential?

A central theme in the justifications of these cuts has been an investment in a vision of Emory’s future.  But we must ask: where is “diversity” in this vision? What is this future when programs in which diversity is not a goal for tomorrow but a well achieved practice of today are no longer deemed essential? The disproportionate effect these cuts will have on faculty and graduate students of color and on critical race scholarship at Emory is not only disappointing, it is downright deplorable.

Mairead Sullivan is a Graduate Fellow in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.


  • AG

    Interesting point. I don’t think the administration or faculty committee intended to disproportionately affect minorities in cutting departments, but if the cuts will have that effect in practice this is a discussion that needs to be had. The question is whether the administration wants to discuss anything at all related to this.

  • Jim

    At the SGA meeting after news of the cuts broke, Dean Forman accused audience members who asked even basic questions about the terminations of seeking to “violate the privacy” of those employees (whose rights he was suddenly keenly protective of). Forman’s ham-fisted and self-righteous show of outrage now makes a lot more sense – he and Emory have no desire to discuss this at all and plenty to hide. Whether undertaken in full awareness or not, the University’s actions have been, and continue to be, disgraceful. Forman needs to go – and the Board of Trustees need to do some serious and public soul-searching before Emory becomes branded ias THAT Southern University. Shame on them.

  • Nancy Seideman

    The statistics quoted in this op-ed are misleading: No tenured faculty positions are being eliminated—they will be offered comparable positions (i.e. tenured faculty) in other academic departments: Approximately 18 tenured faculty, three untenured assistant professors, and 19 lecture-track faculty will have their appointments affected directly by this reorganization. Three Emory College departments and one program will be closed over the next five years: the Division of Educational Studies; the Department of Physical Education; the Department of Visual Arts; and the Program in Journalism. The Department of Spanish and Portuguese is not closing. The Department of Russian and Eastern Asian Languages and Cultures is not closing (however the number of permanent staff dedicated to Russian language instruction will be reduced as part of a reassessment its role in Emory College’s academic offerings). Nancy Seideman, Emory University Communications

    • Concerned for Emory

      @Nancy, it would be behoove you to take note of the responses to your comment below.

      • Concerned for Emory

        I guess not. Pathetic.

  • Balderdash

    @Nancy – Nice try, but no. Nowhere in this editorial does the author say tenured faculty are being fired – she simply states the obvious, namely, that they are likely to leave. Tenured faculty who have their departments “restructured” and their graduate student lines cut are indeed unlikely to remain at Emory – and many in the cut departments have already been receiving offers from headhunters at other, more legitimately emininent institutions. It is disingenuous for Emory not to acknowledge this reality. Moreover, the paltry accommodations being made for tenured faculty aside, it is unworthy for you as Emory’s representative to characterize the three untenured APs and nineteen lecturers as simply having their “appointments directly affected by this reorganization” when what that really means is that they are out of luck and have to look for new jobs elsewhere. Likewise, you lack credibility when you say that thse statistics are “misleading” when they come directly from the Provost’s own, publicly available data and in the absence of your offering any alternative data of your own as a response. Finally, you are not responding at all to the trenchant claims the author makes about how these cuts will impact departments as communities that honor diversity in their graduate students. The DES itself produces more African-American PhDst than other program of its kind in the country – and they are being straight-up eliminated, not even “suspended.” But you don’t say anything at all about this crucial part of Sullivan’s argument – which only confirms the message that the administration doesn’t care, and reconfirms for anyone paying close attention that the communications strategy for rolling out Forman’s half-baked plans has been bush league from the start and only getting worse. Emory may want to claim eminence for itself, but these past two months have shown it is eminent in precisely the wrong ways. I echo the previous commenter when I say simply: shame on you.

  • Shameful

    @Nancy, it’s far more accurate to say you’re the misleading one: people are being fired, not “reduced as a part of reassessment” or “affected directly by this reorganization”.

    While we’re on the topic of how individuals can be “restructured”, how does that work for the tenured faculty, who you assure us will be offered “comparable positions in other departments”? Can you give us a specific example of how a Visual Arts professor might join, say, the Chemistry department? Also, could you explain how, despite losing the scholastic lifeblood of a grad program, departments like Spanish and Portuguese will have the chance to “strengthen those fields of study”?

    Also, you forgot to mention the dismantling of Economics and the ILA.

    Finally, Balderdash has it covered, but it bears repeating: the DES itself produces more African-American PhDs than other program of its kind in the country – and they are being straight-up eliminated, not even “suspended. I know it’s hard to keep track of individual people and their contributions – even individual departments! – when you are part of an administration that treats its faculty, staff, and students like resources instead of human beings – but, hey, why not give it a try?

  • Roger Tiswell

    Nancy Seideman, you just got served.

  • Remind me.

    What do all of these statistics have to do with the quality and enrollment of ANY of these departments? Why can’t we just resolve to keep up the recruitment drive (something this article praises) and move on? Why is keeping these faculty members somehow an end in and of itself? I mean sure, diversity is great to have…but keeping it at the expense of everything else is irrational.

    Frankly, this article sheds quite a bit of light on how departments in the college got into a budget hole in the first place. I mean, clearly “black feminist scholar” fills a pressing and urgent need. Many is the night I’ve heard a clamoring among the students for a black feminist scholar! If only, if ONLY we had a black feminist scholar! She’d fit in well with the 7th year grad students in the ILA, writing theses on the semiotics of finger-snapping in Javanese slam poetry.

  • Fellow finger-snapper

    Um… I can hear clamoring for a Black feminist scholar RIGHT NOW.

  • It’s all so clear now…

    @remind_me – Do you also work in Emory PR? You people are really on message.

  • Shameful

    Remind me and Fellow – this is exactly why we shouldn’t cut the Division of Educational Studies – so we can educate morons like you.

    Also, Remind me, I’m not sure why you are contributing, since you obviously don’t understand how universities work. Departments aren’t deemed successful by their enrollment (I am guessing you mean undergraduates?) and spending a ton of money on recruiting either wealthy or high-scoring (or both) undergraduates doesn’t do anything for the education that the faculty are producing. It’s like saying it’s easy to improve the quality of a McDonald’s hamburger, just advertise to more people. Keeping faculty members who provide unique and diverse viewpoints and bodies of scholarly work IS AN END TO ITSELF: that’s what a liberal arts university supposedly does.

    • Fellow finger-snapper

      My reply was too brief, and maybe this is why you’re seeing me as aligned with Remind me. I meant the comment straightforwardly, but it’s easy to read the smear of sarcasm in it. Remind me is clearly more in love with his/her opinion and how snarky s/he can be about it to actually listen to any of the vital arguments against it. Laughing at something, though, doesn’t mean you understand it or are above it. If you’re questioning or laughing at the need for diversity in perspectives on a university campus in this day and age, then yeah, the information listed above won’t get you too down. For those of us who are incensed by the lack of logic to these cuts and the clumsy and even celebratory way these changes have been presented, information about the precise effects is crucial. Emory will lose a lot of riches as a result of these cuts – diversity in approach often leads to diversity in appeal.

      • Shameful

        Sorry about that! I read your response too quickly to pick up on the irony. I agree – there is a sort of careless laughter one often hears from the uninformed and under-informed – and it is quite disturbing. It may underscore some implicit agitation from hearing information that makes them uncomfortable.

  • jpburke

    I think it is naive to say that departments aren’t successful based on the participation of students, or that representing unique or diverse viewpoints is the only important goal. Unique and diverse viewpoints can be represented by course offerings that aren’t housed in their own independent departments. This is why, ultimately, I am against some of the cuts but not others.

  • Shameful

    Not the only important goal, sure, but it is one of the major goals of a university. Something that Emory already has a poor record on. This article is pointing out how much further damage this decision will cause. We are firing people and starving departments without even talking about who they are, what they do, or how they currently contribute to Emory – that’s the real crime here.

  • Clark Kent

    “And just last year Emory boasted over 51% non-white students in its first year class.”

    That this is considered a positive accomplishment gives us some insight as to just how deep the rot has set in at Emory University.

    • Hear, hear!

      But it’s really only the graduate school, where a small handful of entitled graduate students have decided to fashion themselves as activists, given the massive amount of time on their hands.

      • The Snark is Strong with this One

        By entitled, do you mean making 20K / year, with meager job prospects and seeing their own departments closed?

  • Remind me.

    I have yet to see an argument that contradicts anything I’ve said. Shameful’s argument is, ironically a “shameful” moving of the goalposts. Keeping faculty with unique view-points is not the same as retaining faculty solely on the basis of their race. Nowhere does this editorial elaborate on the diversity of opinion among these faculty members of color.

    The fact that Shameful believes unique scholarly viewpoints are inextricably bound to the color of a person’s skin exposes his/her inherent racism. Your race is not what makes you a unique scholar. And that’s my whole point. We should just resolve to keep up the recruiting drive (for students and faculty), which is something the article lauds, and move on. I’ve seen no good reason to retain any of these professors. None whatsoever.

  • Shameful

    @Remind me, we should probably also delegate women’s health care decisions to men, right?
    Presumably, the reality of gender in shaping our identities, perspectives, and knowledge isn’t something that even enters your tiny, entitled cranium?

    That would explain why the role of ethnicity in shaping our identities and perspectives, to you, is really distillable into something as crass as skin color. I don’t have time to explain to you the depth of your ignorance, so keep on typing up your self-entitled bullshit from behind your keyboard, without actually engaging with the real world. And since, as you admitted above, you have zero understanding why African-American perspectives in feminism might be important if not essential to a well-rounded gender studies department, your “opinion” that there is no “good reason to retain any of these professors” is surely an informed one that we should “trust”? Please tell me sir, how would you “evaluate” their scholarship given that you don’t understand why a diversity of viewpoints for third-wave feminists might be crucial? Dean Forman, is that you?

    By the way, Hear-hear, you’re so right! Grad students can be SO entitled! Like that part where they sacrifice years of decent income for pennies so they can study what they are passionate about! Or how they are on of the main drivers of research and scholarly inquiry at universities by providing man-hours of work in lab and library? Or how they each may teach hundreds of undergraduates a semester, in addition to their research and classwork, just to keep their meager stipends? And then they have the unmitigated gall to ask for a seat at the table when it comes to dismantling departments in their own universities!

    Some of them even write editorials – can you imagine? – where they attempt to inform the administration as to the effects of the Dean’s decisions! And don’t get me started about students who are speaking out when faculty in their own departments are being fired without explanation! Man, they really need to get out in the real world, so they can learn to sit down, shut up, close their eyes, and go to sleep like some of the sheep on this board clearly already have.

    • Remind me

      1. A ridiculous, but unsurprisingly false analogy. Choosing a professor based on the quality of their viewpoint has absolutely nothing to do with making non-participatory policy decisions. In the latter, no one is “deciding” anything for anyone; they are making a meritocratic choice for the good of the university.

      2. Ethnicity can have a role in shaping a person’s viewpoint — but we don’t hire for the ethnicity. WE HIRE FOR THE VIEWPOINT. I’m sure professors who grew up in households with an income below the national median also have markedly different views from their wealthier counterparts. Does that mean we should ask for their parents’ tax returns? No. And that’s why your argument is ridiculous. You assume that retaining faculty of color is an end in itself because they do “colored faculty things.” Rather than judging them on the legitimate quality and diversity of their opinion, you PRESUME it and DEFINE THEM by it. That’s miles away from, say, accepting an undergrad student out of economic reasons. In your diseased imagination, faculty of color ought to be retained for the sake of an academic shuck and jive. How appalling would it be to accept a black student to Emory, not because of his economic disadvantage, but because he’ll “act black” while on campus? Quite appalling. And that’s the standard you’re applying to professors. Shame on you. Let their scholarship be unique and diverse on its own merits — not because “colored faculty teach colored things.” You, sir or madam, are the worst kind of racist — a bourgeois pseudo-progressive one.

      3. To save the other poster the trouble of answering, who do you think subsidizes grad students while they collect their “meager” stipends? Who do you think co-signs their loans? Helps them with insurance? Rent? Survey says…parents! So let’s not pretend like these students are so downtrodden, while they ride their $250-$300 fixed gear bicycles and play with their thousand-dollar Macbooks. They are intellectual hedonists, writing checks that they NEVER intend to cash just because they want to “do what they love.” It is entitlement in every sense.

      Check your white-man’s-burden neo-liberalism at the door. It’s not welcome in this century.

      • The Snark is Strong with this One

        There are plenty of adult and young graduate students who don’t rely on their parents and graduates who are struggling to raise families. You are manifestly speaking from a position of ignorance and bias – I think we should all stop feeding you, troll.

        • Remind me

          The only trolls here are those trying to inflame campus opinion against the administration — the same students who, a year ago, were hanging “Dead Men Don’t Rape” signs around campus. Unfortunately for them, their ridiculous antics continue to alienate Emory’s mainstream. The Wheel’s new headline about the college’s first balanced budget in four years is the coffin nail for this nonsense.

          • Disgusted

            Right – the real problem here isn’t a lack of proper governance or legally actionable terminations (viz why the AAUP is getting involved) – its race-baiting bourgeois feminazis. It speaks volumes about the administration that you’re on their side in this. Bravo.

          • Fellow finger-snapper

            How can it be the nail in the coffin if these cuts have had no effect on the budget? Take a look at every interview Forman has given – each penny saved by these cuts will be reallocated toward this new vision for the university. You’re so angry at opinionated hipsters (which, it seems, is how you typify grad students) that the details of this situation are lost on you. Let me assure you, though, that there are plenty parent-assisted fixie riders in New Media programs – your holy crusade is not over.

            The “trolls” who are fighting these changes have already lost – we’ve all been told that our vision of Emory and the values we find important in a liberal arts education are no longer important. Your vitriolic glee is out of place for someone whose world view has just been so colossally affirmed.

  • What is wrong with this world -

    When the people who call attention to injustice are pilloried and mocked? We’re in a twisted moment when calling attention to racial prejudice and hard social facts – and let’s not pretend that cutting the DES in partiular and its outreach to local schools is anything but pernicious and perpetuating racialized injustice in our region – are labelled “entitled” or even, amazingly, “racist.” Shameful is right and I stand with them.

  • http://twitter.com/DontIgnoreData Judie Jetson (@DontIgnoreData)

    It is over simplistic to say that the way others have treated us/our families/our countryman/our neighbors in the past doesn’t influence our future. The way we have gotten our independence still resonates in the way we interact with others, the way we think, and the way we vote.
    You are making a very big fundamental assumption: that we all start from the same level and are all offered the same opportunities without prejudice or bias. One example is the financial wealth that some families were able to accrue over the centuries, while others were not so fortunate or given the opportunity to do the same.
    Another assumption you are making is that the color of our skin and the background we come from does not lead to differences in the way people treat us and therefore would yield subcultures.
    How can anyone assume how someone thinks unless they talk to him/her. I can never assume how an immigrant thinks, how a graduate student thinks, how a millionaire thinks, how a teacher with 2 kids thinks, or how YOU think without proper discussion.
    I do applaud you for being part of this particular discussion. What is happening here is what needs to occur at Emory. It is with the most diverse viewpoints that a proper discussion can occur.
    I proudly defend the rights of people who want to inform the rest of us about their past and how it influences our future (yes, OUR future as they are part of our society), which is particularly important for a melting pot like America. The diversity offered by these departments and programs offer this discussion. Feminism is not feminism without including feminists of ALL backgrounds. Education is not education unless it harnesses the backgrounds of ALL individuals in order to have these pedagogies reach ALL individuals. How do you educate someone without first understanding how they learn? For an institution to cut its Division of education (which had limited resources already) is more than just ironic. In addition to its unique diversity, the Division of Education was also unique in the way it reaches out to the surrounding community, which happens to have a high representation of minorities, as it turns out. Coincidence? One could say that maybe they have something there; maybe they were able to reach out to students that so many other departments, programs, divisions try but were not able to do so. One should let them educate US on how they were so successful.

    • Preach It

      Amen.

  • thisisstilltoofunny

    what the hell is diversity?

    theres a goal for diversity? How can diversity have a goal-it only can if its not about diversity but rather a particular feature…

    • Concerned for Emory

      In a school in the South – with engagements to local Atlanta communities – diversity isn’t just an abstraction or a buzzword – it’s an ethical imperative. And since Emory is very happy to promote its “diversity” elsewhere – to attract new students, positive press, and Federal and private funding – it needs to answer for this.

      • Clark Kent

        Diversity is not an ethical imperative in the South nor anywhere in the world. On the contrary, diversity as an imperative is perhaps the ultimate immoral action in human relations. Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group. This is diversity as imperative.

  • Concerned for Emory

    Hey @Wheel! You know what’s a story here? Read Nancy’s lame comment above – and notice how she TOTALLY DIDN’T ADDRESS THE SUBSTANCE OF THIS PIECE – IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A UNIVERSITY SPOKESPERSON. Between that and the administration’s advertising #EmoryCuts events as “Public Forums” (which to the outside world rather clearly implies that they were sanctioned and organized by the university – a falsehood), doesn’t it seem like maybe y’all should do a little more digging? People who ask questions and reject these cuts aren’t “confused” – they’re disgusted and appalled, and rightly so.

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