Faculty Vote to Review Dept. Changes Process

Emory College faculty have voted in favor of conducting a review of the departmental changes announced in mid-September. The motion to nominate and elect faculty members to an independent review board was brought up at the last faculty meeting before winter break and passed 64 to 54.

While details of the review process will be decided in the coming weeks, faculty members expressed a desire to know how the decision-making process was carried out, with specific attention on the Governance Committee, which is the main governing faculty body, and the College Financial Advisory Committee, the group College Dean Robin Forman worked closely with. The new committee will not be looking into reversing the changes, a request that top administers have denied repeatedly.

Faculty members also voted in favor of reviewing Emory’s governance structure to consider deeper structural changes to address what some perceive as a breakdown in faculty governance,

“We need to feel more empowered as a faculty,” one faculty member said at the meeting.

The meeting began with a presentation from the chair of the Governance Committee Stefan Lutz, also an associate professor in the chemistry department, on possible improvements to the College’s governance structure. Lutz suggested ways to improve communication between faculty and administrators, and to address representation issues on various committees. Once the floor opened for discussion, faculty members agreed that serious reforms, not minor tweaks, were needed.

While the motion to reevaluate the College’s governance structure passed easily, the motion to review the department changes led to intense debate. Some faculty felt the motion itself was out of order since it wasn’t on the agenda, which was set before the meeting. One faculty member expressed unease at supporting a motion without confirming explicit details on the nature of the plan.

“We’re doing this on the fly,” one faculty member said. “This is the very opposite of deliberative faculty governance, and I object to it.”

Some faculty members objected to reviewing CFAC and its deliberations, stressing that the focus should be on moving forward, not looking back at what happened. Supporters reiterated that the goal would be to understand what happened to avoid making the same mistakes again in the future.

“I don’t see why we can’t go forward and also look backward,” one faculty member said. “It’s not our nature not to ask what happened. And I don’t think we want — five years, 10 years, 20 years from now — for people to look back at Emory and say, ‘Well, they just wiped out these programs, but why? You know, they never really figured that out. It was just a mystery.”

Forman announced early last semester that the College and Laney Graduate School would be closing or suspending several programs and departments in the next two years.

The next College faculty meeting is set for Wednesday, Jan. 23.

Names of faculty members who spoke during the meeting have been omitted, in accordance with the terms that allowed the Wheel to attend the meeting.

 — Contact Evan Mah at emah@emory.edu