Laney Graduate Students to Vote on President Wagner

The Graduate Student Council (GSC) passed a bill at last week’s meeting that will allow Laney Graduate School students to vote next Tuesday on whether they have confidence in University President James W. Wagner.

The ultimate results will “let the University faculty, administration and trustees know where Laney graduate students stand on the issue,” according to the bill.

A single question — “Do you have confidence in James Wagner as President of Emory University?” — will appear on the ballot, and students will be able to vote “yes,” “no,” or “abstain.”

The legislation, passed at a GSC meeting last Thursday, comes more than a week after College faculty members voted in favor of holding their own vote via electronic ballot. Voting for College faculty started yesterday and lasts through Friday.

A vote of “no confidence” would not directly affect Wagner’s employment position at the University but would demonstrate that the graduate student body feels he is no longer fit to lead.

The GSC, which represents the Laney Graduate School, also voted to amend the original bill — submitted by fourth-year Laney student Andy Ratto — thereby adding a text box to the ballot for students to explain the reasoning behind their votes. The date of the vote was also changed to coincide with a GSC event already planned for next Tuesday, “so students can be encouraged to vote while they are at the event,” Ratto wrote in an email to the Wheel. He declined to comment further.

Ratto had previously submitted a similar bill to the Student Government Association (SGA), which the legislature failed on March 25 despite amendments that changed the bill’s focus from Wagner to the direction of the University as a whole.

The SGA bill would have added a vote to last week’s student government elections electronic ballot, but the GSC bill allows only Laney students to vote.

Voting for Laney students will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on emory.edu/vote. The results will be published on the GSC website, likely within a week after voting ends, according to GSC President and fifth-year Laney student Robert Rankin.

Some members of the Emory community have called Wagner’s performance into question this semester after the publication of his controversial Emory Magazine column which cited the Three-Fifths Compromise as a productive example of political compromise. The bill does not specifically cite the column or Wagner’s role in the department cuts — a topic that College faculty discussed at their March 27 meeting — but states that such a vote “is an established method for evaluating performance, and such a vote has occurred at other schools by both university faculty, and from students as well.”

“[The vote] allows the higher ups get an idea of what the LGS students are thinking as a whole,” Rankin wrote in an email to the Wheel.

While Wagner wrote in an email to the Wheel that he does not have any detailed information about GSC’s decision to hold a “no-confidence” vote, he noted, “Of course I respect the actions of any of our governance bodies to adopt resolutions and make decisions in what they consider to be in the better interests of Emory.”

He wrote that regardless of the vote’s outcome, he looks forward “to hearing more about the specific concerns that exist in order to help ensure that this critical component of our education and research mission will continue to grow in quality and vibrancy.”

After the final vote tally is calculated, GSC will post the results on its website. Rankin wrote in an email to the Wheel that he will, if he receives enough responses, sort the added comments in the ballot’s text box into categories, tally the categories and then anonymously post a few of the “best ones” per category on the GSC website.

“I thought, and the council voted on, that this would allow a more constructive conversation than just a ‘no confidence’ ballot,” he wrote, adding that if there are not too many responses he might just post them all online.

Cora MacBeth, Laney’s assistant dean for student affairs and an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, said the text box addition will “give students a chance to actually say something” as opposed to just placing a vote.

“I just hope that the students respond and participate widely and that the vote is representative of the diverse group of graduates that the Laney Graduate School represents,” MacBeth said, in reference to the fact that Laney students are often involved with departments across the University.

Editor-in-Chief Arianna Skibell and Asst. News Editor Karishma Mehrotra contributed reporting.

— By Jordan Friedman

Updated 2:40 a.m. on April 9.

  • Raoul Dukakis

    “[Wagner] wrote that regardless of the vote’s outcome, he looks forward “to hearing more about the specific concerns that exist in order to help ensure that this critical component of our education and research mission will continue to grow in quality and vibrancy.”

    So, for James Wagner, a No Confidence vote is the initiation of an abstract discussion about enhancing *THEIR* “quality and vibrancy”? Either the man doesn’t realize that when people say they don’t have confidence in him that means they think we need a new President, or he just doesn’t care, and wants to make sure you know exactly how seriously he takes your opinion.

    How can anybody – even Wagner’s supporters – see this man as anything other than contemptuous of the people he employs, and ultimately indifferent to their rights and concerns?

    • Nathan

      You just can’t be pleased, can you? You just seem intent on twisting his words into something that you find objectionable. Literally no matter what he said, you would have taken offense to it. Grow up. Move on with your life.

      • what?

        So Wagner’s reference his own leadership as a “critical component of our education and research mission” seems totally normal to you?

        • Joseph P

          I think that he was referencing the liberal arts.

          • Nice Turtleneck Brah!

            Do you mean the way the essay about the 3/5ths compromise was about cuts to the liberal arts?

            Dude when someone tells you they have No Confidence in your ability to do your job, that’s diplomatic for saying they don’t want to work with you anymore. It’s not the beginning of a conversation about how to do your job better.

  • David

    “Of course I respect the actions of any of our governance bodies”

    If Wagner’s tenure has shown me anything, it’s his deep respect and cooperation with campus governance bodies.

  • Scott W

    It is the least productive members of the Emory community who keep harping on Wagner after his apology. I would like to see Wagner stay and the complainers leave Emory, to be replaced by truly deserving students and faculty. At this point, the complainers are trying to get academic and promotion credit by replacing scholarship with anti-Wagner advocacy. If you dont like Emory, nobody is forcing you to stay

    • Nonsense

      “Academic and promotion credit”?

      What are you talking about? And BTW if you think this is just about his essay, and his half-hearted “apology,” then you *really* don’t know what you’re talking about.

    • Raoul Dukakis

      Where do I sign up for this “credit”? Because smart money and workplace wisdom says that publicly opposing powerful, entitled interests for the sake of your convictions is an act of bravery, not complacency, and involves risk, not a safe-bet for promotion or rewards. In fact, it seems that Wagner’s supporters are the ones reaping new buildings, additional funding, etc. So I guess my question to you is: are you just conscientiously ignorant about how this campus actually works, or is it more that you have an ax to grind?

      PS. RE: Productivity and Scholarship – There was a six-hour long, multiple panel symposium on Wagner and the cuts that happened yesterday afternoon, featuring an audience of nearly seventy people, speakers from across Atlanta and flown in from out of state, performances, and more. This event was funded by a half-dozen departments and programs, and was videotaped and will be shared online. Granted, you may not have known it was happening – since Emory grounds crews were dispatched to destroy signage advertising the event within hours of its being put up – but now that you do, you probably want to rethink the whole “least productive” and un-“scholarly” parts of your argument.

  • Deep Throat

    Just so you know, the administration is taking down the names of all the protestors and putting them in a corporate database to prevent them from getting jobs.

    • Larry Hawked

      I thought having a shameless jackass for a President and an ever-declining brand name was already screwing Emory graduates, but what do I know?

    • just so we know, huh?

      Putting them in a “corporate database”? Whose? I guess they better not apply for one of those jobs at “Corporate Incorporated’!

  • Peter
    • still unimpressed

      so what “industry” are we talking about here? I could see it working on a small scale in some retail specialties, but think about the vastness of the network of industries, government, and academic jobs that students at Emory might apply for. Is Emory really going to try to disseminate a short list of names to all the putative markets an Emory grad might pursue? Seems like a stretch to me.

    • Raoul Dukakis

      I love it – much in the same way retail stores track employees who shop-lift, Jim Wagner’s uni will try to track to academics who use their free speech rights in ways it dislikes. That’s totally what “Courageous Inquiry” and a respect for dialogue and truth is all about.

  • Gay fags for Jwags

    Wagner is a great president. Supposedly, he helped get Chick-fil-A kicked off campus and he also condemned the homophobic bigot Adam Smith.

  • Black feminist

    Now that’s some white male privilege bullshit!

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  • Commodores

    Laney Graduate students vote on no confidence while campus yawns. How much tuition does the graduate school generate….can you say zero? Your school could be the next dental school, followed by theology and then Oxford.

    • ignorance is hilarious

      You’re totally right bro! What do graduate students do that is in any way useful to the university? Hmm… maybe teach classes, grade papers, run laboratory courses, conduct the bulk of scientific research for countless laboratories, write grant applications which fund their work and the work of their colleagues and advisors, mentor undergraduates, publish papers (which is crucial for maintaining Emory’s current ranking, by the way)… that’s all. You’re spot on – definitely dead weight and certainly expendable.

    • Nice Turtleneck Brah!

      bro who do you think teaches the undergrads who bring in the big tuition $$$ you care so much about. we organize and the school grinds to a halt son

    • http://twitter.com/lauramariani Laura Mariani (@lauramariani)

      Actually, “campus” responded by forming an online petition in support of Wagner. It’s sort of like taking a vote of confidence, except the outcome will be less reliable (since, unlike the Emory elections system, a third-party petition don’t require participants to log in with Emory credentials before participating) and it only collects information from students on one side of the issue. Neat!

  • aaaa

    I think those people who felt they are offended are making nonsense arguments. If they do not think that they are least-respected people, they will not react this much.

    • Emory Cadre

      Yes! Only Leadership of Right Logic James Wagner Thought Bring Glorious Future to CocaCola University. Smash the Snake Heads of Protestors and Their Vile Professor Running Dogs

  • Allie

    “[Wagner] wrote that regardless of the vote’s outcome, he looks forward “to hearing more about the specific concerns that exist in order to help ensure that this critical component of our education and research mission will continue to grow in quality and vibrancy.”

    No matter what the vote outcome is, and even if 100% of the faculty students disapproved of President Wagner and thought he should step down, it does not matter. It has already been predetermined that Wagner will not be fired. He is strongly backed by the Board of Trustees, and from the tone of this sentence, you can already tell he has no plans of leaving anytime soon.

    What bothers me as an Emory student is that we may have a voice, but that voice doesn’t have the power to enact any change. This University is governed by a small autocratic ruling body, who has already decided to keep Wagner based on the amount of money he brings in to the school. In the end, Everything is ALWAYS about money. It is so SAD to see Emory University suppressing the fundamental American value of democracy while claiming to promote the “American values of compromise”. The University’s hypocrisy is truly laughable.

    • Allie

      Also, how much are you willing to bet that there isn’t a single African-American person on the Emory Board of Trustees? If there was more diversity there, I feel there would have been a different reaction.

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