National AAUP Calls for Review of Dept. Changes

The national office of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) sent a letter to University President James W. Wagner Friday afternoon, stating that it supports the Emory AAUP chapter’s concerns regarding the recent department changes.

The AAUP aims to support academic freedom and shared governance at universities across the United States. The local chapter consists of more than 60 Emory faculty and former administrators and is part of a national organization comprised of more than 500 campus chapters.

College Dean Robin Forman, who spearheaded the changes, first announced the reallocation of resources and finances within the College and Laney Graduate School in a Sept. 14 University-wide email.

The AAUP letter reads, “According to the documentation we have seen, including a letter sent by Dean Forman to the campus community, it appears that the faculty was not afforded adequate opportunity to exercise its primary responsibilities in these matters, and if this is indeed the case, a review of the administration’s actions by a faculty body would be warranted.”

The national organization’s letter notes that the procedures outlined in the Emory University Handbook “do not seem to accord in all respects with AAUP-recommended procedural standards.” For instance, the letter says, Regulation 4d of the AAUP’s “Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure” states that the discontinuation of a program must be based on “educational considerations” which the faculty as a whole or a small faculty committee must approve beforehand.

As a result, according to the national organization’s letter, the national AAUP supports the local chapter’s call for a review of the process and the resulting decisions, and “for the suspension of any implementation of the closures pending such a review.”

As previously reported in the Wheel, should the national organization conduct an investigation and find issues with faculty governance, Emory would be censured and sanctioned. The report would be widely circulated and signal to the public “unsatisfactory conditions of academic governance” at Emory, according to Sharon Strocchia, AAUP’s president-elect and a history professor.

“Being sanctioned by the AAUP could very well make it harder to recruit professors, especially if they have other employment options,” Strocchia said in the Wheel article.

In regard to the national office’s letter, Nancy Seideman, Emory’s associate vice president for University communications, wrote in a statement to the Wheel Monday: “Emory University has received the letter from the American Association of University Professors. It will receive appropriate consideration and response. The plans to strengthen Emory College by reallocating resources were the product of long planning and consultation, and followed an established and appropriate process.”

Emory’s local chapter of the AAUP first questioned the process that led to the department changes in a statement it released to the national organization at the end of October, the Wheel reported on Oct. 25. Barbara Ladd, a professor in the English department, serves as president of the Emory chapter.

In its open letter, the Emory AAUP chapter had expressed concerns over what it sees as a lack of transparency in the decision-making process, particularly regarding a lack of “sufficiently substantive reports” from the Faculty Financial Advisory Committee — now being called the College Financial Advisory Committee (CFAC) — to the Governance Committee. The local chapter’s letter also noted that the University has provided no evidence that department chairs were informed of the department changes beforehand.

“We ask that the administration delay further implementation of the announced changes pending full faculty review of the process by which these decisions were reached,” the Emory chapter’s letter said.

The AAUP isn’t the only group expressing concern. A group of seven students and three faculty members, as part of the #EmoryCuts movement, met with Forman and Wagner yesterday evening to discuss the department changes. During the one-hour meeting, Forman and Wagner denied a request to reverse the decision. This meeting came after a protest on the Quadrangle Tuesday afternoon, which resulted in a six-hour sit-in inside the Administration Building that day.

A full version of this story will be available in the next few days.

— By Jordan Friedman

Updated Dec. 9, 9:26 p.m.

The original article incorrectly stated that the local AAUP chapter has more than 70 members. The chapter has more than 60.

Updated Dec. 10, 1:36 p.m.

  • Our University.

    Wow. That would be yet another body blow to Emory’s national rankings. Emory admin, what are you thinking?

  • Emory Alum ’10

    In this Sunday’s AJC, CEO of Emory Healthcare John Fox reflects on that institution’s own recent scandals with some words that Emory University’s Admins should heed. “We believe we have a moral obligation to disclose the truth. We believe the truth is going to come out anyway…We create more problems by hiding things than we do by sharing them. I believe that down to my soul.” When will the University realize that integrity is more than just a brand? When will President Wagner and Dean Forman finally acknowledge that “ethical engagement” means not just deploying overblown ethical rhetoric or dropping 30$ million on a “Center for Ethics” but actually *behaving* ethically and dealing with their own community with transparent openness? Secretive, unaccountable committees and deploying police to intimidate students are indeed modes of “ethical engagement” – but not the right kinds by any means.

  • Saundra Deltac

    Yes. Yes. Yes to all of the above.

  • Another Ashamed Affiliate

    The really sad thing about Emory’s Admins is that they don’t even really seem to care if the actual things those national rankings are supposed to index (quality of programs, student caliber, etc.) go down the toilet. They just want to up the numbers. It’s classic pump-and-dump. I bet their compensation packages incentivize this – or that they’re trying to parlay the University’s on-paper progress in rankings into jobs at other institutions before the real, structural damage they’ve done to this institution starts to show. Or maybe the just live in an echo chamber and believe their own hype. I hope this bursts their bubble.

  • Alum ’12

    Admin, please reverse your decision. Making bold and sometimes unpopular decisions is admirable in leadership. Cutting the University’s losses and admitting that you made a mistake would be even better.