Undergrads React to Department Changes
When College freshman Brett Lichtenberg sent out his college applications last year, he knew he wanted a school with a journalism program. For this reason, Emory became the college of his choice.
“I was looking forward to hopefully going to a school that’s tight-knit journalism program would allow me to flourish in a field that I felt so passionately about,” Lichtenberg said.
But a year later, Lichtenberg said the University’s decision to “phase out” Emory’s journalism program has turned his attitude “completely on its back.” Lichtenberg trusts that administrators put considerable time and energy into their decision, but he now has to rework his academic outline for the next four years.
Students like Lichtenberg are feeling the effects of College Dean Robin Forman’s decision to close the College’s Division of Educational Studies, the Department of Visual Arts and the Department of Physical Education, in addition to the journalism program. The University has also announced that it will suspend the Economics, Spanish and Institute of Liberal Arts (ILA) programs in the Laney Graduate School.
Many undergraduate students have criticized Forman for what they say is a lack of transparency in the process that led to the departmental changes. In a series of interviews with the Wheel, undergraduates primarily expressed frustration with this lack of transparency, as well as concern for their academic futures. A few agreed with the changes or remained indifferent.
In a letter to College students on Sept. 14, Forman wrote that the reductions will “allow us to invest in traditional strengths of the arts and sciences at Emory” and strengthen many of Emory’s current and future areas of study.
Impacting the Undergrad Community
Forman specified that currently enrolled undergraduate majors pursuing degrees in any of the departments being removed will be able to “complete their courses of study.”
“We have a primary obligation to our students to allocate resources in a way that will allow Emory College of Arts and Sciences to train the leaders of the century to come,” Forman wrote.
But the departmental changes are still putting some students in an academic bind. College freshman Samantha Miller originally intended to co-major in journalism, but now says she’ll be switching to English.
“I honestly wish they had made such drastic decisions before this freshmen class was choosing their colleges,” she said.
For College sophomore Samantha Rudorfer, the cuts pose a different challenge.
Rudorfer declared her journalism major just last week, and “the cuts really affect whether or not I can continue on this path,” she said, as she had planned to study abroad.
“But now having to finish this major in only two years will really affect whether or not that’s possible anymore,” Rudorfer said.
Some economics majors are worried, too, because the removal of the Ph.D. department could affect their undergraduate education.
College senior Leah Dodell, an economics major, said she and others are nervous “about losing some of their best economics professors.”
The impact of the departmental changes, though, extends beyond academics.
Upperclassmen don’t necessarily have to worry about not completing their degree requirements on time, but many are still saddened due to the relationships they have fostered with affected faculty and staff.
College junior Madeline Roorbach said she was “quite disillusioned by the announcement,” even though the changes won’t affect her directly, because the Educational Studies (EDS) department has formed the crux of her academic life at Emory.
“The people involved with the department are some of the brightest, most intelligent people I’ve had the pleasure of working with,” Roorbach said.
Out of the Blue
Many students have expressed frustration over the way in which administrators notified the community of the changes. Most of the students interviewed by the Wheel said they feel the changes came out of the blue and should have included student input.
Among them is College sophomore Calvin Li, who wrote in an email to the Wheel that he feels students should have been involved.
“I would hope that the students are informed and part of the decision-making process, which they were not in this situation,” Li, who is also the student life chair for the Student Government Association (SGA) said.
Visual arts co-majors and minors, though, say they weren’t surprised that their department was one that will be “phased out.”
College junior Rica Haraguchi, a visual arts and art history joint major, said the visual arts department has received a “lack of support and recognition … from the College, its students and its faculty.”
College senior Heidi Ma, a visual arts minor, wrote in an email to the Wheel, “The College failed to recognize that studio art is a rigorous academic discipline, not just a recreational activity.”
But Forman wrote in his letter that he recognizes the departments that are going to be cut have still made significant contributions to Emory.
“There is nothing about this process that has been easy,” Forman wrote.
Other students, though, say they agree with the dean’s decision or are more indifferent on the matter. College junior Trevor Cross, who is a chemistry major, said that while he understands the emotional component to students’ reactions, he feels “Emory is doing its best to play to its strengths.”
“I believe a liberal arts education is important, but I do not want to be at a school that is a jack of all trades, expert in none,” Cross said.
Voicing Their Concerns
When Forman announced the departmental changes to the Emory community last Friday afternoon in a letter sent to all College students, word about which departments were being affected spread quickly on Facebook and Twitter.
College junior Gabi Wolozin, who is majoring in mathematics and economics, formed a Facebook group entitled “Save the Economics PhD Program at Emory.”
The suspension of the Ph.D. program, she said, affects undergraduates studying economics in addition to graduates. Wolozin noted that graduate students often teach introductory level economics courses in the College.Wolozin’s Facebook group, as of Monday afternoon, has attracted more than 1,500 members.
The group aims to “spread awareness about how important the Ph.D. economics program is to the entire Emory community.”
“I wanted to do this as fast-paced as possible,” Wolozin said. “I think the faster this happens, the faster the we could change the future of the Economics department.”
Wolozin also assisted senior lecturer in the economics department Shomu Banerjee in creating a petition on ipetitions.com titled “Save Emory University’s Economics Ph.D. program!”The petition has garnered 558 signatures from alumni as well as faculty, undergraduates and graduates.
A petition to keep the journalism program has also been launched on Change.org
Managing Editor Roshani Chokshi and Layout Editor Ginny Chae contributed reporting.
— By Jordan Friedman