UPDATE: Laney Students Vote No Confidence in Wagner

Laney Graduate School students voted through an electronic ballot Tuesday that they do not have confidence in James W. Wagner as University president. The Graduate Student Council (GSC) passed a bill earlier this month that allowed the vote to take place.

Twenty-two percent, or 433 students, of the approximately 2,000 total Laney students voted. On the question — “Do you have confidence in James Wagner as President of Emory University?” — 68 percent of voters, or 295 students, voted no, while 27 percent, or 117 students, voted yes, and five percent abstained. The results were announced on the GSC website this afternoon.

GSC President and fifth-year Laney student Rob Rankin wrote in an email to the Wheel that the voting process went well overall. He said about one percent of voters experienced problems.

He added that the voter participation rate was “not surprisingly low,” noting that he wishes Laney students “would be more involved in the University.”

A vote of “no confidence” does not affect Wagner’s employment position as president but indicates that the Laney student body feels Wagner is no longer fit to lead. In a separate electronic ballot held last week, College faculty rejected a motion of “no confidence” in Wagner after five days of voting.

“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,” Wagner wrote in an email to the Wheel last week, in regard to the passage of the GSC bill that enabled the vote to be held.

Voting for Laney students was held online at emory.edu/vote.

“The vote was important to get the students’ perspective of the perception of President Wagner and how we think the University has been run this year,” Rankin wrote. “Personally, I think the results indicate a large number of [Laney] students are unhappy with how the University has been run [and] President Wagner’s actions.”

At an April 4 GSC meeting, fourth-year student in the Laney Graduate School Andy Ratto presented the bill calling for the vote, which passed after it was amended from its original version to add a space on the ballot where voters could type an additional response.

Rankin wrote that he is currently unsure of when and in what format comments will be available online.

Ratto had presented another bill at a Student Government Association meeting last month, which would have added a question on the student leadership elections ballot about whether students have confidence in Wagner. While the bill was amended to focus on the direction of the University as a whole rather than Wagner himself, the legislature ultimately failed the bill by a vote of 6-14-3.

Some members of the Emory community have questioned Wagner’s leadership this semester after the publication of his controversial column about the Three-Fifths Compromise in the winter edition of Emory Magazine. The column sparked local and national criticism, and Wagner issued an apology, most of which was later taken off the magazine’s website.

The Laney bill did not specifically cite the column or Wagner’s role in the department changes announced last semester — a topic that College faculty members have discussed at their monthly meetings — as reasons for the vote. Instead, it was meant to serve as a “method of evaluating performance,” according to the bill.

Following the College faculty vote, Wagner sent out a University-wide email Monday morning, in which he wrote, “I pledge to do my best to lead that change and to grow along with you, in order to help Emory change and grow, while making best use of our resources to serve and lead in our challenging times.”

Wagner’s employment at the University ultimately lies in the hands of the Board of Trustees. In a statement released shortly after the results of the faculty vote were announced, the Board’s Chair Ben F. Johnson III said on the behalf of the Board that Wagner “remains extraordinarily well-suited to maintain Emory University’s forward momentum.”

— By Jordan Friedman


  1. Emory needs to stop accepting UC Berkeley communists like Andy Ratto for the Laney grad school. All they do is cause trouble. Dr. Erik Butler was another example of a leftist trouble-maker from northern California. They both think they’re better than everyone at Emory. They may have good academic credentials, but they’re not going to fit into Emory. They come in with this attitude that Emory is in the South, so they can automatically accuse everyone of being bigots and get away with it.

  2. 22% of the population is not enough of a sample to say anything about the LGS students. Also, there’s a sampling bias, as those most incensed by the situation will respond, while those who don’t care won’t.

    • Welcome to the practical side of democracy. If you don’t think this is a problem in every vote – including the recent College faculty vote – you are in for a big surprise.

      Consider this – those who care enough about the issue to take time to vote might well deserve to have their vote taken seriously.

      Again, it’s called a vote.

      • Definitely a problem in every vote. Although the college faculty vote had 334/530 (63%) voting, which is a better sample. Of course, it’s unclear whether or not it’s truly representative.

        Your second point is a reasonable one. While the squeaky wheel gets the grease, sometimes it does need to be greased.

        Of course, maybe we should take more stock in the fact that 78% of the students WEREN’T moved enough to vote. One possibility is the majority of LGS students just don’t care.

          • Shawnee, a large part of the graduate student body isn’t even on campus – they travel and research abroad much, much more than faculty do. A 24 vote at least would have accommodate. Also, many had problems voting via phones or other devices and had to try multiple times, eventually giving up.

            But go ahead you’re of course entitled your opinion, however misinformed.

    • 22% of the population is enough to tell us about the opinion of the Laney student body with reasonable certainty, if it were a random sample, at a 95% level of confidence. You can play around with the calculator here: http://www.surveysystem.com/sscalc.htm

      I agree with you that it’s a biased sample, so it’s probably best to say that among the graduate students who care enough about President Wagner to vote, they don’t have confidence in him.

    • Ellen, keep reading, and perhaps engage with folks on Emory’s campus? Emory has been a clash this year from huge program cuts and test scandals to blatant racism from the university president… A lot of folks have engaged with this and are upset because they care.

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