I am not sure how many Emory students will heed the call for a walkout today at noon to protest university cuts to liberal arts programs. But I applaud students for taking a stand on the direction and focus of their university.
In September, Emory announced that it intends to phase out the journalism program, department of visual arts, division of educational studies and department of physical education. The university will also suspend admissions to Spanish and economics graduate programs so leaders there can redefine the missions. Emory also will suspend admissions to the Institute for Liberal Arts so it can be restructured. The changes will begin at the end of this academic year and finish by the end of the 2016-17 academic year.
Emory told the AJC that savings from the changes will be re-invested into existing programs and growing areas, such as neurosciences, contemporary China studies and digital and new media studies.
Not everyone is happy with the program losses.
Here is an excerpt of a fire-em-up op-ed by Emory junior David Mullins of the Student Re-visioning Committee urging peers to participate in today’s walkout. The re-visioning committee is made up of students, faculty and staff.
By David Mullins
It’s time for a walk out. On Dec. 4th, do not sit in class. Come to the quad at noon. If you are teaching a class, bring your class.
A successful walkout will make [Emory College Dean Robin] Forman and [Emory President Jim] Wagner look bad. It will create the pressure necessary to reverse the cuts, and it will make a national AAUP censure [American Association of University Professors] that much more likely.
A walkout is necessary because Wagner and Forman do not consider themselves answerable even to department heads, much less students. “Dialogue” for them means telling the Emory community what is going to happen and us accepting it.
They do not care about your opinion, whether you are a freshman undergraduate or the Chair of the ILA, which is why they did not ask you about their decision before they made it.
They expect you to sit idly by while they disembowel our university. Wagner said the cuts are in the spirit of the civil rights movement because he claims in the civil rights movement people did not question their leaders. His arguments are so absurd his wager is that you just won’t be paying attention. The walkout will call his bluff.
Wagner’s response to the Student Re-visioning Committee letter is only meaningless noise. To take but one example: he doesn’t think we should worry about eliminating the profoundly diverse education department because “diversity should not be dependent on one department.” This is a bit like murdering the only doctor on a desert island because “we should not be dependent on one person for medical knowledge.” The reality is the Education department is our best connection to Atlanta schools and our best hope of retaining minority and female graduate students.
Wagner’s philosophy for the cuts is “cut inferior, boost superior.” But what is superior? Wagner won’t tell. Diversity, critical thinking and a pattern of improvement are considered superior by many, but not by Wagner. I don’t think even he knows what he means by superior.
Journalism is too job-focused, but Economics doesn’t place enough jobs. It’s about interdisciplinarity, but the exceptionally interdisciplinary ILA must be removed. It’s about publications, but the Spanish and Portuguese departments impressive publication history doesn’t save them. It’s about the cutting edge, but the must-cite education department scholars don’t cut it. It’s about what students want, but dozens of visual arts majors are turned away. It’s about the budget, except when Forman says it’s not.
All these contradictions are not a coincidence. The real, unstated reason for the cuts is undeniably university rankings.
The ironic part is Forman’s and Wagner’s strategy will fail to improve our rankings. US News & World Report is a fickle mistress – there is no guarantee they will like Twitter and China more than art, languages, economics and diversity.
A walkout is necessary, in the final analysis, because the cuts will make Emory a much worse school.
Many students who would have majored in an affected department will transfer or not enroll. The perception that Emory is going downhill is palpable almost no matter whom you talk to.
As a student who benefits from the academic environment of Emory, you have a responsibility to defend it. Tell your friends. Tell your professors. Do not skip the walk out.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog