Open Letter Regarding Announced Changes to Emory Curriculum

On September 14, 2012, Dean Robin Forman announced a number of changes to the curriculum, including the closing of the Department of Visual Arts, the Division of Educational Studies, the Program in Journalism, and the Department of Physical Education (the last already in progress at the time of his letter). He also announced the suspension of admissions to the graduate programs in Economics, Spanish, and the Institute of Liberal Arts (ILA). The ILA, he wrote, will be restructured as an “institute without permanent faculty.” Owing to these cuts, a number of Lecture Track Faculty will not have their contracts renewed, two tenure-track assistant professors hired in Educational Studies last spring will be let go in advance of any formal review of their work, and a number of tenured faculty will be relocated to other departments. Dean Forman has made it clear, in his letter and elsewhere, that he made the decisions in consultation with what he called the “Faculty Financial Advisory Committee,” a small (seven- to-eight person) group of appointed faculty; Lisa Tedesco, the Dean of the Laney Graduate School; and Earl Lewis, the Provost.

On behalf of the Emory Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, we want to remind the Deans, the Provost, the President, the Board of Trustees, and, most importantly, Emory’s faculty and students of AAUP guidelines. These state that primary responsibility for decision-making concerning curriculum resides in the hands of the faculty. AAUP guidelines make it clear that this responsibility covers not only the determination of those areas of study to be offered by a college or university but extends to “appointments, reappointments, decisions not to reappoint, promotions, the granting of tenure, and dismissal” (from Section 5 of AAUP’s “Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities”).

We understand that restructurings and reallocation of funds are sometimes necessary to ensure that an institution remains strong. In this instance, however, the University failed to undertake that process of reallocation through properly constituted faculty deliberative bodies and to understand that important decisions having to do with these matters must come from those bodies to the Deans, Provost, President, and Board of Trustees.

Moreover, we are dismayed that a small committee, initially appointed to advise Dean Robert Paul informally on financial matters in the wake of the economic crisis of 2008, became a subcommittee of the College Governance Committee that advised the Dean on curricular matters. Given the impact of the Dean’s decisions on graduate education, we are also concerned that the Executive Council of the Laney Graduate School—an elected body of faculty representatives—was not consulted in advance about these changes in accordance with stated practices. The LGS website states that “[t]he Executive Council reviews proposals. . . for changes in existing courses and programs on a rolling basis.” No proposals in this matter were brought before this council for deliberation. The fact that a College subcommittee seems to have issued recommendations to close programs in another unit, the Graduate School, also raises questions of purview.

We are concerned that there is no record of sufficiently substantive reports from this Faculty Financial Advisory Committee (now being called CFAC, or the College Financial Advisory Committee) to the Governance Committee or from the Governance Committee to the Humanities Council or Social Sciences Council (councils made up of department chairs in their respective divisions). We have been told that issues of confidentiality were involved, since the CFAC had access to confidential information and sensitive material (salaries, rankings, etc.). We want to be clear that the information that should have been made available to the Governance Committee and to the faculty through the Humanities and

Social Sciences Councils is information about recommendations and options, not information about individual faculty salaries and other personnel information. We have been told that the chairs of affected departments were informed in advance. Yet there is no evidence of clear communication, and in fact, chairs of affected departments (with one exception) strenuously deny that they were informed beforehand. In sum, the overall process appears to have shown substantial noncompliance with accepted procedural standards of academic governance.

The Emory Chapter of the AAUP calls for immediate review—by the College Governance Committee, the Executive Council of the Laney Graduate School, and the University Senate—of the processes that led to these decisions. We ask that these deliberations be undertaken independently and autonomously by elected faculty representatives to those bodies. We ask that these bodies invite feedback from all faculty members as part of these deliberations, to be initiated no later than the end of the Fall 2012 semester, and that the results be announced to the faculty. We ask, as well, that these committees give due consideration to the impact of the cuts and discontinuations on minority faculty and women; to their implications with regards to policies and practices put into effect over the past decade concerning the hiring, retention, and promotion of Lecture Track Faculty; to whether they presage a greater reliance on adjunct labor in teaching at Emory; and to the impact of the relocation of tenured faculty in affected departments on the work of those faculty, along with any other questions or concerns deemed to be within the purview of faculty responsibility for curricular matters. 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.

Barbara Ladd
President, Emory Chapter, AAUP Professor of English

Sharon Strocchia
Vice-President, Emory Chapter, AAUP Professor of History

James V.H. Melton
Secretary-Treasurer, Emory Chapter, AAUP Professor of History


After this open letter was issued, the Dean of Emory’s Laney Graduate School (LGS) and the Executive Committee of the LGS each wrote letters in reply. For the Dean’s letter click LGSDeantoAAUP_EUChapter and for the Executive Committee’s letter click LGS-EC-Letter.




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