ATLANTA — A plan by Emory University to eliminate several academic departments and make cuts to others has angered some students and faculty members who say the administration decided on the changes without consulting the university community.
The school announced in September that it would close the educational studies division, the physical education department, the visual arts department and the journalism program. It also plans to suspend admissions to graduate programs in Spanish, economics and the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts.
More than 150 students gathered Tuesday in front of Emory’s administration building and then poured into the hallway outside administrators’ offices to protest the cuts. The protesters demanded a full reversal of the cuts; formal and meaningful student, faculty and staff participation in key decision-making bodies; and full disclosure and investigation of the processes leading to the cuts.
Harold Braswell, a 31-year-old Ph.D. candidate studying bioethics and the history of medicine, joined the protest with some friends, holding a sign that said “Insufficiently Peer Reviewed.”
“These cuts were made without any sort of due process or consulting with the community,” he said. “I think the main issue is the complete lack of transparency.”
History professor James Melton, who is the secretary of the Emory chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the administration’s actions don’t comply with the principles of faculty governance.
“The curriculum is a central area over which faculty must exercise authority,” he said. “And, more broadly, we are very concerned with the concentration of power with the upper administration, the president and the provost.”
The plan focuses on investing in traditional strengths in the arts and sciences and expanding into new, interdisciplinary areas, including contemporary China studies, digital and new media studies and neurosciences, Emory said when it announced the changes.
The school said it was developed through four years of discussion and study, and Emory College Dean Robin Forman first outlined the plan at a faculty town hall Sept. 12. That was followed by two days of meetings with department chairs and other affected college leaders, Emory said. A letter outlining the plan was sent to the broader Emory College community on Sept. 14.
The changes are set to unfold over several years to allow currently enrolled undergraduate majors and graduate students to complete their courses of study, Forman said. Tenured faculty will be moved to other departments.
University President James Wagner endorsed the plan and applauded the team that worked on it and their “willingness to go back to first principles, look at each department and program afresh, and begin the process of reallocating resources for emerging needs and opportunities.”
After a short protest on the quad in front of the administration building, students climbed the stairs to the fourth floor, where Wagner and other administrators have their offices. They chanted and sang briefly in the hallway until university Vice President Gary Hauk came out of his office and offered to arrange a meeting between four or five of the protesters and Wagner, who wasn’t in the building at the time.
An Emory spokeswoman said she would have a comment later in the day.