Editorials

This week, DeKalb County and the city of Atlanta reached a settlement regarding Emory’s annexation into Atlanta, a change that would greatly benefit Emory students, faculty and staff. If approved, the annexation would be the biggest change to Atlanta’s borders in decades.

It is no wonder then that this agreement was met with criticism. Before a settlement was met, the Dekalb County Commission unanimously voted to object to the annexation. In an 11-page letter the commission stated its concerns, which included “more traffic, higher [population] density, further development, increased risk for sewage spills and a potential impact on public schools.”

The settlement itself contains several concessions that were added to meet these concerns. First, the city agreed to pay $10 million for county firefighting services over the next decade. Second, the zoning laws of DeKalb County will not change city standards, alleviating concerns about rapid development in the area. The DeKalb Public School system will not face changes as school district lines will be preserved. Lastly, the city agreed to hold public meetings related to MARTA’s plan to create a light rail that extends to the Emory campus.

Those concessions were enough to flip the DeKalb County Commission’s vote unanimously in favor of annexation.

In fact, the annexation would have little to no financial impact on residents of DeKalb County. Thanks to the settlement, all tax dollars — $4.4 million to be exact — currently paid by property owners in the proposed annexation area will remain in the county. Residents outside the University system do not have to worry about a hike in taxes due to lost revenue.

The main upshot for the Emory community is that the Clifton Corridor project may finally come to fruition. The project proposes the construction of a light-rail MARTA line from Lindbergh Center Station to the University’s campus. For regular Atlanta commuters, a light-rail line would offer a cheaper alternative to driving. MARTA’s University Pass Program costs $68.50 for students and $83.80 for faculty and staff per month. Due to Emory’s current position outside of city limits, the Emory community is not eligible for the discounts. This settlement and the future annexation of Emory present an opportunity to extend the program to our campus, which would especially benefit Emory employees.

In total, Emory University and Emory Healthcare employ more than 30,000 workers. That excludes the large staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The daily commutes of tens of thousands of people inevitably results in negative externalities, such as Clifton Road’s notorious reputation for congestion. Our campus is also home to two hospitals — Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University Hospital (EUH). Both locations have emergency ambulance services that would benefit from decreased congestion, and Emory faculty and staff would have a cheaper, and perhaps more convenient, alternative to driving into DeKalb County.

But how will this affect students? Consider the price many students pay for Ubers to and from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Regardless of traffic and pricing surges, it is often simpler to swallow a $20 fee than attempting to split a ride.

A hypothetical light rail would run from campus to Lindbergh Center Station, which connects directly to the airport. The whole trip would be about 30 minutes. And better yet, this trip would cost just $2.50, the price of a MARTA light-rail ticket from any location.

The settlement also gives Emory the opportunity to extend our university’s resources further. Easier access to the city would facilitate closer partnerships between our community and other Atlanta-based universities and businesses. Ideally, it would become commonplace for students without cars to regularly volunteer in the city, find part-time jobs, take classes at the Georgia Institute of Technology or simply enjoy the vibrant, diverse culture thriving just out of reach.
University President Claire E. Sterk put it succinctly: “[The annexation will be] building upon our commitment to community involvement, academic excellence, innovation and entrepreneurship.”

If the annexation petition is accepted, Emory is committing to an extensive partnership with the city of Atlanta that will hopefully lead to great returns for both parties.

Both the annexation of Emory into Atlanta and the Clifton Corridor project await a vote by the Atlanta City Council, but the city’s recent settlement with DeKalb County heralds a positive outlook for both. The city of Atlanta must work to make the annexation fair to local residents, but the University’s priority should be its students, faculty and staff; even if the only physical change students notice in the coming years is a rail line, the annexation of Emory into Atlanta would enrich Emory’s community in the long term.

 

The Editorial Board is composed of Jennifer Katz, Madeline Lutwyche and Boris Niyonzima.

 

Last Thursday, Emory issued a “shelter in place” citing a police emergency in the Clairmont Campus/Lullwater Preserve/VA Hospital area. Across campus, rumors circulated about the source of the emergency and distorted allegations, including the presence of an active shooter, which was not the case. For those who were in class, many professors were either unaware of the emergency because they were not near their phones, and some failed to adhere to standard emergency protocols. There was no consistency in the way professors reacted — some dismissed their students from class while others shut off lights and barricaded the doors.

According to its website, Emory’s Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR) “serves as the center for Emory enterprise-wide planning for and coordinated response to catastrophic events affecting Emory and the broader community.” CEPAR is responsible for handling situations ranging from Hurricane Irma preparation to last week’s escaped fugitive. Though CEPAR provides various resources, including classroom handbooks, training sessions upon request and August community training specifically for Campus Life staff and Residence Assistants, these measures do not seem to be sufficient, or they aren’t employed often enough. During last week’s emergency, Residence Life seemed to be prepared, with some resident advisors (RAs) and sophomore advisors (SAs) distributing information as they received updates to students via group messages. However, faculty members’ lack of knowledge left some students feeling unsafe or disoriented. Additionally, it was at first unclear whether the warning applied to Emory’s main campus. The emergency texts sent to students warned only of a potential threat to the Clairmont/Lullwater/VA area, and sirens were absent from main campus. This announcement was within minutes of an Emory Police tweet alerting students of a “police emergency occurring on #Emory main campus.”

Communication is fundamental to efficient and effective emergency management. The lack of consistency and preparedness among faculty and staff members could have been disastrous in the event of a real active shooter or violent threat.

CEPAR claims that all members of the Emory community should review safety information. CEPAR promotes its “Run, Hide, Fight” video on its website and encourages students to download the LiveSafe safety app. It also provides guidance through “Just in Time” emergency guides, which hang in classrooms, workplaces and residence halls. A variety of resources are clearly available, but, regardless, many faculty members and students remain uneducated. By making crisis training optional for departments, a lack of preparedness is inevitable. CEPAR should rectify its guidelines to ensure the safety of all members of the Emory community. Going forward, all faculty members should be trained to handle emergency situations more effectively. When our collective safety is at risk, students must be able to rely on their professors to calmly and correctly follow CEPAR procedures.

The Editorial Board is composed of Jennifer Katz, Madeline Lutwyche and Boris Niyonzima.

After its precarious split from the undergraduate Student Government Association (SGA) last year, the Graduate Student Government Association (GSGA) finally released their constitution to The Emory Wheel after multiple requests for the document. GSGA has supposedly been operating under this code for the last five months, since ratifying it April 17.

Unlike SGA, GSGA’s constitution contains no mention of public documents. Financial information, voting records and minutes are not accessible to graduate students or Wheel reporters. Though students can formally request information about GSGA meetings and minutes, their elected representatives have no obligation to accede.

The legislature’s bylaws also grant astonishingly unregulated powers to members; with a simple majority vote, GSGA reserves the right to “enact a budget policy separate from [its] bylaws to govern the both the GSGA Legislature and Executive Board expenditures of GSGA funds.” Such a policy could presumably be enacted without any input from graduate students, GSGA’s primary financiers.

Unlike SGA’s constitution, GSGA’s constitution contains no mention of a judicial process to ensure that it abides by its constitution and bylaws. In fact, GSGA’s new constitution is practically identical to its deficient interim constitution used early last spring; no substantive changes have been made. Additionally, GSGA’s constitution and bylaws grant the legislature total control over the constitution. Voting members could theoretically rewrite and ratify both documents without any checks from the student body or University administration.

Though their intentions may be pure, without structures in place to scrutinize the legality of their actions and with no obligation to publicize its decisions, GSGA representatives are essentially free to use student funds however they see fit. No government should have been established under such lenient terms, and representatives should work to quickly rectify these deficiencies. Such governance may sound draconian or tedious, but GSGA representatives have a duty to hold themselves and future legislatures responsible for their decisions.

The Editorial Board is composed of Jennifer Katz, Madeline Lutwyche and Boris Niyonzima.

 

“Why did you have to shoot?”

Those are the painful words uttered by Bill Schultz in response to the fatal shooting of his child, Scout Schultz, a fourth-year engineering student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who was killed by a Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD) officer on Saturday night. This question posed by Scout’s father is the same one that lingers after every unnecessary police shooting.

Four armed officers surrounding one suspect should be able to de-escalate a tough situation without resorting to deadly violence. Schultz was shot after repeated commands by police to drop their multipurpose tool, whose blade was reportedly not extended. In videos of the incident, Schultz is seen slowly walking toward three police officers while one flanked them from behind. There was no attempt at using non-lethal weapons by any of the officers on the scene. The response to Schultz’s plea — “Shoot me!” — was the shot that lead to Schultz’s death.

Police should aim to protect the public at all costs. In too many instances, the suspect’s life is not viewed as worth protecting.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Schultz called 911 before being shot by campus police. In the call, Schultz described, “a white male, with long blonde hair, white T-shirt and blue jeans who is possibly intoxicated, holding a knife and possibly armed with a gun on his hip.”

Furthermore, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports that that three suicide notes were found in Schultz’s dorm room after their death. Schultz’s mother told the AJC that Schultz had been diagnosed with depression in childhood, and that the state of their mental health fluctuated throughout their life.

The police officer who shot Schultz, Tyler Beck, was never trained in Crisis Intervention Training, which teaches police how to handle individuals diagnosed with a mental illness, according to the AJC. An officer with appropriate training should have been dispatched to help avoid the entire crisis.

Emory students frequent Georgia Tech’s campus on the weekends, and it’s likely that some Emory students were at Georgia Tech on Saturday night. In a phone call with the Emory Police Department (EPD), an officer told the Wheel that EPD would respond to a 911 call in the same manner as Schultz — with armed officers. It is clear that this is not unusual protocol.

Our society’s blind trust in police procedures needs to be re-evaluated. The use of lethal force is less common outside the United States but within our borders, 706 people have been shot and killed by police in 2017. Going forward, we must scrutinize and assess the failed policies that led to Schultz’s death.

As Schultz’s family grieves and Georgia Tech’s campus reels, our community should mourn in solidarity. Jumping to premature conclusions in an ongoing investigation is never helpful, but the words of Bill Schultz ring true once again: “[Whatever] happened should not have ended in death.”

The Editorial Board is composed of Jennifer Katz, Madeline Lutwyche and Boris Niyonzima.

Last week, the Trump administration announced the rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). If Congress does not pass sweeping immigration reform before then, nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants will be at risk for deportation.

Trump’s decision — politics aside — struck fear and uncertainty into the hearts of hundreds of thousands of young people who know little of life outside the borders of this country. They might live in legal limbo, but DACA recipients are not strangers to Emory students, nor are they strangers to the United States. Brought to this country as minors, recipients grew up in the U.S., work here and fight in our military; one “dreamer” even died while helping victims of Hurricane Harvey.

“Providing a permanent legal solution for these individuals is both a moral imperative and a national necessity if our nation is to live up to the ideals we espouse,” states a Sept. 7 letter sent to Congress by 57 university presidents and chancellors, including University President Claire E. Sterk, urging legislators to act on immigration reform.

This is a hardline stance from Emory in support of DACA recipients. When the government fails to protect vulnerable individuals, private institutions have to decide between falling in line or resisting; in the coming months while these students’ futures hang in the balance, Emory can, and already is, doing more to help them.

The University reaffirmed its commitment to DACA students in an Aug. 31 email by highlighting its current policies towards them and its other undocumented students. Providing need-based financial aid, legal non-compliance and privacy rights, among other initiatives, are acts of humanity. At minimum, the measures allow undocumented students to continue studying at Emory. Hopefully, the University’s policies help to ease undocumented students’ uncertainty despite Trump’s efforts to do the opposite.

Six months is an eternity in our modern news cycle. As the time passes, we cannot forget that there are students at Emory whose time in the U.S. has been given an expiration date.

As citizens with political capital, we must support the voices of undocumented students who choose to speak out and pressure Congress to pass legislation that will wholeheartedly welcome these individuals into our country, where they belong — permanently.

To write to your congressman, go to https://www.contactingcongress.org/.  

The Editorial Board is composed of Jennifer Katz, Madeline Lutwyche and Boris Niyonzima.

After a year of turmoil in the Student Government Association (SGA), freshmen representative elections are at the pinnacle of importance. Though the freshman elections may seem trivial to upperclassmen, it is no secret that SGA, like most college organizations, is nepotic.

The legislators we elect to represent the freshman class will likely end up in a high-level position when they are upperclassmen and will set the stage for the future of SGA. Current SGA President Gurbani Singh (18B) has served on SGA since her freshman year and her Executive Vice President, Natasha Armstrong (18B), has served since her sophomore year. There is a laundry list of mistakes the freshmen representatives must not repeat — lacking transparency, originality of their platforms and attentiveness to the SGA constitution. It is imperative that future SGA representatives learn from the mistakes of their predecessors.

Although there is little takeaway from the candidates’ generic platforms, the role of the freshman representative should be dealing with freshman-specific issues, such as improving DUC-ling menu options, meal schedules and long lines, and working to create a sense of community within the class of 2021.

With its concrete, freshman-focused planned initiatives, Surya Garg’s (21C) platform should set her up to be the front-runner. Garg sets realistic goals that would win her unanimous support; fixing the weak Wi-Fi connection on campus would certainly make her the most popular SGA legislator.

The other platforms were well-meaning but vague. The candidates may be competent, but their platforms are not reflective of their ability to affect change. We urge the elected freshmen representatives to educate themselves on the issues of their class and carry out necessary and desired changes. The students elected must hold themselves accountable to their freshman class and be prepared to elevate SGA to a more transparent, reliable and receptive governing body.

The Wheel evaluated candidates’ platforms, which can be found here: emorywheel.com/fallelectionguide2017/. 

The Editorial Board is composed of Jennifer Katz, Madeline Lutwyche and Boris Niyonzima.

 

If you’ve ever set foot in Decatur Square, home to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, The Iberian Pig and a cute, touristy gazebo, you’ve been in view of the so-called “Lost Cause” monument. Standing directly in the back of the old DeKalb County Courthouse, the monument commemorates fallen Confederate soldiers who “were of a covenant keeping race who held fast to the faith as it was given by the fathers of the Republic.”

The obelisk was erected in 1908 by “the men and women and children of DeKalb County” decades after the Civil War and two years after deadly race riots plagued Atlanta. This does more than simply commemorate Confederate soldiers; it’s a monument to current-day racism.

The Lost Cause monument stood as a symbol of conservative, white supremacist views at the height of the Jim Crow era. The symbols with which we adorn our public spaces should reflect the core ideals of the United States. Racism — and the idolization of those who defended it — cannot be among them. Some conservatives voice concerns of a slippery slope phenomenon, which could lead to the demonization of America’s leaders and founders like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.

While that argument is often used to defend racist statues, it holds some credence. The history of our country is riddled with inequality and oppression — we cannot erase all evidence of our past, nor should we try. We draw the line at the legacy of the individual or cause memorialized.

Despite the fact that Jefferson was a slaveowner, he, for example, is remembered as a core writer of the Declaration of Independence and as one of America’s first great politicians. In contrast, the Lost Cause monument exclusively venerates the Confederate spirit — a supremacist ideology that stands for oppression and slavery. Just as importantly, we must consider the intent and context of construction.

The Lost Cause monument was erected more than four decades after the end of the Civil War and served as a rallying point for those committed to the “lost cause” of the Confederacy. We cannot allow a monument dedicated to the institution of white supremacy to guard a building that symbolizes our justice system.

DeKalb County may be unable to remove the monument because of a 2010 state law that prohibits the removal or relocation of public monuments. But the state of Georgia should amend the law, relocate the monument to a museum and carefully reassess which parts of its history to celebrate.

The Editorial Board is composed of Jennifer Katz, Madeline Lutwyche and Boris Niyonzima.

The deadly protests in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month were a reminder of a truth many would rather ignore: Race relations in this country, and on college campuses like Emory’s, need work.

This year’s Creating Emory curriculum contained an incomplete, slapdash attempt to address the University’s history of slavery and racism. As a response to the current political climate, this brief history lesson during freshmen orientation was insufficient. Perhaps the attempt in itself is commendable, but the execution lacked the depth necessary for a nuanced discussion of race.

The script for Orientation Leaders abruptly introduces a 30-second section of historical facts such as Emory namesake John Emory’s prominent slave-owning family and the University’s strong opposition to abolition. The script says that “in its early years most of the faculty, college trustees, its most generous donors and every antebellum president owned slaves.” It then awkwardly asks students to silently reflect on how they feel about Emory in that immediate moment without any room for a comprehensive, informed dialogue.  

Moreover, simply acknowledging the wrongs of the past is not enough to ensure equality in the present; the Charlottesville protests are evidence enough that escalating racial tension is an ongoing and ever changing issue in this country.

Although Emory has become increasingly diverse since its official 1962 desegregation, it is easy, and all too common, to spend your years here in a social and, often, racial bubble. Students frequently fail to communicate with those outside of their communities as a result of instinctual social segregation. While our social lives need not be totally dominated by concerns about diversity, a complete education includes understanding diverse groups of people and values contradictory to our own.

The administration also has a concrete responsibility to facilitate dialogue and foster understanding between different groups on campus. University President Claire E. Sterk’s condemnation of intolerant hate groups — the first time Sterk has taken such a forceful stance on a contentious issue — marked a principled step in the right direction, but it was just one email, words which most students have quickly forgotten. Emory must work to mirror the sentiment of Sterk’s response to Charlottesville in its daily decisions.

While Emory’s attempt to acknowledge its past is appropriate, a few paragraphs in an orientation session won’t create lasting change at Emory. Institutional change is possible, but the administration, students and faculty must work to make continuous, comprehensive efforts  to build the “foundation of civil discourse” Sterk’s letter so enthusiastically champions.   

The Editorial Board is comprised of Annie Cohen, Jennifer Katz, Madeline Lutwyche and Boris Niyonzima. 

The deadly protests in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month were a reminder of a truth many would rather ignore: Race relations in this country, and on college campuses like Emory’s, need work.

This year’s Creating Emory curriculum contained an incomplete, slapdash attempt to address the University’s history of slavery and racism. As a response to the current political climate, this brief history lesson during freshmen orientation was insufficient. Perhaps the attempt in itself is commendable, but the execution lacked the depth necessary for a nuanced discussion of race.

The script for Orientation Leaders abruptly introduces a 30-second section of historical facts such as Emory namesake John Emory’s prominent slave-owning family and the University’s strong opposition to abolition. The script says that “in its early years most of the faculty, college trustees, its most generous donors and every antebellum president owned slaves.” It then awkwardly asks students to silently reflect on how they feel about Emory in that immediate moment without any room for a comprehensive, informed dialogue.  

Moreover, simply acknowledging the wrongs of the past is not enough to ensure equality in the present; the Charlottesville protests are evidence enough that escalating racial tension is an ongoing and ever changing issue in this country.

Although Emory has become increasingly diverse since its official 1962 desegregation, it is easy, and all too common, to spend your years here in a social and, often, racial bubble. Students frequently fail to communicate with those outside of their communities as a result of instinctual social segregation. While our social lives need not be totally dominated by concerns about diversity, a complete education includes understanding diverse groups of people and values contradictory to our own.

The administration also has a concrete responsibility to facilitate dialogue and foster understanding between different groups on campus. University President Claire E. Sterk’s condemnation of intolerant hate groups — the first time Sterk has taken such a forceful stance on a contentious issue — marked a principled step in the right direction, but it was just one email, words which most students have quickly forgotten. Emory must work to mirror the sentiment of Sterk’s response to Charlottesville in its daily decisions.
While Emory’s attempt to acknowledge its past is appropriate, a few paragraphs in an orientation session won’t create lasting change at Emory. Institutional change is possible, but the administration, students and faculty must work to make continuous, comprehensive efforts  to build the “foundation of civil discourse” Sterk’s letter so enthusiastically champions.   

 

The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board.