Editorials

To live up to its academic reputation, Emory must be a school where students not only perform well throughout the semester but also retain the skills and information they’ve learned for application in the real world. Unfortunately, as is true throughout much of higher education, some Emory students tend to put-off studying and rely on last-minute cramming, which is not conducive to cultivating the deep-rooted knowledge and subject mastery that could set Emory students apart.  

However, the blame does not fall entirely on students. While students would stay on top of their classes and begin studying early for finals in an ideal world, the realities of students’ busy schedules, the barrage of end-of-term papers and projects and an insufficient one- or two-day reading period each semester, make finding the time to do so difficult for even the most organized and capable students.

The University should institute a “dead period” for the week of classes before exams during which no assignments can be due. (Professors could obtain special permission for extenuating circumstances, such as classes without cumulative exams.) Such a dead period would encourage students to begin studying sooner, provide more time for seeking help from professors, peers or teaching assistants and discourage some professors from introducing new material directly before exams.

Without those measures, students are less likely to retain the information they’ve spent four months learning and may never fully learn difficult concepts they’ve struggled with throughout the semester, according research published last year by Dartmouth College (N.H.). The study concluded that “[college] educators could be especially helpful [in promoting effective learning] by structuring their pedagogy in a way that encourages spaced review” and not cramming. A 2015 International Journal of Students’ Research in Technology and Management study of college-age students undergoing exams also asserted that students who cram before exams are more susceptible to developing anxiety-related issues.

In the past, students have called for extensions to Emory’s one- and two-day reading periods. While a longer reading period between classes and exams could be beneficial, a dead period would be more effective since students would be less tempted to mismanage their time. An extended period without classes could tempt students, especially those with fewer exams, to socialize excessively and create a party culture around finals week. A dead period, on the other hand, would free up students’ time without eliminating the structure provided by classes.

There will always be those who choose to waste their time procrastinating and make other questionable decisions. Disciplined students should not suffer because of their less-motivated peers, and if Emory were to institute a dead period, dedicated students would take advantage of it — benefiting more from their Emory-gained skills and education.

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

After a solid Dooley’s Week and, thanks to the last-minute intervention of Campus Life, a successful Friday night concert, the student body’s emotional response to the Migos fiasco has dissipated. As argued in last week’s editorial, other parties share responsibility for the error, but questions remain for the Student Programming Council (SPC) and the Student Government Association (SGA).

At the absolute minimum, students deserve to know the dollar amount lost to the fraudulent third-party booking agency. Ideally, SPC or SGA would publish all significant financial documents for the sake of transparency.

SPC Executive Board’s March 28 Facebook post to students failed to include even an adequate explanation for their mismanagement of funds, stating “It sucks. We’re disappointed.” Members of SPC are our fellow students, but they are students who have been entrusted with a budget of about $456,140. Being “disappointed” does not equate to taking responsibility for mistakes.

As the legislative body that oversees SPC, SGA is equally culpable for the loss of student money. Former SGA President Max Zoberman (17C) stepped up and formally apologized, embodying the leadership we expect from student government. But SGA’s repeated and insufficiently-reasoned refusal to release public documents containing details of the contract calls into question SGA’s priorities. In addition to responsibly managing the Student Activities Fee fund, SGA’s primary obligation is to represent students’ concerns to University administrators. Legislators must advocate to make information as accessible as possible rather than hide behind bureaucracy.

SGA President Gurbani Singh’s (18B) campaign platform highlighted transparency, and she promised to openly admit to SGA’s mistakes. Singh, however, seems to be satisfied with her predecessor’s actions, not responding to multiple requests from the Wheel for the release of the public documents. Furthermore, beginning this year, SPC will no longer hold open elections for president, but an internal election instead. The next leader of SPC must be considerably more attentive in their oversight of large and/or expensive projects.

While it is tiresome to rehash the repetitive tales of our representatives’ mistakes, disorganized solutions and nonexistent apologies, this year’s SGA and SPC have demonstrated that they are only committed to transparency when it’s convenient.

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

Despite the comforting fantasy of finally ditching your hometown for a community of unique students and quirky professors, the modern college experience boils down to one unromantic transaction — an exorbitant check and four years of your life for a degree with a fancy letterhead.

It seems counterintuitive to be critical of the exceptional treatment Emory students receive in April, when Wonderful Wednesdays really are wonderful (rather than the stuporous, mundane affairs they are for the other six months of the year) and Dooley’s Week sends spirits soaring. Yet it is disheartening that the only time Emory students receive the quality of campus life we were promised on admissions pamphlets is when Emory poses, postures and peacocks for another generation of prospective and admitted students.

To their credit, the Admissions Office is seldom overtly dishonest, and emphasizes that student ambassadors and tour guides should never lie. But the subtle practices and omissions Emory utilizes are nonetheless deceptive. Tour guides boast that we have 11 libraries on campus, when four of them (Goizueta Business Library, Stuart A. Rose Library, Matheson Reading Room and the Music and Media Library) are located within the Robert W. Woodruff Library. Applicants learn that they can choose from over 550 student clubs and organizations without knowing that only a handful receive adequate funding to provide consistent, quality programming.

Campus visits are peppered with buzzwords and phrases, like Emory representing the ideal fusion of a research institution with a liberal arts education, despite a whopping 80 percent of first-years harboring pre-health aspirations, according to Admissions, and Goizueta Business School annually absorbing 400 sophomores. Those slogans are seldom more than a means to justify the General Education Requirements that force students to take perfunctory classes in which they have no vested interest. PACE advisors are lauded as omniscient freshmen mentors when they typically have no knowledge of requirements outside their own departments.

Other attempts to coat Emory with the varnish of an Ivy League trailblazer are more institutional. Despite being located in Dekalb County and not Atlanta proper, Emory uses our 30322 zip code to capitalize on the implicit metropolitan name recognition, knowing that “DeKalb” doesn’t have quite the same je ne sais quoi. Students, especially those without the opportunity to tour, arrive with the preconception that Emory is a city school. In reality, even Midtown is largely inaccessible without a car.

We know why Emory employs these strategies and to a certain extent, we cannot fault the admissions staff for doing their jobs too well. Emory presents a sparkling, iridescent exterior to bulk up application numbers and deflate admissions rates, and persuades students to give up full scholarships for four years of a mute, capricious skeleton and overpriced King of Pops to increase our yield. After all, these salient metrics of success bolster our widely touted U.S. News and World Report rankings and are vital to attracting competitive applicants.

Yet as much as we bemoaned slipping out of the top 20, we must remember that these are real students with distinct academic and personal objectives, and oftentimes financial limitations. Funneling resources into a proverbial arms race against schools of similar calibers and masquerading as something Emory is not builds a discordant and resentful student body, undermining the entire idea of “fit” that we supposedly value and continually espouse.

Whether Emory is your dream school or your parents had to drag you here for a visit, don’t be duped. Just like every other university out there, Emory uses all the glitz, glam and artifice it can muster to depict college as something it cannot and will never live up to.

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

Nothing has rallied students together this year as much as the news that Migos would be performing at Dooley’s Week. But when Emory realized it been scammed by a fraudulent third-party agency, the March 28 letter published by Student Programming Council’s (SPC) contained no hint of an apology, and failed to place blame for the oversight on any group or individual.

Following SPC’s letter, frustrated Migos fans jumped to accuse their fellow students on SPC of negligence, but that blame should be redirected toward the administration and paid Emory employees whose responsibility is to prevent mistakes of this scale.

Extreme vetting should have occurred, but it appears that not even a Google search of Global Talent Agency or of Migos’ tour schedule did. Intermediaries between SPC and the fraudulent Global Talent Agency included SPC Adviser and Student Engagement Coordinator Vernon Smith, the Office of the General Counsel and Dave Fuhrman, senior director of Campus Life Auxiliary Services and Administration. None of those three entities tasked with reviewing the booking contract noticed that Migos was double-booked on the day they were scheduled to perform at Emory, nor did they find any red flags in a company not included on Emory Campus Life’s list of pre-approved vendors with no credible references and a history of fraud.

To guarantee that students can be trusted with large amounts of money, the University must have appropriate checks and balances in place. The Office of the General Counsel is one such check. In their core values statement, they promise to “exercise prudent judgment” and “[cultivate] a culture of trust.” Those words mean nothing if they represent a group of employees unable to carry out their intent.

While some of the funds used for the payment came from the Student Activities Fee, reimbursing students individually for the loss would unfortunately be ineffective and counterproductive. Each student would receive a nominal amount, and the funds would have to come from somewhere — most likely from Campus Life or SPC itself, which could affect future events and programs.

This year’s largest and most anticipated student-run University event has been ruined by a scam that could have been avoided with a simple Google search. Preventive measures exist because institutions are run by people who make mistakes — Emory must ensure those measures work.

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

In light of the student government split, the Graduate Student Government Association (GSGA) now autonomously governs Emory graduate students, but it is doing so under a constitution that lacks crucial checks and balances.

As it stands, the GSGA Constitution does not mandate student referendums to pass legislation on issues of importance  — such as changing the financial code or its constitution — and no external judicial branch exists to adjudicate cases for organizations that have violated regulations. The omission of such vital anchors of democracy, which existed prior to the split, forces the question: are those decisions indicative of incompetence, or corruption?  

The former Student Government Association (SGA) “Emory votes yes” campaign centered on the promise of “strengthening student voices.” Without referendums, GSGA has the power to change its governing documents at any time without the consent of the students they govern. The exclusion of referendums threatens to undermine the legitimacy of any such changes made, and demonstrates GSGA’s failure to follow through on a central campaign promise.

Without a judicial branch it becomes difficult to ensure that GSGA follows its own laws, and nearly impossible to impose disciplinary measures if it does not. In contrast, the current SGA has both a Constitutional Council and a judiciary whose roles are fully outlined in its Constitution.

Even if legislators claim to value the input of graduate student organizations, this new constitution was constructed to shut graduate constituents out of the governing process and grant a shocking amount of autonomy to legislators.

After months of advocacy and deliberation, GSGA representatives successfully won equal representation for graduate students in student government.  The challenge was to handle the launch of a new government that instilled trust and confidence in constituents. However, in their new Constitution, GSGA managed to cut out not only undergraduate voices, but the voices of their own constituents. Their deficient constitution proves they can not be trusted with such a momentous task.

By reneging on the promises they were founded on, GSGA does a vast disservice to the students who elected them, and sets themselves up for unreliable and ineffective governance.

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

Three weeks ago, The Emory Wheel’s then-news editor reached out to the Graduate Student Government Association (GSGA) President Jared Greenbaum (17M.B.A.) about the location of that week’s GSGA meeting. Greenbaum did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but later revealed the location and said that the Wheel could not send undergraduate reporters to cover GSGA meetings because only graduate students are constituents of GSGA.

Greenbaum said that the GSGA Constitution currently grants them the power to close meetings at any time to attendees — including graduate students — who are not legislators. The GSGA Constitution states that its meetings “shall be conducted as described in the GSGA bylaws.” Those same bylaws are still being debated and discussed, according to Greenbaum, who said that only graduate reporters will be allowed to cover GSGA meetings..

But without independent news coverage of and guaranteed open meetings for student government, student leaders in positions of power cannot be held accountable.

The Emory Wheel is not bound to any divisional school within the University, but rather has a responsibility to report on the entirety of Emory and its community, including thegraduate and professional schools. To deny any Wheel reporter — including undergraduates — access to GSGA meetings not only prevents the Wheel from fulfilling its elemental obligation, one that no other organization pledges to provide to the University; it also betrays a surprising arrogance on the part of GSGA. A newly formed democratic government should be doing all it can to establish itself as a legitimate and transparent organization. As former U.S. President Obama said, “A democracy requires accountability and accountability requires transparency.”

That lack of accountability and transparency is not simply a small detail that went overlooked in the construction of the GSGA Constitution — it is an insult to democracy.

As members of Emory’s student body, we cannot risk the possibility of our leaders acting without students’ knowledge. The current $92 Student Activities Fee (SAF) contribution from the about 7,102 graduate students alone constitutes a budget of approximately $650,000 for the GSGA budget.

Blind trust in elected leaders to implement the vision of student government that we voted for is not enough. Concrete checks, including free press access, are necessary to hold GSGA accountable. The Wheel will continue to do its job and seek and report the truth, but it is now up to GSGA to prove they are a government that values accountability and transparency in the first place.

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

When students voted on a University-wide referendum to split the Student Government Association (SGA) into two independent bodies, the debate focused on the proper balance of graduate and undergraduate interests within the new SGA. SGA President Max Zoberman, Graduate Student Government Association (GSGA) President Jared Greenbaum and others on SGA’s executive council aggressively lobbied for a “yes” result.

By rushing the vote, Zoberman and Greenbaum led the student body into a dangerous period of uncertainty.

Websites were made and town halls were held, all without mention of the aftermath: the dereliction of a constitution for an exclusively undergraduate SGA to operate under.

In minutes from their Dec. 5 meeting, SGA asks whether enough “due diligence” has been done to take the so-called split bill to a vote. Legislators noted that they were uncomfortable with the lack of specificity in the bill, especially undergraduates for whom the “next steps” after the split had not yet been decided. Despite these concerns, SGA irresponsibly passed the bill that day and sent it to a student referendum.

Now, after the referendum, there is debate as to whether or not the Constitution still is active. According to Zoberman, “the revelation that [SGA is now] not bound by a constitution didn’t come until after the vote.”

Our elected leaders engineered a plan that failed to take any of this into account, and SGA is now operating without real checks on its action.

Though Zoberman stated SGA hopes to adhere to the old constitution until a new one is approved, relying on our leaders to act in good faith is simply unacceptable. SGA controls a budget of hundreds of thousands of dollars, much of which comes directly from students’ activities fees.

While it’s not clear that SGA has abused the enormous responsibility of handling such a budget, there is currently little to stop them from doing so.

The situation is tenuous. Even if SGA passes a new constitution, a majority of students will still need to ratify it in referendum. Zoberman himself said the situation would be both “shocking and dangerous” if it fails to garner enough support to pass.

The present situation could easily have been avoided by attaching provisional constitutions to the split bill.

Regardless, Zoberman unapologetically placed both in untenable and potentially disastrous positions. Whether the decisions that led to these circumstances were a calculated power grab or just thoughtless, SGA owes it to students to acknowledge their failures and ensure that a functioning, responsible governing structure is put in place for next year.

Zoberman promised the split would improve student government – it hasn’t.

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

 

In a disappointing move, President Trump reversed Obama-era federal protections allowing transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity.  

This development was unsurprising but disheartening. By allowing states to deny transgender students access to public spaces, the government is limiting students’ ability to fully express their gender identity. This is an explicit denial of students’ rights that threatens the legitimacy of the transgender identity.

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stated the reasoning behind this reversal. “The president has maintained for a long time that this is a states’ rights issue and not one for the federal government,” he says. This is simply an excuse to justify discrimination towards a vulnerable minority.

The truth is that the intersection of civil and states’ rights has a history of prejudice. In this country the concept of states’ rights justified slavery, Jim Crow-era laws, discrimination against disabled Americans and, most recently, marriage for same-sex couples. This is yet another point in history when the government needs to step in and protect the rights of a minority demanding the right to use public spaces.

Another common excuse used to oppose federal protections for transgender individuals is the unjustifiable fear of attack against women. Critics claim that if transgender people are allowed to use the bathroom of their choice, the rate of predatory men harassing women or young girls in bathrooms will increase. This fear-mongering is an artificial message targeted at people who misunderstand the transgender community. Politicians use this baseless fear to pass discriminatory policies that appeal to a bigoted and misinformed electorate.

For transgender people, there is evidence that they are at risk. The UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute published a survey on gendered restrooms that showed over 70 percent of their respondents have experienced either “denial of access to facilities, verbal harassment [or] physical assault.”

Furthermore, The LA Times reported on a study that showed, “same-sex marriage helped reduce suicide attempts by gay, lesbian and bisexual teens.” This demonstrates that social change easing stigma against minorities results in life-altering benefits.

The fears and vulnerabilities of transgender people have heavy consequences that should not be taken lightly or dismissed as one for states to handle. Legislators and the Trump administration forget that these people are both American citizens and their constituents. Also, this debate should not stop with the government

Society as a whole should be ashamed of our intolerant past. The best path forward is to acknowledge that transgender people exist and deserve to use public space without scrutiny.

Therefore, they should be allowed to identify as their preferred gender in public spaces. Federal protections only reinforce our choice to accept transgender people as they are.

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

A university president’s responsibilities are largely uncontroversial: serving as a figurehead, cozying up to major donors and representing the University’s interests. But these are not ordinary times. In signing a letter opposing President Trump’s “travel ban” alongside 47 colleagues from peer institutions, President Claire E. Sterk upheld her obligation to advocate on behalf of Emory’s best interests and, indeed, the best interests of American higher education.

Our past editorials have advocated against designating Emory a sanctuary campus, an ineffective and potentially dangerous label. This letter was a more tangible — and more importantly, indisputably lawful — statement that directly coincided with Emory’s mission and core interests, but did not give the Trump administration legal ammunition to justify retribution (e.g., cutting funding). A call to “rectify or rescind the recent executive order” and implement evidenced-based vetting is distinct from vowing to break federal law.

Education is not, and should not be, a partisan issue. In academia, the free movement of people between institutions in different countries and their ideas is fundamental to progress; conversely, isolation impedes this progress. Researchers stand on the backs of their predecessors’ findings to reach greater heights. They glean inspiration from global conferences, visiting lecturers and cross-continental collaboration with scholars. President Trump’s travel ban hinders academic dialogue and with it, Emory’s capacity as a research institution.

Had the Ninth Circuit Court not upheld the temporary restraining order against Trump’s executive action last Thursday, Emory and every other global academic institution would have suffered. From Emory’s perspective, the knowledge and experience these immigrants bring far outweigh any risks they might pose.

Sterk’s co-signing of the letter was criticized as both an unnecessary politicization of the University and an action that alienates Emory’s conservative community. But her decision was not only logical, but necessary for Emory to continue occupying a place at the helm of American higher education. Emory has achieved global recognition as an academic force over 180 years — let us not turn back now.