Editorials

We attend a university that is dedicated to open expression, a value that is at the core of academic pursuit. It is easy to forget that without continuous maintenance, freedom of speech is jeopardized by popular demands for conformity. Recent events at Columbia University (N.Y.) have brought to attention the inadequacies of Emory’s free speech policies.

Student group Columbia University College Republicans (CUCR) recently invited Tommy Robinson, founder of the European Defence League and far-right activist, to speak via Skype. Robinson has said that Islam is “violent” and “fascist.” During his Oct. 10 speech, more than 30 protesters marched onto the stage, chanting and disrupting the talk.

Shortly after, Columbia placed at least 19 students under investigation for violating Columbia’s Rules of University Conduct in regard to freedom of expression. But after students and faculty members denounced the investigations, the investigations were dropped. Columbia’s Executive Vice President for University Life and Rules Administrator Suzanne Goldberg decided to “informally resolve the Rules of University Conduct complaint.”

In order to adequately protect open expression, viewpoint neutrality is necessary in every aspect of a university’s involvement with speech, including the punishments doled out for disrupting speech. Goldberg did not explain her decision, leaving the impression that the investigation was dropped because the protesters’ side was popular and CUCR’s was not.

Emory should preemptively learn from Columbia’s mistakes. Embedded in Emory’s Respect for Open Expression Policy is a provision enabling the University to cancel planned speeches if there is a credible threat that violence or dangerous overcrowding will result. In order to prevent policy from encouraging a heckler’s veto, Emory ought to amend its policy to clarify that any student or faculty member who uses or threatens to use force in an attempt to silence speech risks suspension or expulsion. In addition, Emory should let it be known that people outside the purview of the University who engage in such actions will be prosecuted by the law. Emory should also define procedures and punishments to be followed in the case of nonviolent but disruptive silencing of speech. Finally, Emory must explicitly commit to enforce all of its open expression policies in a viewpoint-neutral manner.

Last semester, State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) visited campus at the invitation of student group Emory College Republicans (ECR). Open expression observers were stationed inside the room and Emory Police Department (EPD) officers were present outside to prevent violence. The audience included protesters who were carrying signs, occasionally heckling and submitting critical questions. The talk began with questions screened by ECR, but unfortunately Ehrhart left without a vigorous debate challenging his policies despite the overwhelming opposition in the room.

Speakers who are invited by student groups have a right to appear on campus and to be heard. But there is no right to have one’s speech go unchallenged. When questions are asked at an event, they should be screened in a viewpoint-neutral way. Unfortunately, it is logistically impossible to ensure every student group screens their questions in a viewpoint-neutral way. A violation of this proposed policy could only be reported in a retroactive complaint system. Our hope is that a threat of punishment will deter student groups from silencing challenging questions.

Columbia’s recent problems with their free speech policies require a review of our own at Emory. Not only that, free speech is being challenged from the White House and from state legislatures throughout the country. Some are attempting to silence universities. Now, more than ever, the Emory community should take a look at our open expression policies and make the necessary changes, so we can continue to speak freely while being challenged.

The above Editorial represents the consensus opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.

The editorial board is composed of Nora Elmubarak, Jennifer Katz, Andrew Kliewer, Madeline Lutwyche, Isabeth Mendoza, Boris Niyonzima, Shreya Pabbaraju, Isaiah Sirois and Mathew Sperling. 

 

Emory’s anticipated annexation into Atlanta means that Emory will likely be under the jurisdiction of the winner of a Dec. 5 mayoral runoff election between City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms and City Councilwoman Mary Norwood (74C). With 95 percent of the precincts reporting at 12:51 a.m. Nov. 8, Bottoms was in the lead at 29.7 percent, followed closely by Norwood, who received 22.81 percent.

Both candidates support annexation, the primary issue affecting the Emory community, but a vote for Bottoms represents a marriage of practicality and progressivism that could take Atlanta to the next level.

Atlanta’s economy has boomed during the current Reed administration, becoming a city on the “sunny side of the American economy,” according to The New York Times, as evidenced by development along the BeltLine and Porsche’s move to Atlanta in 2015. Mayor Kasim Reed endorsed Bottoms, whose proposed expansion of a student training program in film and technology would extend that prosperity, and who is the safest candidate to preserve a positive status quo of economic growth. The program would prepare grade school and college students for careers in the technology sector and Atlanta’s growing film industry, which contributed an estimated $9.5 billion to the state’s economy in fiscal year 2017. Additionally, Bottoms pledges that jobs resulting from public investment, such as public housing development, will “pay a living wage,” distributing economic power to Atlanta’s working class.

On the other hand, Norwood’s platform is lacking, but an interview with WABE revealed that her plan for development would begin with putting abandoned buildings back into use. Though Norwood said that this would benefit low-income communities, it is unclear how Norwood would accomplish that goal.

When it comes to education, Bottoms is the only candidate to mention the issue on her website. She has proposed a budgetary increase for technical and film programs to equip students with the STEM skills necessary to sustain Atlanta’s growing economy. Her platform outlines practicable means to pay for those courses by setting up a children’s savings account program with a $250,000 initial investment, about $50 per child in Atlanta Public Schools (APS), which would mature over time. Bottoms’ emphasis on education to maintain economic growth shows the comprehension of her platform. Voters should be concerned that Norwood has not said more about education.

Since 2013, the Atlanta Police Department (APD) has lost at least 100 police officers every year. The fluctuating officer count hit a peak of 2,000 in 2013 after a low of 1,300 in 2009, but the police union said that it rests around 1,400. Most candidates agree that stabilizing officer retention is a public safety issue, even though Atlanta’s crime rates show a consistent downward trend. Norwood has proposed an increase to police officer pay as a means of retention, but there is little evidence that a pay raise would solve public safety. Norwood already led Atlanta City Council to increase officer salaries in 2015 without solving the retention rates issue, and unsurprisingly, she has earned the endorsements of Atlanta’s police unions. Bottoms’ approach is different: She wants to address officer retention through a “smart recruiting and retention” strategy. In a questionnaire sent to candidates by Committee for a Better Atlanta, a nonpartisan business coalition, Bottoms said that her strategy would include “the expansion of our police force and the completion of our camera integration system … [and] expand housing for our officers within the city.”

A Bottoms mayorship would best continue Atlanta’s progress. Norwood is too conservative a candidate for Atlanta. She has, for example, prioritized police raises over establishing a clear educational platform. Bottoms’ election would preserve political and economic stability and spur educational development in addition to police reform, rendering her vision the best for Atlanta’s future. We urge eligible voters to cast their ballots for Keisha Lance Bottoms, not only because her proposed policies would benefit Atlantans and Emory students alike, but also because her time on City Council and endorsement from Reed prove that she has the experience and drive to turn her campaign promises into progress.

The above Editorial represents the consensus opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.

The editorial board is composed of Nora Elmubarak, Jennifer Katz, Andrew Kliewer, Madeline Lutwyche, Isabeth Mendoza, Boris Niyonzima, Shreya Pabbaraju, Isaiah Sirois and Mathew Sperling. 

UPDATE (11/8/17 at 1:00 a.m.): This editorial was updated to reflect the Nov. 8 mayoral election results.

When Emory Emergency Medical Service (EEMS) temporarily suspended services this semester to re-train its staff, it disappointingly failed to inform the Emory community about the halt.

With its lack of communication about the delay, EEMS and the Department of Public Safety, which oversees the organization, needlessly allowed rumors to spread about the status of emergency services at Emory. Craig T. Watson, assistant vice president of Public Safety, told the Wheel’s editorial board that various parties, including Residence Life and Housing, had been informed the week of Oct. 9, but the information was not disseminated to the broader community. We commend EEMS for its efforts to re-train its volunteer staff in updated technologies and protocols to improve its services, but the University at least owes the community an explanation of the hiatus.

“We realize it would have been better to better inform the community,” EEMS Director Rachel Barnhard told the Wheel’s editorial board in an Oct. 20 interview. The Wheel’s editorial board also spoke with several students who were concerned by the lack of communication. Barnhard herself told a Wheel reporter that one of the most common responses from community members who discovered the halt was that they “wish [they] would’ve known ahead of time.”

It is essential that all members of the Emory community are provided with updated and accurate information about public safety — especially when it comes to emergency services.  The University must always err on the side of transparency when it comes to programs as indispensable as EEMS. Instead of issuing apologies, public safety leaders should simply rectify their mistake by sending a community-wide email.

“[This is] a lesson learned,” Barnhard told the Wheel’s editorial board Oct. 20.

But as of publication time, 11 days after Barnhard’s interview, a statement has yet to be sent to the Emory community detailing the suspension of EEMS, raising the question of whether any lesson has, in fact, been learned.

The above Editorial represents the consensus opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.

The editorial board is composed of Nora Elmubarak, Jennifer Katz, Andrew Kliewer, Madeline Lutwyche, Isabeth Mendoza, Boris Niyonzima, Shreya Pabbaraju, Isaiah Sirois and Mathew Sperling. 

 

 

Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25. Three days later, Assistant Vice President for Community Suzanne Onorato sent an email to an all-Emory-students listserv detailing Emory’s counseling services in response to the storm. However, Hurricane Maria’s Sept. 20 landfall in Puerto Rico did not yield a similar administrative email — only College Council (CC) responded, and not until Oct. 16, 26 days after it made landfall. The University’s administrative inconsistency in addressing disasters should not be ignored. Administrators appear to have not followed any protocol for supporting students affected by natural disasters, and apparently did not consider the effects of Hurricane Maria as important as those of Hurricane Harvey.

Hurricane Maria was a large-scale natural disaster that continues to affect the lives of some Emory students, faculty, staff and their families. Not only do thousands of Puerto Rican residents continue to live without power, but they also must cope with limited access to both potable water and cellular service caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. And other Caribbean islands are still struggling to recover from the storms. But despite the veritable tragedy, students received no universal communication about Hurricane Maria from Emory administrators.

Emory’s inattention to Puerto Rican and Caribbean victims and their families mirrors the national response to Hurricane Maria. During his recent visit to Puerto Rico, President Donald J. Trump called Hurricane Maria not a “real catastrophe like [Hurricane] Katrina.” Contrary to Trump’s statement, Hurricane Maria was and continues to be a real catastrophe, and many people on our campus are still dealing with its repercussions. The lack of a formal statement from the University administration mimics Trump’s negligent response to the Caribbean’s trials and ignores those impacted. After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, President of the Puerto Rican Student Association (PRSA) Josue Rodriguez (20C) expressed disappointment in Emory’s lack of communication to students, many of whom feared for the lives of their families and safety of their homes.

While Campus Life’s Office of Student Success Services and Programs (OSSPS) and the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life (OSRL) extended their donation drive, originally intended for victims of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, to help Hurricane Maria victims, some student organizations on campus have taken a more proactive approach. The Catholic Student Union and Puerto Rican Student Association jointly organized a variety of events, including an Oct. 4 vigil, multiple canned food drives and faculty-sponsored shipments of supplies to Puerto Rico.

To resolve inconsistencies in communications, the University should establish a standardized response strategy to natural disasters that directly impact the student body. Whatever its reasoning, the University administration’s responses to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria shows an unequal handling of student experiences. A standard communication would not only ensure that responses are consistent, timely and appropriate but would also ensure that, in the wake of disaster, students receive the support they need.

The above Editorial represents the consensus opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.

The editorial board is composed of Nora Elmubarak, Jennifer Katz, Andrew Kliewer, Madeline Lutwyche, Isabeth Mendoza, Boris Niyonzima, Shreya Pabbaraju, Isaiah Sirois and Mathew Sperling. 

It is no secret that the Wheel, like all newspapers, has its fair number of critics. Our articles revolve around the Emory community, and consequently, we often report on situations in which students have acted controversially or broken rules and comment critically on these situations.

But our first obligation is to our readers, and it is our responsibility to relay the information and truth to our greatest capability — we have no intentions of being vindictive toward any individual or group, but it’s not our job to protect students, either.

One of the core functions of a newspaper, according to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics to which the Wheel adheres, is to “be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. Give voice to the voiceless.” News flash — not all of this information is sunny and pleasant.

Each student’s perception of the Wheel reflects their role on campus. Students who are members of Greek life may feel attacked when we discuss fraternity or sorority issues. Likewise, student government legislators may feel victimized by the Wheel.

There will always be conflicts between a government or organization and any independent news sources that cover it. Though we both aim to serve the student body, the Wheel’s goal as a newspaper is different from any student government’s goals as a government. In the same way, U.S. news sources are motivated by different forces than the politicians they cover.

But that does not mean that The New York Times should give President Donald J. Trump a break and stop reporting. CNN should not stop releasing breaking news to salvage individuals’ feelings. Likewise, the Wheel cannot turn a blind eye when a Greek organization is under investigation by its national headquarters. When SPC was conned by fake Migos bookers, it would have been unacceptable for the Wheel to let it off the hook and withhold news coverage.

No institution or media organization is without faults. The Wheel strives to be as accurate, transparent and ethical as possible but has produced flawed articles that warrant criticism. We strongly encourage any member of the Emory community who takes issue with the Wheel in any capacity to stop aimlessly complaining about it to friends and, instead, step up and write about it.

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

 

During fall break, many Emory students headed to their hometowns or rewarded themselves with a relaxing four-day weekend, but 70 students elected to devote their time to one of seven alternative break trips organized by Volunteer Emory (VE). But students who had signed up and paid their fees received unfortunate news the morning before the trips’ scheduled departure: All trips were canceled because VE had failed to secure shuttles.

VE student leaders and their advisers were neglectful in planning these trips. Assistant Director for Community Engagement and Coordinator of Alternative Breaks Courtney Jones-Stevens and Director of Alternative Breaks Phuong Tran (18C) meet regularly and have a responsibility to ensure the success of the biannual service trips. Weeks of preparation lead up to the trips, yet Jones-Stevens’ and Tran’s inattention to transportation — a vital detail — resulted in the unexpected cancellation of all seven trips and wasted trip co-leaders’ time. Jones-Stevens meets with the VE Board of Directors weekly; clearly, attentive and effective supervision would have prevented such a major blip so late in the programming.

VE’s mistake is illustrative of a larger trend — the failure of club advisers to supervise club proceedings. While students are responsible for their own mistakes, the role of a club adviser is to manage club undertakings that often affect the student body at large.

To take on that role, advisers should have experience in managing a budget and organizing events. This past weekend, College Council (CC) Advisor Sarah Beth Potter failed to notice that CC had booked the 2017 Atlanta Pride Parade shuttles for Oct. 14 instead of Oct. 15, the actual date of the parade, leaving students without Emory-sponsored transportation despite CC’s advertised shuttles to the parade. Arguably with the most extreme repercussions, Student Programming Council (SPC) Advisor Vernon Smith failed to check that SPC had booked Migos with a credible agency, resulting in SPC losing $37,500 of student money in its deposit.

Each of these errors had considerable consequences for Emory students. It is imperative that each club adviser take their duty seriously and recognize the potential impacts of negligence — and teach their advisees to do so as well.

But just like student government members who violate proper procedures, advisers who miss important details must be held accountable by club leadership and should be subject to dismissal if deemed unfit. Mistakes happen, but this pattern of fiascos should be a red flag to administrators and student government that clubs must do more to earn their funding.

The Editorial Board is composed of Jennifer Katz, Madeline Lutwyche and Boris Niyonzima. Boris Niyonzima is a VE Staff member and recused himself from this piece.

 

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.