Editorials

Some students have expressed disappointment in response to the University’s recent announcement that Dollar Shave Club founder Michael Dubin (01C) is this year’s commencement speaker. While Dubin appeals as both a recent Emory alumnus and an engaging speaker, he offers a novel perspective. But Emory students, even those with little interest in business, need not despair. Dubin’s commencement address, if well-crafted, could be a compelling speech. Graduating students should try to be open-minded.

Despite being best known for his entrepreneurial success, Dubin graduated from the Emory College of Arts and Sciences with a bachelor’s of arts in history. As he returns to his alma mater, Dubin has the opportunity to describe the significance of Emory’s liberal arts curriculum outside of academia.

But Dubin’s appeal extends beyond his ability to offer practical advice. His viral advertisements, interviews and other public speaking engagements suggest that this year’s commencement address will be, at worst, entertaining. And since Dubin knows what spending four years at Emory is like, he will have a lot of material to work with.

Though the commencement speaker is ultimately chosen by University President Claire E. Sterk, the University Senate’s Honorary Degrees Committee chooses the pool of honorary degree recipients from which the speaker is selected. Both Sterk and the Committee, chaired by Jimmy Carter Professor of History Joseph Crespino, should be commended for their decision to invite Dubin to speak at graduation. If his speech fulfills our hopes, then Dubin’s presence is a fresh departure from the public servants and academics who have given commencement addresses in recent years.

The sage advice of experienced individuals has shaped past commencement addresses, and though it will be interesting to have a recent Emory College graduate and businessman as a speaker, its value is in its perspective. Moving forward, the University should continue to find speakers who can inspire graduates in all fields.

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

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

While Emory students and employees must travel and commute in a city whose traffic ranks among the most congested in the world, some relief may be on the way. Two proposals working their way through Georgia’s General Assembly could lead to the largest changes in Atlanta’s Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) since its creation in 1971, including increased funding and expanded light rail service. While still in early stages, H.B. 930, proposed by State Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) and S.B. 386 proposed by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) constitute an important step in creating a strong public transportation system with benefits both to Emory and the greater Atlanta area.

Central to each bill is a proposed process to expand MARTA beyond its current three-county area. Today, 13 different transit operators serve 11 different metro Atlanta counties. Both bills would consolidate those transit agencies into a single agency and allow voters in areas seeking public transit to vote to raise taxes to fund those projects. Expansion of transit lines is a crucial step in attracting companies such as Amazon.com, Inc., to Atlanta. Amazon lists rail access as a requirement for its new headquarters — for which Atlanta is being considered as a potential location. If Atlanta were chosen, then the resulting new jobs would benefit Emory students and graduates seeking nearby employment and internships as well as contribute to the overall health of the city.

Emory is working to secure a light rail connection to MARTA through the Clifton Corridor Project. While that initiative is already primarily funded through a city of Atlanta sales tax, these bills would ensure that anyone traveling on a future MARTA light rail line through the Clifton Corridor has greater access to more Atlanta neighborhoods and surrounding areas. Students could more easily explore wider portions of the metro area, while employees living in Atlanta’s fast-growing northern suburbs could bypass heavily congested highways on their commute and fewer cars on Emory’s campus would simultaneously decrease pollution and increase pedestrian safety.

Tanner’s bill contains additional state funding for MARTA through a 50-cent flat tax on ride-sharing services and a tax on consumer goods at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport Airport. Revenue from those fees would help alleviate the funding problems currently faced by MARTA, which receives only 9 cents per ride from the state government compared to a national average of $1.32 per ride. MARTA could use that money to lower its fares, which currently are among the highest in the country, at $2.50 for a one way trip. More affordable public transportation is critical to increasing its appeal to Emory community members and Atlanta residents, and the taxes would be a small price to pay for the resulting benefits.

If the bills gain sufficient support, then they will likely be combined into a final package that Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has indicated a willingness to sign. Both Emory administration and community members should work to support their passage, which would further the vision of a University more closely integrated into our surrounding community.  

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

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

Although the University implemented its new Zero Landfill Waste policy in an attempt to go green, the policy’s execution has been less than satisfactory.

Last month on behalf of Campus Services and Emory’s Office of Sustainability, standardized color-coded recycling, composting and waste stations were installed on Emory property. Desk-side waste bins vanished from University offices and classrooms, and “a new team of waste specialists has been created to remove collection at central locations,” according to a University YouTube video released last November.

While the Zero Landfill Waste policy was a necessary step considering the University’s commitment to sustainability, a walk around Clairmont Campus or the Atlanta campus residence halls reveals festering bags of trash stacked atop the new recycling stations. To ensure that recycling and composting receptacles aren’t cross-contaminated and that the campus is hygienic, the University must ensure that landfill trash bins are both available and emptied in a timely fashion.

The recycling bins placed in rooms in Emory residence halls are no longer consistent with larger bins located throughout the rest of campus. Student residence hall rooms are furnished with a blue bin, in which students are expected to dispose of all their recyclable materials — most students choose to purchase a separate landfill bin for personal use. But waste facility rooms within residence halls contain bins for paper, mixed paper, compost, plastics and landfill. It is unrealistic to expect students to separate their waste into these five categories while only having one or two bins for private use.

Clairmont Campus’ policy implementation is no better, as four-bedroom apartments, for example, are provided with a single recycling bin and expected to use a communal trash chute and public recycling bins. Future programs for Clairmont by Campus Services and Emory’s Office of Sustainability — such as new bins in the Undergraduate Residential Center (URC) and Clairmont Residential Center (CRC) parking decks and the construction of a new recycling room in the main level of Clairmont Tower — sound promising but have yet to be completed.

It is not ridiculous to expect students to separate their recycling from landfill waste in residence halls and to use the appropriate receptacle elsewhere on campus. But this first month of implementation has proven to require more effort than the average busy student should be expected to exert. The University should take action to make separated recycling and composting more straightforward.

We commend the University’s Zero Landfill Waste policy for its intention, but like much of campus these days, the policy’s execution thus far has been sloppy.

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

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

As prospective Emory students prepare for end-of-year Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams, the Class of 2022 must take into account that Emory will now accept only 12 pre-matriculation test credits instead of 24 and has cut the list of exams it will grant credit for, as the Wheel reported last week.

While that change may boost the perceived rigor and prestige of an Emory degree, it does so with trade-offs that disadvantage the individual needs of students without options for flexibility. By lowering the test credit cap, Emory wastes some some students’ time and money and disadvantages students who otherwise could have graduated an extra semester early and may now face financial or other burdens as a result.

As AP and IB test registration and college enrollment deadlines approach, Emory should inform potential incoming students that the University’s test credit policy has changed.

In support of the new policy, Emory has cited stricter credit caps used by other elite schools, as well as a need to match Oxford College’s 12-credit cap. Neither of these justify such an extreme change

Highly-motivated high school students who work hard to position themselves ahead of their peers academically should not be required to relearn college-level content they have already mastered. Before the change, Emory’s list of accepted AP and IB scores was fairly selective, with no AP scores below a four or IB scores below a 5 being valid for credit.

Frank Lechner, chair of the Curriculum Assessment and Educational Policy Committee and sociology professor, wrote that the policy change put Emory College in line with Oxford College, which already had a 12-credit cap. But Emory should not be beholden to Oxford’s policy, and perhaps it’s time for Oxford to reevaluate its own seemingly-arbitrary credit cap.

A 2016 Progressive Policy assessment of the top 153 U.S. colleges and universities found that 34 percent did not restrict the total number of AP test credits accepted, including Yale University (Conn.), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of California, Berkeley and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. While these schools limit which tests and scores are accepted, they do not arbitrarily restrict the total number of test credits the way Emory does.

Academic departments, whose faculty have the expertise to evaluate the content and rigor of AP and IB exams, should have the authority to determine which exams are valid for non-major credit or as substitutes for major prerequisites from year to year.

For instance, Art History Department Director of Undergraduate Studies Linda Merrill provided the Wheel with a clear, concise justification for changes made within the department. Such invaluable information should be obtained from all departments in future.

Emory should mirror schools like Cornell University (N.Y.) and the University of Rochester which have no credit cap but instead are more selective in which tests are valid for university credit. If the University is worried about the quality of the education received by students who claim AP or IB credit, slashing the credit cap in half is not the answer.

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

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

The Class and Labor Phase 2 Committee’s recently released executive summary of its report contains critical findings that impact the Emory community, several of which we addressed in last week’s editorial. This editorial is the second installment in the Editorial Board’s review of the executive summary.

According to the Class and Labor executive summary of the report, Emory’s faculty face concerning gender and racial inequities in both recruitment and pay.

While Emory is legally required to ensure that fair hiring practices are followed, women and minority faculty too often face challenges in securing equitable salaries and promotion opportunities.

For example, male faculty receive more retention packages than women and occupy a disproportionately high percentage of tenure-track positions. That gender gap in tenure-track positions narrowed in the past 10 years but still remains above the national average. Additionally, the summary notes that female faculty often face “social punishment” when they assert themselves or take leadership positions.

Emory’s hiring and retention procedures are insufficient for maintaining an ethnically and racially diverse faculty which is critical for ensuring that multiple perspectives are represented in classrooms and boardrooms and has been shown to improve college outcomes for both minority and female students.

Essential to solving those problems is combatting an “implicit bias” present at Emory, which manifests itself in the idea that faculty diversity represents a tradeoff with faculty excellence. To address that deeply ingrained belief, the University should pursue broad diversity training and stronger mentorship programs for women and minorities, a fact acknowledged in the summary. Most importantly, the University must implement mechanisms to ensure equal pay, since compensation is noted in the summary as the primary factor in faculty job satisfaction.

Beyond that, the policies from the Office of Equity and Inclusion governing faculty hiring should be adjusted to cover all aspects of the search and interview process in every division of the University. Transparency must be paramount when these procedures are employed to help eliminate any implicit bias in hiring.

While challenges with faculty diversity are not unique to Emory, the University has always strived to lead in every aspect of its academic experience. Faculty diversity should be no exception.

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

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

Removing joint candidacy in the Student Government Association (SGA) executive elections is illogical and will lead to disjointed leadership and inefficient legislating.

Bill 51sl40, which legislators will vote on during Monday’s meeting, would eliminate joint tickets and joint campaigning in an effort to eliminate running mate ambiguity and incentivize more students to run for executive positions. Currently, candidates running for SGA president can run on a ticket with an executive vice presidential candidate.

The SGA executive vice president is responsible for running various committees, serving on University Senate and assuming the role of president if the current president is unable to fulfill their duties. This position should be occupied by a candidate with ideals and goals similar to those of the SGA president, making joint candidacy a practical institution.

A president and vice president who have compatible leadership styles would allow SGA to function as a more cohesive unit; candidates who work well together and have complementary platforms should have the capacity to work as a team and campaign together.

The bill claims that “Each candidate ought to run on their own ideas, experience, and reputation,” a sentiment with which we fully agree. But while having a variety of opinions and voices in student government is valuable, having a cohesive leadership team is just as important. Elected class representatives supply that variety by representing the concerns of their constituents. SGA executive leadership serves a different role: to provide legislative guidance and stability.

The bill also claims that joint candidacy confused the SGA Elections Board last year, when the Board created a ballot that allowed constituents to vote for a joint ticket and also for each candidate individually. As SGA Speaker of the Legislature and bill author William Palmer (18C) noted, “It wasn’t clear which one was the binding vote.”

The Elections Board is responsible for organizing a clear and comprehensible voting system. While the failure of last year’s board to do that is a problem, banning joint candidacy is not the solution. Instead, SGA representatives should fix the ambiguous clause.

Additionally, the lack of a running mate should not deter voters from electing a particularly strong candidate on their own merit — a running mate is not, and has never been, a “necessitation,” despite what the bill states. SGA candidates do not need a running mate, but it is illogical and impractical to prohibit candidates from at least having the option.

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

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

If Emory does not address the pay discrepancies and roadblocks facing its faculty, the University will struggle to retain talented professors and academic life will suffer.

In October 2013, then-Provost Claire E. Sterk and Executive Vice President for Business Administration Michael Mandl charged the Class and Labor: Faculty Committee with conducting a University-wide review of faculty pay, workplace satisfaction and professional development opportunities, among other factors. Last month, the Office of the Provost released a 12-page executive summary of the committee’s report to the Emory community. The Office of the Provost and Steering Committee denied the Wheel’s request to release the full report, citing possible future data collection.

The summary reveals that Emory’s faculty salaries, adjusted for cost of living, are low compared to those of faculty at Emory’s peer institutions, and that female faculty both hold fewer leadership positions and face pay disparities. There are also pay disparities between ethnic/racial minorities and white faculty members. Competitive salaries help the University attract and retain accomplished professors who will guide academic progress for decades to come. If those disparities continue, we risk losing more prominent professors to rival universities who are willing to issue larger checks.

Furthermore, the summary reports that Emory has an increased reliance on non-tenure track (NTT) faculty. In addition, the summary includes reports of second-class treatment experienced by NTT faculty compared to tenured faculty. Both issues underscore a multilevel problem. Tenure status provides job protection, which promotes academic freedom in research and publishing and allows faculty to discuss unpopular views in the classroom without fear of dismissal. NTT status deters faculty from remaining at any institution, reducing longterm mentorship opportunities for students and endangering the stability of academic departments and academic progress. According to the summary, both tenured and NTT faculty feel they lack adequate professional resources, including mentorship opportunities and knowledge of expectations and processes required for promotion.

If Emory wants to remain a top institution, we should rethink our hiring practices, offer more tenure opportunities with more explicit guidelines and decrease our reliance on NTT faculty.

No school can survive without its professors. The backbone of our academic strength is the scholarship and research of our diverse faculty. Students rely on excellent professors to teach them lessons that they will use throughout their lives; our administration must properly support its faculty.

We applaud the recommendations made by the Committee which emphasize mentorship for faculty regardless of tenure status, various measures for equalizing opportunities and pay for women and minority faculty and call for a streamlined process for promotion and mentorship.

But those recommendations are futile if they are not implemented.

We implore the Office of the Provost and the Office of Business and Administration to release the full report to the Emory community, as they did with the 2013 Class and Labor report on non-academic staff. We are often taught by the University to question our environment, to remain perpetually curious. If the University wants to uphold its own standards, it should release the full report so the Emory community can scrutinize how our school treats its own workforce.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has awarded Emory University its highest rating for free speech on campus, making Emory the first university in Georgia to achieve the “green light” rating.

Sasha Volokh, the chair of the University’s Open Expression Committee and an associate professor of law at Emory, worked with FIRE to bring Emory’s policies in line with the Foundation’s standards. Many of the changes involved modifying language and improving the definitions of infractions so that violations of Emory’s policies cannot be construed in a overly broad manner.

A noteworthy example of a change involves Emory’s Information Technology (IT) Usage Policy. The policy previously prohibited personal use of University IT resources for supporting political candidates or campaigns or in any manner which “reflected poorly on” Emory, which would have included the use of EmoryUnplugged wifi on a private computer for either of the aforementioned purposes. That language has since been excised. For more details on these changes, reference the Wheel’s news coverage here.

We wholeheartedly agree with these changes.

It is important to take a moment to recognize the achievement of Volokh and the Open Expression Committee and the goodwill demonstrated by University President Claire E. Sterk and other Emory administrators. Emory joins a list of only 37 schools nationwide which have received a green light rating for their speech codes.

However, it is equally important to take note of progress that is yet to come.

In addition to tracking University speech codes, FIRE also maintains a list of due process procedures at top academic institutions. Emory adjudicates a wide range of student misconduct and is capable of levying punishments which can have enormous effects on the opportunities of students after graduation.

It is appropriate for Emory to have this power and is of vital importance to our community that students who violate policies regarding academic integrity, student safety and interpersonal conduct meet proper consequences. Still, it is troubling that Emory’s policies regarding the rights of the accused received a D rating from FIRE. Out of 10 criteria evaluated, Emory was judged satisfactory on only the meaningful right to appeal.

We commend the University for its ongoing commitment to the free exchange of ideas, and fully expect that Emory will continue its efforts and work to improve all University policy.

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

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

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.