Letter to the Editor

Contrary to Grant Osborn’s (19C) recent column, the NFL is not silencing conservative speech. The NFL forbids athletes from altering their uniforms in remembrance of 9/11 and the 2016 mass shooting of Dallas police because it has strict uniform policies, not because it has a political agenda.

I was horrified that this article categorized mourning 9/11 and the 2016 Dallas shooting as conservative positions rather than American ones. Liberal or conservative, we all grieve for lives lost — acts of remembrance are patriotic, not partisan. The NFL allowed Colin Kaepernick to kneel but opposed other expressions of mourning which violated its regulations. NFL uniforms cannot be altered to display personal causes, a reasonable requirement since uniforms constitute part of the NFL brand that athletes are paid to represent. The NFL only suggests, rather than mandates, that athletes stand during the anthem; if Kaepernick had attempted to alter his uniform, he too would have faced penalties.  

Osborn’s other example of NFL censorship of “conservative speech” was the threat to exclude Atlanta from Super Bowl host consideration should Georgia have passed the euphemistically-termed “religious liberty” bill. In effect, that law would have legalized anti-LGBT discrimination. Unless there are no gay or allied NFL employees or fans, the NFL has a vested interest in preventing that legislation’s passage. If the bill had succeeded, the NFL should have avoided choosing Atlanta to host the Super Bowl as the inevitable boycott by fans and advertisers would have significantly reduced revenues.   

The NFL is not favoring liberal thought over conservative thought. Instead, it is merely upholding its rules and prioritizing its brand. The NFL allowed Kaepernick’s protest because it was within the rules. Should players take a knee to commemorate 9/11 or the 2016 Dallas shootings, that too would be a permissible expression of the athletes’ views. Accusation of censorship should not be made idly, so consider all the facts before declaring the NFL discriminatory.

Charlotte Selton is a College sophomore from Sacramento, Calif.

 

I thank Charlotte Selton (20C) for writing about the issues related to the lack of diversity in science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) fields. She identified several important issues: stereotype threat, unconscious bias and challenging peer interactions. These are real, serious and pervasive issues in STEM all across the country and, clearly, here at Emory too. The Department of Physics takes these concerns seriously and has been working to address them.

First, we do our best to mentor female and minority students, and we are excited about the positive outcomes. This year our department has seven students pursuing honors theses — all seven are women. Moreover, in recent years our female physics majors have gone to physics Ph.D. programs at top schools, including Harvard University (Mass.), New York University, the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University (N.J.).

Second, we try to address stereotypes and biases. For example, we recently added a statement to syllabi of most physics courses that it is “unacceptable to judge your fellow students by gender, race or anything else.”

Third, we diligently work on further improving ourselves: Many Emory physics (and other STEM) faculty are members of the Science Education Research Journal Club, which focuses, in part, on making classrooms more inclusive. The Journal Club includes not just faculty but also postdoctoral students and graduate students; we hope that these future faculty will be even better prepared to positively impact their students.

We have done a lot, but we understand that a vast amount of work remains to be done. Our faculty are not complacent about these successes; we continually evaluate how we teach and our role in creating classrooms — and a campus — where all students thrive. I invite all interested members of Emory’s community to join us as we work to find concrete solutions to the problems currently faced by women and minorities in physics and STEM as a whole.

Eric Weeks is a Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor and Emory Physics Department Chair.

 

The arguments against sanctuary status for Emory University are based on the premise that Emory is a victim, rather than an institution with considerable power and agency. Rather than letting state and federal governments boss it around, as the third largest employer in Atlanta and one of the largest in the state of Georgia, Emory should start calling some of the shots. Yes, there would be a price to pay: this would require leadership from students, faculty, administrators and the new president. Sanctuary status, rather than a hollow symbol as the editorial board of The Emory Wheel would describe it, is about Emory actually working toward the excellence it so widely advertises. Rather than Emory’s obsession with perpetual ascendancy in the national rankings, the University might think about the notion of where justice comes into play in achieving a high quality education.

Craig Womack is an Associate Professor from the English Department.

To anybody that has read Daniel Park’s article, “DJ Rehab is Generic, Repetitive on McDonough,” I’m sure you can appreciate that the one thing that was repetitive was the amount of times a student offering to open the concert for free was maliciously stacked up to a professional, international DJ. I’m not here to make a fuss of this; I’m just very disappointed at the lack of professionalism that went into this review. First off, I doubt that any research went into reviewing the Homecoming Concert, because I’m sure if the author knew I was an Emory College junior, I would hope he wouldn’t have gone at my throat as much as he did. It is one thing to give a negative critique about even a student performance, but I felt personally attacked by a fellow student in a publication that is supposed to promote the University.

Second, I am very disappointed about the false comments regarding my performance. Unless he was reviewing the songs played intermittently by the production crew’s iPod, the author said I played only top-50 hits, and criticized me for playing a song that I actually didn’t. How credible can he be after inserting false comments in a review? It’s a shame that this was yet another story that was unappreciative of all the work SPC does to make campus a better place to be, and moving forward I’m sure everybody would like to see more hype in the school paper rather than reviews that make these events feel like the lesser option for the night. I would once again like to publicly thank SPC for featuring me at this event, and hope to continue to perform at others. For anybody who wants to hear a more widespread opinion of the concert, just ask any student that was in attendance that night.

 

Much love, Cheddy.

DJ Cheddy is a College senior from Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania

 

In her Aug. 31 editorial Alli Buettner wrote that our happiness at Emory is conditional because of three factors: Emory is a haven for Ivy League rejects; Emory doesn’t offer enough financial aid; and smaller academic departments are … well, smaller?

Though I could respond to all three of her points, I want to focus on her second (After all, I don’t have all day): Emory is expensive and doesn’t offer enough financial aid, especially merit-based.

The ability to finance education and the high cost of college are national issues (and certainly not unique to Emory). There were 40 million Americans in student loan debt in 2014, totalling $1.2 trillion, according to credit bureau Experian. And with one statistic, I have used more concrete evidence than what was used in Buettner’s editorial. It is hilarious that an actual publication that calls itself a news source would publish a sentence that says: “For many of the students I have spoken with, financial aid is not as good as they would like it to be.” That sounds harsh, but I used to be an editor at the Wheel, so it’s totally cool if I say that (but if you say it, I will come after you with the fire of a thousand suns). Plus, the Tampa Bay Rays aren’t as good as I’d like them to be, but I live in the real world.

Either way, I don’t want to excuse Emory of its obligation to provide students with financial aid and give in to the “everybody else is doing it” argument of high tuition costs, but I do think that if you’re going to argue that Emory does an especially bad job of providing merit-based aid, you need to compare it to similar universities. So, I did.

It seems like the question most schools face is simple: Should I give more merit-based aid to fewer students, or less aid to more students? Through its Emory Scholars Program (which, granted, has its own faults), it seems like Emory has chosen to give more aid to fewer students. And so have some of Emory’s peers. According to 2012 College Board data, Boston College, Skidmore and Johns Hopkins give merit-based aid to only 1 percent of their freshman classes. In the 2013-2014 school year, Emory provided 36.6 percent of aid recipients with merit-based aid, while four percent of freshmen with no financial need received merit-based aid. Four percent does fall below the average of 14 percent of freshmen who received merit-based aid across more than 600 colleges and universities. But, remember, the four percent only includes freshmen who had no financial need and does not account for the freshmen who received merit-based aid but also received need-based aid.

In addition to Emory Scholars, there are other types of merit-based aid you can receive through Emory. All you have to do is Google “Emory merit-based aid,” but after reading Buettner’s editorial, I assume absolutely no research was done, outside of anecdotal evidence.

Another question universities have to ask themselves is: Do we use our financial aid allocation for merit-based or need-based aid? There’s a strong argument to be made (and that has been made) that universities should use their financial aid allocations for the students who actually need it.

Emory offers a program called Emory Advantage, which is specifically for students whose families make less than $100,000 a year, with additional support for students whose families make less than $50,000 a year (and, full disclosure, I was a beneficiary of this program). The program provides funding to either replace student loans or caps the amount of money a student borrows, in addition to the need-based grant Emory already provides.

For example, if your family makes less than $50,000 per year (less than the cost of tuition and other expenses for one year for an Emory student), you may receive a $35,000 grant from Emory’s financial aid office and the ability to take out $15,000 in student loans. But with Emory Advantage, instead of actually taking out those loans, Emory gives you a “loan replacement grant” of $15,000 so that you don’t incur that debt.

Emory also offers need-based aid outside of this program. According to U.S. News & World Report’s data from 2013, the average percent of financial need met for Emory students was 96.5 percent. So, almost everyone. Of course, the way universities define need and how families define need are totally different, but 96.5 percent is pretty high, even if the numbers are rigged.­­­

A conversation about what Emory could do to make its students happier is important, and I do think some of the points Buettner makes might have some evidence to back them up. Problem is, after reading her editorial, I don’t know if that’s the case.

Gina Chirillo is an Emory alum from the Class of 2012. She served as the Associate Editor and the Sports Editor for the Wheel.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Common: Andrew Stawarz
Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Common: Andrew Stawarz

Dear Members of the Emory Community,

We are writing collectively as Emory Students for Justice in Palestine (ESJP). We appreciate Dean Ajay Nair’s statement regarding free speech. We are writing to clarify some of our values.

We are nonviolent, student activists. On Sunday, Feb. 22, we built a display, a model of the Apartheid Wall that runs through the West Bank to draw attention to the walling-off of many Palestinians from their families, jobs, schools, hospitals and other crucial aspects of daily life. On this wall, we attached educational materials about the general situation in Israel and Palestine, international law as is applicable to the Apartheid Wall and statements about our group including that we “oppose all forms of oppression (including anti-Arab racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia).” Our goal is to increase awareness of the violations of Palestinians’ human and civil rights, Israel’s violations of international human rights law and the United States’ complicity in these violations. We hope that by raising awareness, we can increase support for the U.S. and Israel to move towards more humane policies and practices towards Palestinians.

The wall we built is a physical expression of our speech. It originally contained facts, quotes and pictures regarding what the United Nations (UN) defines as apartheid. While this is our understanding of the Palestinian reality, we also realize others have been exposed to a different understanding. In doing so, we also accept the freedom of speech for those who disagree. The Apartheid Wall is a sensitive subject for Israelis and Palestinians alike and we ask for restraint from expressions of physical and verbal violence.

We are disappointed that at least two individuals (during two separate incidents) defaced and destroyed what we created, rather than engage with us about their concerns. Our contact information was located on the wall along with an invitation to inquire about the issue. In the past, Emory has worked to facilitate dialogue about differing facts and ideologies. We hope that the Emory community will again engage with us.

As we discuss the conditions of Palestinians, we also acknowledge the history of anti-Semitic discrimination, and we distinguish between what some call hate speech and criticism. Members of ESJP are from a diverse background that includes an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian. We have diverse political ideas but agree that we cannot remain silently complicit as the State of Israel, with financial and material support from the United States, continues to violate the human rights of the Palestinian people as outlined in international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute.

As we continue to use the name Apartheid Wall, it is important to understand why we call it as such. In 1974, the UN held the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, which defines apartheid in Article II (c) as:
“Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognized trade unions, the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”

While some maintain that Israel does not engage in such acts, a glance at Israeli and Palestinian identification papers will quickly find that Palestinian IDs are color coded for quick distinction. The purpose of this system is to allow guards to quickly identify Palestinians in order to prohibit their travel.  But this is only one example of Israeli policies that makes clear distinctions based on which side of the Apartheid Wall a person lives on.

We invite all members of the Emory community to engage with us from within a framework of social justice and international law as we move forward and discuss what steps we can take from within the United States to ensure that the human rights of all people in Israel and Palestine are defended.

Emory Students for Justice in Palestine

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.
Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

Dear President Wagner,

GALA: Emory LGBT Alumni has a longstanding commitment to supporting access, equity and inclusion on our campus. Included in our mission is a directive to “support and advocate for a non-discriminatory and diverse working, living and academic experience at Emory.” It is this directive that moves us to write in support of Freedom at Emory University and their efforts to make our institution a more welcoming and inclusive environment for undocumented students.

The GALA Steering Committee recently met with a number of student leaders from Freedom at Emory University and learned about the work they are doing to improve Emory policies for undocumented students. We agree with Freedom at Emory University that no one should be denied the opportunity to receive the kind of world class education that Emory offers because of their documentation status. We also agree that denying access to financial aid based on documentation status is a discriminatory practice that treats potential students unfairly and leaves our campus community without their rich and diverse contributions.

GALA is committed to advocating for positive change at Emory around social justice issues, including immigration and documentation status because both impact the LGBT community.

Specifically, we share Freedom at Emory University’s three main goals:

1. Emory University’s Policy 1.3.1, the Equal Opportunities and Non-Discrimination Policy, should be amended to include documentation status.

2. Undocumented students should be eligible for institutional, need-based aid and merit-based scholarships.

3. Emory University should strive to live up to its goals and values regarding social justice by adopting policies and attitudes that welcome undocumented students into our community.

We respectfully urge you to consider Freedom at Emory University’s goals and to take action that is consistent with being an ethically engaged institution of higher learning. 

Sincerely,

GALA: Emory LGBT Alumni Steering Committee

Dear Emory Community,

The Caucus of Emory Black Alumni (CEBA) works to foster and cultivate social, political, professional and intellectual relationships among black alumni, faculty, staff and students from all areas at Emory. As an organization and through the actions of our members, CEBA has always encouraged, promoted and supported the constant pursuit of equity, equality, inclusion and justice in our society.

Peaceful protests are a significant part of the legacy of black students and alumni at Emory, and those protests have contributed to Emory’s growth, maturation and well-being.

In the face of recent tragedies that remind us all of the progress that is still necessary in our society to overcome racism and the effects of systemic and institutional racism, we support the students, both undergraduate and graduate, and all of those members of the Emory community who are participating in peaceful protests in the form of die-ins and marches, as well as community forums on Emory’s campus and in the Atlanta community.

Your efforts and hard work have not been in vain or gone unnoticed. President James W. Wagner has pledged to work to identify policies the University’s administration can adopt which will address issues of bias and discrimination. We applaud all campus leaders who have mobilized students around campus and in their respective organizations while also engaging Emory professors, staff, administrators and alumni.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In the fight to dismantle racism and injustice, we are hopeful that this is another opportunity to educate others and progress the conversations that lead to meaningful actions.

We encourage all members of the Emory community to support current students on campus participating in the #BlackLivesMatter movement and its efforts to raise awareness about the many injustices that black people continue to face. We urge students to continue to mobilize and work together to bring these issues to the forefront of the entire Emory community.

CEBA is proud of the strong and positive student leadership exhibited during this time. We are also grateful for the administrators, professors, faculty and staff who support the students and their rights to protest, and those who serve as resources and mentors. We encourage others to do the same, as this is an important opportunity for learning beyond the classroom.

We encourage all students to reflect on the progress the #BlackLivesMatter movement has made and the conversations that have led to deeper understanding of the historical and institutional systems that have led us to this point. As always, please use the CEBA Facebook page as an avenue to connect with alumni and for support, updates and opportunities to get involved.

In the words of peaceful protestors on Emory’s campus and the #ItsBiggerThanYou campaign, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other. We must support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Sincerely,

Jonathan Butler (96C) and Brandon Luten (10C)
Caucus of Emory Black Alumni — Atlanta Co-Chairs

Letter to the Editor


Jack Arbiser’s Letter to the Editor last week summarizes my Nov. 14 editorial “American Discourse Distorts Gaza Conflict” as a narrative of “Hamas good, Israel bad” and ends by asking, “Finally, who is the unseen hand that Price implies that is preventing discourse in America?” These seem to be not so subtle ways of calling me a conspiracy theorist and a supporter of Hamas. As he has attacked my character and not just my argument, I feel compelled to respond.

I’m confused as to how anyone who read my article could state that I think “Hamas [is] good,” as I said explicitly, “individuals on both sides of the border have committed terrible, violent acts.” Let me be as clear as possible — Hamas is a terrible, violent organization that should change its methods if they it wants freedom for the Palestinians. Situating violence within context doesn’t make anyone a supporter of Hamas. It makes them a responsible observer of the conflict.

Arbiser states that “Charlie Price characterizes supporters of Israel as either an ‘inadequate or crafty storyteller’ or ‘a duped or vulgar propagandist’.” Actually, what I wrote was that “anyone who ignores this context [occupation and siege] to portray Israel as a noble defender is … a storyteller … or propagandist.” His quote seems to imply that I’m not a supporter of Israel. Presumably one can be a supporter of Israel and criticize it at the same time. If we want to avoid fanaticism and jingoism, we should be careful not to define a “supporter of Israel” as someone who defends the state no matter what.

“Who is the unseen hand that Price implies that is preventing discourse in America?,” Arbiser concludes. The implication seems to be that I’m some sort of conspiracy theorist who thinks there are forces controlling the media. It is something of a truism among intellectuals and critical thinkers that the media and political discourse are inaccurate or inadequate in many areas. Is saying that the coverage of Iraq or the portrayal of women is inadequate the same as claiming there are puppet masters pulling strings? Most journalists and politicians say what they say simply because they believe it. A few others may stick to accepted lines because consensus on a number of issues is so strong that they feel social pressure to conform. All of this is common sense, not conspiracy.

Arbiser makes a couple of points that I think are misleading or inaccurate. In a letter, I can only mention them briefly. He states, “Civilian casualties are inevitable when schools, hospitals and UN shelters are used as missile depots” and accuses me of intentionally ignoring these issue. According to the UN, rockets were found in three vacant school shelters. Israel attacked several shelters full of persons seeking refuge. He claims that Al-Shifa Hospital’s basement was a headquarters for Hamas. Perhaps, but Israel attacked several hospitals, not just Al-Shifa. One wonders where the displaced, sick and injured were expected to go.

I ignored these issues partly because of space and partly because they are irrelevant to the argument I made. The main point was: one cannot occupy a people for over 40 years, expect them to smile about it and kill a thousand civilians when a few extremists act immorally even if those extremists are carrying out their terror from public spaces. End the siege, end the occupation and allow the formation of an autonomous Palestinian state. If all these conditions are met and Hamas still continues to fire rockets, the standard justifications for war would be much more convincing.

I don’t want to misunderstand Arbiser’s point, but I am concerned that he has replaced a strawman version of my argument with something along the lines of “Israel is only good, Hamas is the sole source of blame.” He mentions work done by Israeli hospitals and a few other noble deeds. I, too, admire medical workers, but I am not sure why this is relevant. In my mind, Israeli hospitals treating Gazans for dialysis or the family of Hamas members doesn’t erase or in any way diminish the horrors of siege and occupation. There is no mention of any of this or even a suggestion that Israel might have ever done anything objectionable during the decades long conflict, making the letter a perfect example of the discourse I sought to criticize.

Charlie Price is a College senior from Oxford, Georgia.