College Downsizes Departments, Phases Out Programs, Faculty, Staff

College Dean Robin Forman announced plans to “phase out” certain academic departments and reallocate resources within the College Friday afternoon in a letter sent to all College students.

The University will close the Division of Educational Studies, the Department of Physical Education and the Department of Visual Arts, in addition to Emory’s Journalism program, Forman wrote in an additional letter available on the Emory website. The Institute of Liberal Arts (ILA) will also be downsized, and the economics and Spanish graduate programs will be suspended, according to a Sept. 14 University statement.

As a result of the changes, an estimated 18 tenured faculty will be offered “comparable positions in other academic departments,” according to the University statement. Three untenured assistant professors and 19 lecture-track faculty will be forced to find jobs elsewhere, as the College will not be renewing their contracts when they expire. Approximately 20 staff positions will be eliminated in the next five years, the University said.

Forman said in an interview with the Wheel that the move is an effort to create “intriguing opportunities by renewing Emory’s commitment to academic excellence.” He unveiled the plan at a faculty meeting Wednesday afternoon, where he cited the College’s need to balance the fiscal budget and focus on “academic eminence.” At the time, Forman did not specify which departments and programs were being affected.

In the case of students currently pursuing majors in departments or programs that the University is eliminating, they will be able to complete their majors and graduate on time, according to the statement. For College freshman Samantha Miller who came to Emory for the purpose of majoring in journalism, she says she’ll have to rethink her academic career.

“I honestly wish they had made such drastic decisions before this freshmen class was choosing their colleges,” she said. “I guess I’m left with becoming an English major and having to suck it up.”

With regards to faculty, many appear to be blindsided by the decision, which, as of yesterday, is effective immediately.

Shomu Banerjee, a lecturer in the economics department, said that the economics chair received a letter from the Dean, notifying the department that the University would be suspending the Ph.D. program. Banerjee said he was insulted by Forman’s claim to have made “extensive consultations.”

“How can he not consult my department and the director of the graduate school and the executive committee of the Laney Graduate School? Those things tell me that he could not have conducted extensive consultations,” Shomu said.

Forman said that he conducted these “extensive consultations” under the promise of confidentiality and, in the case of the economics department, was “in very close consultation with the dean of the graduate school.”

Banerjee noted that without the Ph.D. program, tenured professors have no reason to stay since they cannot conduct and produce high-level research. Many within the department are already discussing an exit strategy, according to Banerjee. He predicts that five to six professors will leave by the end of this year and another five two years from now.

Forman said he disagrees with Banerjee’s assertions, adding that “there is no reason to conclude that the Emory economics department cannot do research.”

Given Emory’s recent admissions scandal, Forman is aware that this decision will have implications for the University’s image on campus and throughout the country but sees this time as a chance for growth.

“I think what we’re doing is plotting an ambitious course for the future,” he said. “I think that the programs we’ve already created in the recent past and are going to create in the near future will be tremendously exciting for students, especially.”

A full story will be available in Tuesday’s issue. 

– By Evan Mah and Nick Sommariva


This article has been modified from its original version on Sept. 14 at 8:55 p.m. The original version misstated that 167 non-tenured and lecture-track faculty positions would be eliminated due to the announced changes.


  1. Avatar
    HF 7 years ago

    This is a poor, poor decision. I do wonder how much of it was Dean Forman’s decision, but no matter who made the ultimate decision, I think it was the wrong one. Surely there are other areas in which we could have made cuts, rather than slashing the academic opportunities available to students.

  2. Avatar
    Concerned Student 7 years ago

    I didn’t think it was possible, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more ashamed or embarrassed to say that I go to Emory. Emory is supposed to be an exceptional school that prides itself on its ethics and the opportunities are available for students. As a part of the COLLEGE of Arts and Sciences, it is disgraceful that the departments of Journalism, Education, and Visual Arts are being taken away. All of these are extremely important areas that allow dedicated students to channel their interests and learn to grow. Students really could have learned from these programs and now they will not have the opportunity. This is a mistake. Regardless of who made this decision, the people making it are not the students that are going to suffer, or the people who will be out of work. As I said, I am ashamed to go to a school that does not value, or value ENOUGH, the significance of these departments. I would have hoped that in trying to rebuild Emory’s reputation, especially after that ridiculous SAT scandal, Emory would work towards improving the school’s image without taking away things that make it a staple university and destination for prospective students. I hope the dean knows the implications of the decision he has made, and that no fancy words or lines about improving the school can hide the disgrace Emory now has due to this poor decision.

  3. Avatar
    Shomu Banerjee 7 years ago

    Several corrections and clarifications.

    1. My position at Emory is that of Senior Lecturer.

    2. The suspension proposal was presented in person and in writing to the Economics chair by the Dean on Thursday as a fait accompli.

    2. What I had said was that despite Dean Forman’s claims of “extensive consultations”, he did not speak to the Economics department chair, or the director of graduate studies in the Economics department, nor run his idea of suspending the PhD program by the executive committee of the Laney Graduate School which oversees this PhD program. The Dean of the Graduate School who may have been consulted, did not share any information with the Economics faculty as far as I know. For a university that claims to uphold the highest standards of ethical leadership and community engagement, this is neither.

    3. Of course the Emory Economics faculty can do research. If Dean Forman had asked us, we would have shown him a forthcoming study that ranks us nationally at 43 in terms of the numbers of pages published in the top 50 journals in Economics, well above the other PhD-granting universities in the state (GSU and UGA). This is no mean feat given the relatively small size of our faculty. It is the highest ranking ever for the department, reflecting the impact of the quality faculty we attracted over the past 7-8 years, thanks to the leadership of our past and current department chairs, Professors Hashem Dezhbakhsh and Elena Pesavento.

    4. The Economics department has several established/eminent faculty who would be much prized by other departments. Without a graduate program which is the life-blood of a thriving and vibrant research community, I believe these individuals will seek and find richer intellectual pastures elsewhere. Once the department is gutted in this fashion, it will have a deleterious impact on the quality of undergraduate education which is the primary mission of the College. There will be adjunct faculty doing most of the teaching at first followed by more permanent faculty perhaps, but not those who would be interested in publishing in the top 50 journals in the field. Without the ranking that a graduate program provides, the department cannot hope to attract or retain the best talent.

    5. Based on the Faculty meeting earlier this week, the Dean appears to be under the impression that retaining a couple of areas of “eminence” within economics (perhaps affiliated with the centers he wishes to focus on) will be enough to attract future talent and retain the current faculty. I disagree. Economics is still a subject where the different specializations interact in an organic manner; deeming chunks of it as irrelevant and focusing on a couple of cherries destroys the whole.

  4. Avatar
    Samuel K. 7 years ago

    One of the primary reasons that led me to come to Emory was its broad spectrum of Liberal Arts education I could enjoy as an undergraduate student. I believed that being exposed to the diversity of different fields of academia would help me to find the fields of study that I can truly appreciate, and I was right. During the past two years at Emory I took various intro classes that range from African Studies to Women’s Studies, and such an academic exploration has not only broadened my perspective of the world but also helped me with finding a right major: Economics.

    Dean Forman in his letter stated that such a decision is necessary for “building” the department to lead it to “its greatest possible impact.” Yet I do not understand how they can truly accomplish “building” while they are demoralizing the entire faculty members and students. Removal of Economics graduate program does not only mean no more graduate students, but its entire efficiency and productivity depend on it. Numerous Academic researches and teachings are done with the assistance of graduate students. Besides such a fact, I believe that the intellectual atmosphere within the program also stimulates faculties. Thus, keeping the undergraduate education in Economics intact will also be impossible because its size and capacity will be even smaller than before. Merely “suspending” an ongoing (and excelling) program just so that you can reallocate resources to limited fields in which Emory can become “eminent” is not a way to build a department.

    Personally, such a decision will also impact my future plans as there will be not many research opportunities to participate and NO GRADUATE COURSES for me to take in my senior year to prepare for admissions in graduate programs in Economics. And at this moment, I am thinking of graduating a year early so that I may find better opportunities in other institutions.

    Emory has been doing way to many this year from fake SAT score scandals to removal of a part of its own “Liberal Arts Education” that they have been pursuing, and such arbitrary and irresponsible deeds have dishonored the entire student body and faculty. Now I even wonder whether it was a right decision to come to Emory. It is truly disappointing and disgusting.

  5. Avatar
    Ellen 7 years ago

    It’s bad enough feeling like you don’t matter in this school when you’re not Pre-Med or going into the Business School. Now they’re just validating it. I regret going to this school and am considering leaving after this year. Now I have to deal with starting up in another school as a Junior, since my major is deemed important there, unlike at this University. Because Contemporary China Studies, which just sounds like a class, is important enough to warrant the shutdown of entire departments. The language in that letter could not have sounded more condescending even if Dean Forman had specifically tried to make it so.

  6. Avatar
    Jamie 7 years ago

    “This article has been modified from its original version on Sept. 14 at 8:55 p.m. The original version misstated that 167 non-tenured and lecture-track faculty positions would be eliminated due to the announced changes.”

    What?! I think “misstated” here should be changed to “grossly exaggerated.” The actual number, gleaned from the article above, is 22, correct? Am I missing something?

    1. Avatar
      Jim 7 years ago

      There are also administrative staff being fired – the total layoffs at this point seem closer to fifty (per the article). However, Listserv traffic indicates many other language faculty (in Russian, Hindi, and Farsi) are being fired. This is really ugly.

  7. Avatar
    Claire 7 years ago

    I’m profoundly disappointed by the College’s apparent disregard for open-ended, “courageous” inquiry. I encourage everyone who is concerned to attend one of the deans’ meetings, and/or to come to an on-the-quad discussion and protest this Monday at noon (see

    Meanwhile, to Ms. Miller: I’m sorry the journalism program has been cut. But as someone who teaches and studies in the English department, I hate seeing literature reduced to something you have to “suck up.” Sure, English courses may prepare you for a journalism career, but so might political science, anthropology, environmental studies, etc., etc. None of your instructors are out to punish you or waste your time.

  8. Avatar
    dismayed 7 years ago

    I think we need to keep Economics, Spanish, Visual Arts and Education at Emory and the valued teachers, staff and students within them. I think we need to get rid of the top Emory administration that have been responsible for lying about admissions data (repeatedly, for multiple years), arresting the 7 students on the quad – violating their free speech rights, keeping Chick-Fil-A on campus and sharply dropping Emory’s rankings nationally. All of these indicate that top Emory administrators see Emory as a corporation and not an educational institution. Emory will continue to flounder until it is understood that Emory is not a corporation.

    1. Avatar
      Improve The College of Your Choice Every Year With A Competitive, Conditional Donation 7 years ago

      Exactly. One way to do this is to contribute to a tax-deductible donor-advised fund:
      1. You get an immediate tax-deduction;
      2. You choose which college gets your donation and how the money is to be spent there, so you can publicly state–as you are doing–that Emory hasn’t made the grade under this administration so your money this year goes to Emory’s rival, ————-(you name the recipient).

      You can set up such a donor-advised fund with a bank, with Vanguard, with Fidelity etc. The minimum (up to 8peole may participate) at Fidelity is $5,000. Call 800 544 6666.

      Every year you and your friends announce your deciion on FaceBook, now the third-largest “nation” on earth.

      The Supreme Court tells us that corporations are people. If so, then let’s hold these new “people” to human standards of accountability. How long has Emory been cooking its books?

  9. Avatar
    Honest College Choice 7 years ago

    Is the President responsible, or just acting on order of the Board?
    Is the provost responsible, or acting on order of the President?
    Will donors be discouraged by the scandals? If not, shouldn’t they be incined to donate to other universities, those which do not cook their books?
    Quo usque tandem abutere, Catalina, patientia nostra?

  10. Avatar
    Honest College Choice 7 years ago


  11. Avatar
    Clay Shirky 7 years ago

    It’s curious that no one except “Competitive Conditional Donation” has mentioned the economics of the issue. Forman’s decision is based on the idea that Emory can’t afford to do everything it used to do, and that they would be better concentrating more resources on fewer departments.

    This view may be wrong — perhaps across-the-board cuts leaving each department with fewer resources would be better — but everyone here acts as if Forman is proposing cutting these departments out of spite, and as if there are no economic constraints whatsoever on running a college.

    Any effective response is going to have to work from the economic realities of Emory as it exists today. Maybe the college has more money than Forman lets on, or maybe there are large alternate sources of cost-savings, but cries of “Don’t change” will be ineffective if the need for change is being forced by material circumstances outside of the Board’s control.

    1. Avatar
      Check your facts 7 years ago

      Clay Shirky, Emory University is acting under a budget surplus detailed in this Emory Wheel article:

      The “economic realities” are that Emory is not in a budget crisis but in-fact economically thriving. Emory is not academically thriving and cutting integral academic programs seems quite silly.

      1. Avatar
        Clay Shirky 7 years ago

        Read further. That same article says “Emory College – which derives nearly 80 percent of its income from student tuition fees – and the School of Medicine remain in deficit for this fiscal year, meaning that their annual expenses exceeded their income.” So the College, where the bulk of the cuts are, is not in surplus.

        Furthermore, no one here has offered any evidence that these programs are, in fact, integral. Which are the least important programs at Emory, in your view? (Not these, obviously, but which instead?)

        1. Avatar
          Recent Econ PhD Grad 7 years ago

          I can’t speak for every department on the chopping block knowledgeably, but I can tell you that Economics certainly isn’t the cause of the deficit. There are typically over 700 undergraduate majors in economics, which is the largest major on campus (not just the college). That means that Economics is the program funding the majority of the other programs in a school that “derives nearly 80 percent of its income from student tuition fees”.

          Now I am sure you are thinking that the cut was to the graduate program, not the undergraduate. And you are correct. However, PhD students collectively teach 12 or more undergraduate classes a year, which more than compensates for their meager stipends. That means full-time faculty will have to teach these courses, which increases total teaching load even after removing the graduate courses (which are critical to graduate programs in the School of Business and School of Public Health, by the way). If we couple this with the fact that the plan also calls for removing many of the visiting faculty and that full-time professor will no longer have research and teaching assistants, then we see this decision greatly increases the teaching burden on the Economics faculty. They will be forced to respond by offering less classes in the short-run. In the intermediate and long-run all of the competitive faculty will leave for better jobs. Many will choose to leave simply because there is no PhD program, as this is on the “must have” list for majority of the best scholars in the field. I anticipate the number of economics majors to fall dramatically in the coming years as a result of these changes. In short, this decision will end the most successful program on campus and hurt Emory College’s long-term financial footing, not secure it.

          Again, I can’t speak for the other programs, but I can conclude with confidence that the decision to axe the economics graduate program was not made due to financial concerns (as stated above, it is quite the opposite). Now, either Dean Forman doesn’t realize this, or this decision involves a fair amount out of spite, jealousy, and university politics. And when the Dean uses phrases like “you were told to reduce the number of majors in your department”, “economists are expensive”, and “you are a victim of your own success”, it is hard to rule out spite as a motive.

      2. Avatar
        Wow. 7 years ago

        He just owned you with your own article.

        But in all seriousness, this is a concentrated effort by Emory to rebuild it’s economics department and blow up the faculty. Let’s not sugarcoat it.

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  14. Avatar
    Robert Austin 7 years ago

    I am an Emory graduate from the time when there was no journalism school. I worked, however, in journalism for many years. It is my experience that journalism school graduates were the least informed and least effective of my co-workers. Why? Because they spent their time in college taking courses that did not give them a wide enough background in all disciplines. One of many examples: I worked with an editor (J school grad) who was astounded to find out the findings of relativity theory. We tried to explain it to her but she never actually believed what we were telling her. “Time is relative??? No!”

    Every course taken in journalism means one less course taken in history, political science, biology or business that would better prepare a person to understand what he or she has to cover. The details of journalistic procedure and ethics can be learned in a weekend. The rest is trade school stuff. I don’t know the financial considerations pressuring the university that led to this decision but I think Emory will be stronger without a journalism program. I do understand the frustration of current J-school students but I urge them to replace their journalism classes with other ones that will give them better preparation to understand the real world. You want to write? Work at the Wheel but major in something other than journalism.

    1. Avatar
      Laura Mariani 7 years ago

      In fact, the undergraduate journalism program at Emory is structured as a “co-major,” meaning that journalism graduates ALL have in-depth experience with “something other than journalism” upon graduation.

  15. Avatar
    one and done 7 years ago

    I attended Emory as a freshman in 1971. Back then, the fine arts department was housed in an old World War II quonset hut officially called the Temporary Fine Arts Building. The running joke was: “Does that mean that the building is temporary, or that Fine Arts at Emory is temporary?” 40 years later, we have the answer — and it’s a sad one.

  16. Avatar
    Richard Bailey 7 years ago

    Truth Tellers on the Chopping Block

    Seems to me that a journalism program for dual majors and minors gets it exactly right. There may be no jobs for journalists, but the best practitioners, thinkers, and scholars are those with the skills to understand the hands that feed them and bite when necessary. Unfortunately, the university/corporate partnership knows this all too well. Visual artists can bite too, often in very unpredictable ways. And who better to help us understand the mind-numbing entanglements of the university/corporate hybrid than a trained economist with the doggedness of an investigative journalist.

  17. Avatar
    Dr. Virginia Kent Anderson Leslie 7 years ago

    Dr. Kent Anderson Leslie, MAT, DAST, MS, Ph D, all from Emory
    Someone in the Emory Administration needs to explain what the advantages are of downsizing the Liberal Arts at Emory, Is Emory, as a whole, in financial distress? Who made this decision to abandon the study of what makes us humane?

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  19. Avatar
    dominic james 7 years ago
  20. Avatar
    #EmoryCuts 7 years ago

    Follow @emorycuts on twitter and specifically #emorycuts for up to the minute information, commentary and links to articles from media outlets on the issue

  21. Avatar
    ER 7 years ago

    Please, sign the petition to save the PhD program in economics. Do not be anonymous, please, so that we have actual people behind the petition when it is presented to Emory’s president.

  22. Avatar
    Save Emory Economics 7 years ago

    this is a stupid move….Can’t believe I go to this school……Emory has steadily been increasing tuition for its undergraduates without informing current students about it. The total cost of attendance for Emory is now 58,000. When I started at Emory it was 50,000. On top of that in order to save some money they are taking away our academic programs? I am sure the administrators at this school are more than well compensated. Why don’t they give up some of their salaries so that students can have more opportunities. I should have gone to another school….

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  27. Avatar
    W.T. Heck 7 years ago

    Emory does not manage money well. Some of their decisions are questionable. They cut professors yet keep a two faced soccer coach who has made soccer life miserable for many ex- (very good) players.. !..

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