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.

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The Emory Wheel was founded in 1919 and is currently the only independent, student-run newspaper of Emory University. The Wheel publishes weekly on Wednesdays during the academic year, except during University holidays and scheduled publication intermissions.

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