Last year, the Emory Wheel’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) task force sent out its first demographic survey in recent history to increase transparency and learn ways to improve our coverage. The DEI task force utilized this data to begin projects focused on expanding our representation throughout the organization, as well as our coverage of diverse stories. For our second year, we are conducting a demographic survey of the Wheel’s contributors from the past year from spring 2021 to spring 2022.
While the Wheel is dedicated to improving our coverage, the Wheel is not pardoned from past injustices we have committed. We encourage members of the community to offer feedback into what stories they wish to see, and how we can continue to improve as an organization.
The Wheel is a majority white institution, with 58% of respondents being white. By comparison, according to data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Emory is 42% white.
The next largest group in the organization is Asian, with 20.9% of respondents identifying as East Asian and 13.4% of respondents identifying as South Asian. Data from IPEDS does not differentiate regions within Asia, but Emory’s population overall is 17% Asian.
Despite Atlanta being a majority Black city, only 12% of Emory is Black or African American, and only 6% of survey respondents were Black or African American. Some respondents noted both the lack of Black voices at the Wheel, as well as an absence of coverage on Black issues. Beyond Black issues, contributors also emphasized the need for the Wheel to incorporate more stories focused on Black culture within and beyond Atlanta.
Of the respondents, 9% were Hispanic or Latin American. This is congruent with data from the IPEDS, as 9% of Emory students identify as Hispanic or Latin American.
This year, the report included the identification category Middle Eastern and North African (MENA). We did this in an attempt to highlight the different experiences of students from the MENA region, and better understand how we can increase representation from this area. Despite this, Emory does not differentiate between white, Middle Eastern and North African in their data collection and therefore the exact number of students from the MENA region is unknown. Of the respondents, 3% were from this region.
The Wheel lacks representation among Native Americans, Native Alaskans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians. These groups are not represented in any of the respondents, and there is dismal coverage on issues surrounding these groups as well. Currently, Emory reports 0% of students are Native American, Native Alaskan, Pacific Islander, or Native Hawaiian as the number is extremely small. While the number of Native and Pacific Isalnder students is low, these communities do exist across Emory’s campus.
The Wheel primarily consists of domestic students, with 9% of respondents reporting that they are international. International students at Emory make up around 17% of the student body, and are thus severely underrepresented at The Wheel.
Cisgender women are the largest gender demographic at the Wheel, with 66.7% of respondents being cisgender women. After cisgender women, cisgender men are the next highest percentage with 27.3% of the organization identifying as cisgender men. In recent years, Emory has not released a comprehensive report including different gender identities of its undergraduate population.
Despite the lack of data from Emory, there is a clear lack of representation of gender minorities across the Wheel.
The Wheel is primarily heterosexual, with 52.3% of respondents identifying as such. The next largest categories were Queer and Bisexual, with each having 20% of respondents identifying as such. There was an increase by 15% in queer respondents and 7% in bisexual respondents from last year.
The Emory Wheel lacks economic diversity. While 53% of all Emory students receive financial aid in the form of grants or scholarships, only 33.3% of respondents said they have received need-based aid from Emory. One of the major barriers to being an editor for working students is the time commitment. In order to lessen the barrier, the DEI task force implemented low-income stipends for editors the past year.
As one of the major barriers to being an editor for students who work is the immense time commitment, the DEI task force implemented measures to make the Wheel more accessible. Efforts to increase equity for low income students at the Wheel has included increasing the low-income stipend for editors as well as offering a smaller stipend to the entire editorial staff.
Responses were generally mixed, with some respondents pointing to an inclusive and supportive environment while others noted a harsher work culture. One respondent stated “the culture is very welcoming and very helpful to allowing people to grow as writers and fulfill their love of journalism … at the same time, I think that there is a lot of toxicity and elitism.”
Others noted the environment was “isolating,” “very accepting of many ideas,” “much better than it used to be,” “slowly improving,” “sometimes toxic,” and more. Certain respondents noted that it can be difficult to get involved if one does not know someone at The Wheel or happens to attend an interest meeting at the beginning of the year.
Several respondents indicated the need for more stories about people of color, particularly Black voices and contributors. Others highlighted a need for an increase in LGBTQ voices outside of the opinion section.
Students on both ends of the ideological spectrum noted a need for more ideological diversity, with one respondent wanting more “radical leftist, politics beyond liberalism.” Another respondent noted a need for more conservative or moderate stories, noting the Wheel currently felt very partisan.
The survey was emailed to 160 contributors from spring 2021 to spring 2022. Of the 160 contributors contacted, 67 replied, for a response rate of 41.2%. The largest portion of respondents were editors, with editors making up 44% of the responses.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wheel
Since its establishment in Nov. 2020, the DEI task force has worked to increase coverage and representation at the Wheel. Part of these efforts have included training sessions for editors on how to cover sensitive topics and how to edit compassionately.
The DEI task force has arranged for memberships to affinity journalistic organizations such as the National Association of Black Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association. We have been able to offer up to 10 in the past year to members of the Wheel community. This has offered an opportunity for students to participate in these organizations free of cost.
We are continually reflecting on our coverage and searching for ways to improve. As one respondent noted, “there are so many stories we are not telling because we haven't established a strong enough connection with the Emory community (from staff to professors to student leaders).” One way we are attempting to bridge the gap between the Wheel and various groups on campus is through the opinion podcast, Within the Margins. The podcast focuses on underrepresented groups throughout Emory’s campus, and is designed to offer a platform for historically marginalized groups.
Beyond the podcast, we have also attempted to build a stronger Wheel community by implementing monthly general body meetings (GBMs). The GBMs are an attempt for contributors across sections to mingle and build community within the organization.
Despite our efforts, the Wheel has not done enough. We will use this report to examine how our coverage needs to be improved and more needs to be done.