The Graduate Student Council (GSC) passed a bill at last week’s meeting that will allow Laney Graduate School students to vote next Tuesday on whether they have confidence in University President James W. Wagner.
The ultimate results will “let the University faculty, administration and trustees know where Laney graduate students stand on the issue,” according to the bill.
A single question – “Do you have confidence in James Wagner as President of Emory University?” – will appear on the ballot, and students will be able to vote “yes,” “no,” or “abstain.”
The legislation, passed at a GSC meeting last Thursday, comes more than a week after College faculty members voted in favor of holding their own vote via electronic ballot. Voting for College faculty started yesterday and lasts through Friday.
A vote of “no confidence” would not directly affect Wagner’s employment position at the University but would demonstrate that the graduate student body feels he is no longer fit to lead.
The GSC, which represents the Laney Graduate School, also voted to amend the original bill – submitted by fourth-year Laney student Andy Ratto – thereby adding a text box to the ballot for students to explain the reasoning behind their votes. The date of the vote was also changed to coincide with a GSC event already planned for next Tuesday, “so students can be encouraged to vote while they are at the event,” Ratto wrote in an email to the Wheel. He declined to comment further.
Ratto had previously submitted a similar bill to the Student Government Association (SGA), which the legislature failed on March 25 despite amendments that changed the bill’s focus from Wagner to the direction of the University as a whole.
The SGA bill would have added a vote to last week’s student government elections electronic ballot, but the GSC bill allows only Laney students to vote.
Voting for Laney students will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on emory.edu/vote. The results will be published on the GSC website, likely within a week after voting ends, according to GSC President and fifth-year Laney student Robert Rankin.
Some members of the Emory community have called Wagner’s performance into question this semester after the publication of his controversial Emory Magazine column which cited the Three-Fifths Compromise as a productive example of political compromise. The bill does not specifically cite the column or Wagner’s role in the department cuts – a topic that College faculty discussed at their March 27 meeting – but states that such a vote “is an established method for evaluating performance, and such a vote has occurred at other schools by both university faculty, and from students as well.”
“[The vote] allows the higher ups get an idea of what the LGS students are thinking as a whole,” Rankin wrote in an email to the Wheel.
While Wagner wrote in an email to the Wheel that he does not have any detailed information about GSC’s decision to hold a “no-confidence” vote, he noted, “Of course I respect the actions of any of our governance bodies to adopt resolutions and make decisions in what they consider to be in the better interests of Emory.”
He wrote that regardless of the vote’s outcome, he looks forward “to hearing more about the specific concerns that exist in order to help ensure that this critical component of our education and research mission will continue to grow in quality and vibrancy.”
After the final vote tally is calculated, GSC will post the results on its website. Rankin wrote in an email to the Wheel that he will, if he receives enough responses, sort the added comments in the ballot’s text box into categories, tally the categories and then anonymously post a few of the “best ones” per category on the GSC website.
“I thought, and the council voted on, that this would allow a more constructive conversation than just a ‘no confidence’ ballot,” he wrote, adding that if there are not too many responses he might just post them all online.
Cora MacBeth, Laney’s assistant dean for student affairs and an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, said the text box addition will “give students a chance to actually say something” as opposed to just placing a vote.
“I just hope that the students respond and participate widely and that the vote is representative of the diverse group of graduates that the Laney Graduate School represents,” MacBeth said, in reference to the fact that Laney students are often involved with departments across the University.
Editor-in-Chief Arianna Skibell and Asst. News Editor Karishma Mehrotra contributed reporting.
– By Jordan Friedman
Updated 2:40 a.m. on April 9.