I graduated from Emory with classmates who chose Emory over other schools without the guidance of magazine ratings and paid college consultants. I chose on the recommendation of my older brother, who was diagnosed with cancer during his sophomore year, but expressed his desire to return to school at Emory until his dying day. My younger sister attended Emory on her brothers’ recommendations.
For many of my classmates, Emory represented educational excellence in our native South, a chance to enjoy a small campus and a big city at the same time, and a chance to attend school among classmates and faculty who enjoyed learning and each other. We started the Rathskellar, which continues to this day as the campus comedy-improvisation group.
We started the group that became Volunteer Emory. On a summer study trip in England, we scouted a limited edition poetry collection that was the first brick in what Professor Ron Schuchard and others built into the one of the finest manuscript collections in the world. These are the little truths about Emory that are never mentioned in the U.S. News & World Report college edition.
That Emory stands in contrast to the one represented by the email that alumni received from Emory President James Wagner on Sunday. That email took me back to my days at Emory, not in its honest and heartfelt approach to a serious institutional cheating problem, but in the way that it aped the Watergate testimony playing on every television set during my freshman year â€” deflecting blame, isolating the problem to the dishonest few, failing to recognize the extent of the damage.
Those of us who support Emory await the denouement. Whether those at the top knew what was happening is not the issue. They should have known.
This is not a trivial matter, easily written off. This is the administration’s equivalent of cheating on every final examination for all four years of school. In that regard, the current administration should put itself in front of the student honor court and be willing to suffer the consequences.
Two of Emory’s trustees attended college during the years when I was there. Their fathers were faculty stalwarts. I urge them â€” Lynn Stahl and Katherine Rohrer â€” to ask the tough questions about how Emory can continue to build on its success in attracting top students and faculty while remaining true to its origins.
Yes, this story is about the need for integrity in higher education, but, more than that, it should be the impetus for the unpretentious, caring, intelligent Emory to take back its university.
Dr. Wayne Rackoff C’75 is an Emory alumni and former Op-ed writer for the Emory Wheel.