In 2011, USA Today ranked Emory’s Creative Writing Program as number one in the nation, and the program continues to be ranked in the top five best for budding writers. This ranking is undoubtedly due in part to Salman Rushdie’s presence at Emory.
In 2007, esteemed novelist and essayist Salman Rushdie joined the Emory faculty as a Distinguished Writer-in-Residence. Rushdie is the author of numerous and highly regarded novels. He won the Booker Prize in 1981 for his novel “Midnight’s Children,” and in 2007, Queen Elizabeth II knighted him for his dedication and contributions to literature.
According to Emory’s website, “Emory students have access to a remarkable asset: Emory faculty.”
And Rushdie is just one of many notable faculty members Emory boasts, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Hank Klibanoff, Former U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Jeffrey Koplan and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey.
However, unlike Klibanoff and Trethewey, Rushdie does not teach traditional college courses. He gives lectures, leads one-day class sessions and occasionally teaches a master class, which meets four times throughout a semester. Although it is an incredible opportunity for those students who are able to attend these events, we at the Wheel would like to see Rushdie further engage students in a traditional creative writing workshop.
Generally, creative writing courses at Emory are centered around workshops: students read each others’ stories, plays, poems or screenplays and then spend the class period offering feedback and critiques. With as distinguished a writer as Rushdie on faculty, it seems strange that the College would not employ his expertise in teaching its creative writing students how to, well, write.
Although having someone like Rushdie on faculty is certainly a point of pride and a mark of the University’s prestige, we at the Wheel question whether his title as a faculty member is misleading for prospective creative writing students, most of whom will never meet him, let alone take a course with him.
We value Emory’s ability to attract prominent cultural, academic and artistic figures to campus. However, we urge the University to ensure that students, and not just Emory’s name and reputation, are benefiting from these notable faculty. If the University is going to spend time and money recruiting and maintaining notable, distinguished faculty, we feel these members should be engaging with students in the same way, or in a comparable way, the rest of the faculty do.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel Editorial Board.