Of the many issues surrounding the recent departmental changes, one concerns the role of students in major university decisions. In a recent interview, College Dean Robin Forman said that while the University believes in shared governance and joint decision-making, the recent changes were left to a faculty committee because it would be inappropriate for students to be making decisions that would have a direct impact on the lives of Emory faculty and staff. He also believes that it would be inappropriate for students to have access to the sensitive documents that the faculty committee used throughout the decision-making process.
Although Emory has student-faculty committees involved in shaping the direction of the University, it does not have a student-faculty committee that works directly with the Dean – something that a majority of the top 20 universities in the nation have. We believe that Emory deserves such a committee. While the recent departmental changes have a direct impact on the lives of faculty and staff, they also directly impact the education of Emory’s students, and students most certainly should have a say in matters that impact fellow students.
In 2010, Forman was the Dean of Undergraduates at Rice University in the midst of a nationwide financial crisis. It was in this same year that Rice students formed the Budget Planning Committee, which aimed to protect those programs students valued from being cut in any upcoming budget decisions. Not only does this committee work directly with the Dean of Undergraduates on matters concerning the budget, but Forman even voiced his support for the committee.
In light of all this, we feel compelled to ask: how is Emory any different? Although Forman insists that the process for consulting with students was simpler at Rice University, that does not mean an effective communication and decision-making structure cannot exist at Emory. And given that the recent department changes were not undertaken as a result of financial insecurity, according to administrators, was there not time for pause and reflection on the process at hand?
Shortly after the most recent interview, Dean Forman said that he was in talks with College Council on how best to form a student committee with which he would meet regularly. While we look forward to Forman’s new committee, we feel that this action was taken inopportunely and would have been better utilized before decisions were made regarding the elimination of any departments.
The above staff editorials represent the majority opinion of the Wheel‘s editorial board.