A plurality of Emory University undergraduate students voted that they did not have confidence in University President Gregory Fenves in a referendum initiated by the Student Government Association (SGA). Of the 3,401 votes cast, 2,499 students (73.5%) voted that they have no confidence in Fenves, while 844 students (24.8%) voted that they have confidence in the president. In total, 58 students (1.7%) voted to abstain.

In total, 8,102 students were eligible to vote in the referendum, and the 3,401 participants marked a 41.9% turnout rate. Comparatively, this year’s SGA presidential election saw 1,860 votes cast.

SGA unanimously voted shortly after midnight on May 1 to send the referendum to the undergraduate student body. Students were able to vote anonymously on The Hub from May 6 at 12 p.m. to May 7 at 3 p.m.  In a statement attached to the election results delivered to students’ inboxes this evening, the Elections Board wrote that they chose to hold the referendum at this time so graduating seniors could vote before the end of semester.

The majority of undergraduate student voters expressed that they do not have confidence in Emory University President Gregory Fenves following the University’s response to on-campus protests. Courtesy of Emory University

The statement also included that the Elections Board forwarded the referendum results to University Senate President George Shepherd, who is able to send the results to the Emory Board of Trustees. According to the statement, if Shepherd forwards the results to the Board, they can add a discussion about the referendum to their agenda. The statement added that it is “not guaranteed” that Shepherd will forward the results.

Shepherd did not immediately respond to The Emory Wheel’s request for comment by press time.

In an email to the Wheel, Assistant Vice President of University Communications Laura Diamond emphasized that only 31% of the total undergraduate student body voted that they did not have confidence in Fenves.

“While we take any concerns expressed by members of our community seriously, Emory community members are sharing a wide range of perspectives that are not reflected in the motion passed by SGA,” Diamond wrote.

The referendum comes after the Emory Police Department, Atlanta Police Department and Georgia State Police arrested 28 people at an April 25 protest in which pro-Palestinian protestors built an encampment on the Atlanta campus’ Quadrangle. Despite many universities having pro-Palestinian protests that have garnered national attention such as Columbia University (N.Y.), the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Texas at Austin, Emory undergraduates appear to be the first student body to vote on their confidence in their university president due to the protests. 

In addition to undergraduate students, College Council, the Emory College of Arts and Sciences faculty, Oxford College faculty, Oxford Student Government Association and the Emory Student Nurses Association all voted on various resolutions that condemned Fenves’ leadership. However, it is up to the Board of Trustees to make any final decision on whether Fenves will be removed from his role.

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Spencer Friedland (26C) is from Long Island, New York and is the Emory Wheel's Managing News Editor. He is a Philosophy, Politics and Law major and has a secondary major in Film. Spencer is also a part of the Franklin Fellows program at Emory.