Critics of Emory President Aren't Satisfied

February 19, 2013

Critics of Emory University President James Wagner don't appear to be satisfied by his apology for a letter in the alumni magazine in which he suggested the Constitution's three-fifths compromise was a model for how opposing parties can work together. While Wagner issued an apology for his wording and for the hurt it caused, students and faculty members report considerable discussion taking place (much of it online) about anger over the original statement. The Black Students Alliance and the NAACP chapter at the university are planning a rally Wednesday. They also will draw attention to other issues of concern, such as a student-run television show that in December referenced the Supreme Court case on affirmative action in college admissions and urged viewers to help identify students who "shouldn’t be here and are only at the school because of affirmative action." Methods suggested for finding such students included lynching, tarring and feathering, and cross-burning. (The university and the students who produced the show have apologized.)

Some of Wagner's critics used social media Monday to express their views, with a fake Twitter account in the president's name and with a new blog called "At Emory: We Are Sorry." The latter features images and words: a photo of the president with only three-fifths of the image visible, text from James Baldwin about the way the United States limited the rights of black people, a photo of an Emory student holding a sign saying "Sorry, everybody. I wasn't expecting someone to praise the 3/5 compromise in the year 2013 either." The site was created as "a way for us to signal to everyone else that the messages being sent out from Emory do not necessarily express the views of the students and faculty whose work is the actual backbone of the school."

On Emory's Facebook page, comments are mixed. Some of those posting are angry with Wagner. But other posts say that critics are trying to embarrass the president because of recent budget cuts with which they disagree. One comment along these lines: "Stop the faux outrage. You live privileged academic lives at one of the best institutions in America. In a time where every institution is tightening, you all have the gall to intentionally distort this man's words. Character assassination isn't going to help restructure the university's budget."


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