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Emory Dumps the Visual Arts?

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Image courtesy Emory Visual Arts.

In national politics, the term “Friday news-dump” refers to the practice of burying bad news at the end of the week when it’s likely to receive less notice. Although some of the faculty were informed earlier this week, the suddenness and magnitude of Emory University’s announcement still comes as a shock. A letter from the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Robin Forman, circulated campus today declaring that the Department of Visual Arts—along with three other departments—will close.

Georgia Museum of Art

By the time the letter went public outside campus, many university employees were already leaving for the day. The letter is over three pages long, and the crucial points are sandwiched in the middle of lengthy financial explanations and caveats.

More details will surface in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, Emory’s News Center has posted an outline of the changes, and an excerpt of Dean Forman’s letter appears below:

“We are beginning a multi-year process that will lead to the closing of three academic departments: The Division of Educational Studies; the Department of Physical Education (which is already being phased out in favor of new approaches to health and physical fitness education); and the Department of Visual Arts. We will also be closing the Program in Journalism. These actions will unfold over a period of years, enabling currently enrolled undergraduate majors and graduate students to complete their courses of study. Staff and faculty positions will not be impacted by this reorganization before the close of this academic year. Tenured faculty in these departments will eventually have their lines moved to other departments. In partnership with the Laney Graduate School, we are also suspending admissions to the graduate programs in Spanish and Economics, so that we can be deliberate in reimagining the role that graduate education in these fields will play at Emory. There will be funding reductions to several centers, and some contraction of College administrative positions, responsibilities, and operations that I will not detail here. Finally, we will suspend graduate admissions to the ILA and reorganize the ILA into an institute without permanent faculty. In this reimagined institute, we will strive to create a more fluid structure for promoting interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching, perhaps through rotating faculty appointments.”

The story has nuance, of course, including phase-out periods and plans for restructuring, but also the letting-go of nontenured professors. The fact remains, however, that one of the major universities in the region is dumping the arts in a significant way.