Emory professors not happy with president's apology over slavery related comments

by: Rachel Stockman Updated:

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ATLANTA —

Several Emory professors who spoke with Channel 2 Action News are not satisfied with university President Jim Wagner's recent apology in the wake of his controversial comments in a recent Emory Magazine column.

"I do believe he is genuinely sorry that this happened, but I think the kind of leader we need is someone who would not have made such an egregious mistake in the first place," said Emory Associate Professor Noelle McAfee.

Over the weekend, Emory President Wagner referred to the Three-Fifths Compromise as a pragmatic example of how the university can try to move forward during divided times.

The compromise occurred during the Philadelphia convention in 1787, when the Southern and Northern states agreed to count slaves as three-fifths of a person for representation based on the census. Wagner issued a public apology after making the comments.

"It was hurtful and unbelievably regrettable, and in many ways demonstrates a gulf between the administration and the faculty," explained associate professor Yanna Yannakakis.

The recent controversy comes on the heels of a debated decision by the administration to cut programs in the Division of Educational Studies, the Department of Visual Arts, and the journalism program.

Although a university spokesperson denies it, critics say the recent cuts unfairly target minority faculty and students.

"This incident of reference to the three-fifths clause is not a one-off verbal blunder but it is consistent of recent decisions made by our administration," Emory professor Carole Hahn told Channel 2's Rachel Stockman.

The tension came to a head at a closed door meeting Wednesday among faculty at the Emory College of Arts and Sciences.

McAfee told Stockman that the faculty voted to go forward with a full examination of how the cuts were implemented. She says faculty also tabled a motion for a no-confidence vote on President Wagner.

Nancy Seideman, a university spokesperson, provided a statement in response to the concerns by faculty members, saying, "The intent of Emory President Jim Wagner's recent magazine column was to encourage people to identify and move toward shared aspirations. Wagner recognized that there are competing visions about how Emory might flourish as a liberal arts research university. He has made it a priority to encourage university governance groups to bring those visions together, set clear priorities, invest in current areas of distinction, and to develop new strengths in emerging areas."