Emory students rally against department cuts

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A protest on Emory University's campus brought out more than 100 faculty, staff and students Tuesday.

Students rallied in front of the school’s administration building and moved into the hallway outside administrative offices to protest major department cuts. The protest began with a walkout and escalated with protesters crowding the building’s hallway and refusing to back down. 

In September, the school announced that it would close the educational studies division, the physical education department, the visual arts department and the journalism program. About 42 faculty and staff members will lose their jobs. Critics believe the cuts unfairly impact minorities and women.

The walkout began at noon Tuesday, when the crowd arrived on Emory’s quadrangle holding signs and chanting “Fight Back.” 

“We feel that the $4.5 million that they say they're going to save from these cuts is basically chump change compared with how much money they made this year,” said Katharine Bryant, one of the organizers of the grass-roots movement against the cuts.

The school said the cuts will allow it to invest in other programs.

“These reductions will allow us to invest in traditional strengths of the arts and sciences at Emory, building and enhancing areas of true eminence in research and undergraduate and graduate education,” Emory said in a letter to students.

Opposition to the movement has grown since the announcement, with opponents speaking out online and via social media. A Facebook page dedicated to the movement against the cuts kept a stream of updates throughout the protest Tuesday, claiming administrators were threatening arrests. The page called on more students to join the rally and tweet using the hashtag #EmoryCuts.

The movement also has some professors on its side.

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“I do not believe this is proper procedure, and it certainly does not represent what Emory could be,” Dr. Kevin Corrigan told Channel 2’s Erin Coleman.

Corrigan is a professor who will keep his job. He said he got lucky. Still, as the chair of the Graduate Institute for the Liberal Arts, his department will be totally reorganized.

“It's going to become an empty space for a while,” he said.

Many are also upset with the way the situation is being handled.

“These decisions were made in a secretive and dishonest manner,” a protest leader told the crowd.

A little more than two weeks ago, the president wrote a letter saying he is standing firm and the cuts will remain. The university has also said the cuts will not affect Emory's commitment to diversity.

Opponents aren't giving up, and after about a half-hour of protesting, they took their concerns inside the administration building to the president’s office. Protesters said administrators agreed to meet with them, but only without the presence of media.

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