Public Philosophy Network comes to Emory

Hey there friends, I’m organizing this conference and there’s still time to get on the program:

Advancing Publicly Engaged Philosophy, March 14-16, 2013, Emory University Conference Center, Atlanta, Georgia, Keynote Speaker: Elizabeth Minnich

Early Registration extended to February 8, 2013. Those who register early pay a lower fee and will be listed on the program as discussants for any workshop they get in. Workshops are filling up quickly. TO REGISTER GO HERE:  

The Public Philosophy Network (PPN) brings together theorists and practitioners engaged in public life. Rather than merely try to apply theoretical insights to practical problems, PPN seeks to create spaces for mutual reflections on the meanings of public problems and the practice of philosophy itself.  PPN engages theorists and practitioners online and offline, online through its interactive web space and offline through its national conferences that occur every 18 months.

A key feature of the conferences is the participatory workshops on a range of issues related to publicly engaged philosophy.  Additionally there are plenaries, paper sessions, and organized sessions, though all aim to be participatory models of public engagement.  Workshop topics for the upcoming conference are listed below; for full descriptions and the full conference program, go to:

The 2013 conference is sponsored by Emory University and co-sponsored by the American Philosophical Association, George Mason University, Penn State University’s Rock Ethics Institute and Michigan State University.

After registering for the conference, you will be prompted to sign up for workshops, listed below.



•           Taking Philosophy into the Field of Science and Technology Policy: Toward a Paradigm for Publically Engaged Philosophy, facilitators:  Adam Briggle, J. Britt Holbrook, Robert Frodeman, and Kelli Barr, U. North Texas.

•           Philosophy Behind Prison Walls, Pedagogy, Praxis, and Infrastructure, facilitators:  Brady Heiner, California State University, Fullerton; John D. Macready, University of Dallas; Marianne Patinelli-Dubay , SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

•           Creating Public-Public Partnerships: Utilizing Universities for Participatory Budgeting, facilitators:  Michael Menser and Kwabena Edusei, Brooklyn College

•           Streets, Surfaces, and Sounds, facilitator:  Gray Kochhar-Lindgren, Univeristy of Washington Bothell

•           Race, the City, and the Challenge of Praxis, facilitators:  Ron Sundstrom, University of San Francisco; Frank McMillan, Organizer, VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith CommunityEngagement)

•           Performing Philosophy:  Participatory Theater as a Means of Engaging Communities Philosophically, facilitators:  Sharon M. Meagher and Hank Willenbrink, University of Scranton

•           Using Non-Cooperative, Experiential Games to Teach Sustainability Ethics, facilitator:  Jathan Sadowski, Arizona State University

•           Scientific Advisory Committees, Controversial Issues and the Role of Philosophy, facilitators:  Paul Thompson, Michigan State University; Bryan Norton, Georgia Tech University; Mr. Gene Gregory, former President and CEO of the United Egg Producers; Kyle Powys Whyte, Michigan State University


•           Philosophy of/as Interdisciplinarity Network (PIN) or Philosophy and Interdisciplinarity: Reflecting on and Crossing Boundaries, facilitators:  Adam Briggle, J. Britt Holbrook, Robert Frodeman, University of North Texas; Jan Schmidt, Darmstadt University; Michael Hoffmann, Georgia Tech

•           Challenging the Culture of Sexual Violence: Moral Literacy and Sexual Empowerment as Tools of Transformation, faciliators:  Sarah Clark Miller and Cori Wong, Penn State University; Ann Cahill, Elon College.

•           Engaged Philosophy and Just University-Community Partnerships, facilitators:  Dr. Ericka Tucker, Cal Poly Pomona University and Emory University; Dr. Vialla Hartfield-Méndez and Letitia Campbell, Emory UniversitY; Hussien Mohamed, Director of Sagal Radio, OUCP.

•           Hip-Hop as Public Philosophy, faciliatators:  Roberto Domingo, Stony Brook University; Jo Dalton, French rap-producer, activist, and former gang leader ; Amer Ahmed, Chair of the National Hip-Hop Congress;  Michael Benitez  Jr., Director of Intercultural Engagement and  Leadership, Grinnell College

•          Sagacity and Commerce, facilitator:  David E. McClean, Rutgers University, Molloy College

•           Practical Epistemology and Sustainable Inquiry, facilitators:  Karen Hanson and Naomi Scheman, University of Minnesota

•           Public Philosophy Journal: Performing Philosophy as Publication, facilitators:  Christopher Long and Mark Fisher, Penn State University.

•           Equity and Climate Change: Opportunities for Research, Teaching, and Advocacy, faciliators:  Andrew Light, George Mason University and Center for American Progress; and Paul Baer, Georgia Tech

Reviewing the Facts on Emory’s Cuts

In a “revisioning fact sheet” published December 7, 2012, on Emory University’s news page following student protests, the Emory College administration gave a brief account of the rationale and process for its plan to close and reorganize programs “in order to reallocate funds to support others areas of the arts and sciences program.” The first five “facts” offered an account of how the process followed the bylaws and appropriate consultation. I believe these claims warrant another look.  The claims listed below are taken verbatim from the administration’s fact sheet. The alternate account below each claim draws on documents from college and university governance, open letters from and to various official bodies, AAUP documents, and news accounts.  I had help from a few other faculty members in writing this up.  I invite others to use the comments section to make further corrections, both to the university’s account and to the alternative account I am offering. It is indeed a very complicated story.

Claim: The process was guided by the bylaws adopted by Emory College of Arts and Sciences faculty 11 years ago.

Counter-Claim: The ECAS bylaws allow the Governance Committee (GovCom) to appoint a subcommittee.  On 2/11/2009 GovCom announced that it had formed a subcommittee named the College Financial Advisory Committee (CFAC), which previously had been an ad hoc committee appointed by the dean after the financial crisis of Fall 2008.[1]  Per the minutes of the 2/11/2009 meeting, in its new incarnation the subcommittee CFAC would report to GovCom. But in the intervening years all the duly elected members of GovCom did not receive reports from its subcommittee. According to the minutes of its April 2011 meeting, one member of GovCom, Michael Sullivan, “expressed the concern that although this committee reports to GovCom, much of its discussion is deemed confidential. Thus GovCom is seen to be responsible for a committee while being kept in the dark about its work.”  (See these minutes from the April 20, 2011 meeting of GovCom.) While it is true that the bylaws allow the GovCom to appoint a subcommittee and that there are no provisions in the bylaws for how this subcommittee should be constituted or how long its members should serve, that the full GovCom was not apprised of its subcommittee’s work raises questions about how well it could oversee the subcommittee or report to the faculty what was happening.

Without regular and full reports from CFAC to GovCom, GovCom gave only sporadic and brief reports in its minutes to the faculty. (See GovCom minutes on Blackboard.) Moreover, the membership of the CFAC subcommittee of GovCom is not listed on the GovCom’s webpage or in its folder on blackboard, making it difficult for the faculty as a whole to know or inquire about the process. And according to a story in the Emory Wheel, the chair of CFAC had at times purposely deceived faculty members who inquired about the process. This lack of communication departs from the mandate laid out in Article V of the bylaws that GovCom and the other standing committees have (exempting a specified few per Article 5, Sect. 2, H) to communicate with the faculty as a whole.

Emory University bylaws state in Article IV Section 1 that the faculty has “responsibility for… and jurisdiction over” curricula and instructional programming, while Section 2 states that the administration is responsible to “exercise leadership in the development of educational policies and programs.”  Together these statements articulate the principle of shared governance, which is at the core of the statement on governance agreed to in 1966 jointly by AAUP, the American Council on Education (ACE) and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB).  Emory University is a member of both ACE and AGB.

Claim: The process has taken more than three years and involved appropriate consultation with duly elected faculty committees.

Counter-Claim: Appropriate consultation would have followed the principle laid out in section 2 of the Statement on Joint Government of Colleges and Universities:

The framing and execution of long-range plans, one of the most important aspects of institutional responsibility, should be a central and continuing concern in the academic community. Effective planning demands that the broadest possible exchange of information and opinion should be the rule for communication among the components of a college or university. The channels of communication should be established and maintained by joint endeavor. Distinction should be observed between the institutional system of communication and the system of responsibility for the making of decisions.

The shortcomings in full communication described above seem contrary to the Statement’s call for “the broadest possible exchange of information and opinion” within the Emory College of Arts and Sciences.

The situation is even more problematic with the decisions made by the dean of the Laney Graduate School. LGS’s governance structure calls for consultation with Directors of Graduate Study, an elected Executive Council, and an Appointments Committee. In an open letter to AAUP and the LGS faculty, sent to the LGS Dean on November 15, 2012, members of the LGS Executive Council, which bears responsibility for long term program development and planning, expressed dismay that they had never been consulted.

In addition to open communication with the faculties and representatives of the college and the graduate school, appropriate consultation would have also included many other faculty bodies:  the Provost’s commission on the liberal arts, the collective of department and program chairs, and the Humanities, Science, Social Science and Arts Councils, not to mention the full faculty or members of affected departments themselves.

Claim: Consultation appropriately involved faculty rather than students, since faculty have authority over the curriculum.

Counter-Claim: As noted above, consultation did not appropriately involve faculty. If it had been an appropriate process, students should have been welcome to participate. As the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities states,

When students in American colleges and universities desire to participate responsibly in the government of the institution they attend, their wish should be recognized as a claim to opportunity both for educational experience and for involvement in the affairs of their college or university. Ways should be found to permit significant student participation within the limits of attainable effectiveness.

Claim: The authorized faculty committees have endorsed both the process and the outcome.

Counter-Claim: As noted above, the LGS Executive Council has explicitly stated that it was never consulted. Moreover, College faculty have repeatedly questioned aspects of the process. Even former Provost Earl Lewis noted during his address to College faculty on Oct. 30, 2012, that “the process was flawed” although he deemed the outcomes to be correct.

Claim: These decisions and the process by which they were reached have been endorsed by the Provost, the President, and the Board of Trustees of the University. The Board also recently reaffirmed its support for the decision, the process, and the work of the deans of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Laney Graduate School.

Counter-Claim: While these decisions do have endorsement from the upper administration, on December 12, 2012, the Emory College faculty voted in favor of a motion to appoint an independent, faculty review of the process leading to the decisions.

[1] At the meeting of the GovCom held earlier the same day, according to minutes of the meeting, the committee was considering whether or not to make the CFAC a separate standing committee. In the end it passed a unanimous resolution to make it a subcommittee.