May 7, 2024 - News

Emory students cast "no confidence" ballots on Fenves leadership

A photo of a hand holding a "Hands off our students!" sign in front of Emory University lamppost banners

Pro-Palestinian students demonstrate at Emory University on April 25. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/AFP via Getty Images

Emory students have until 3pm on Tuesday to cast a vote of "no confidence" regarding university president Gregory Fenves, spurred by his response to the campus protests over the war in Gaza.

Why it matters: The referendum on Fenves' leadership stems from his handling of the protest on April 25 where state, city and campus law enforcement blocked activists from building an encampment. Twenty-eight people were arrested.

State of play: Several school groups approved similar measures against Fenves last week: the College of Arts and Sciences, Emory's student nurses association and the College Council, according to the Emory Wheel.

  • The student government organization and faculty members at Oxford College, the university's satellite campus in Covington, have also approved "no confidence" votes.

The latest: On Monday, Fenves said Emory's graduation ceremony will take place indoors at the Gas South District in Duluth over "concerns about security and safety."

  • Fenves also told a virtual meeting with student and faculty government leaders that he did not support activists' demand that the university divest from Israel, Atlanta News First reported.

Reality check: The formal rebukes of Fenves are non-binding. Whether Fenves stays in his job or not is up to the Emory Board of Trustees.

The other side: Emory said in a statement that the school takes campus community members' concerns seriously and "there are a wide range of perspectives being shared."

Yes, but: "No confidence" votes are "the most profound statement that faculty can make about their feelings about a university administration," Pamela Scully, a professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, told Atlanta Civic Circle.

  • They can also build alumni and public support to pressure leadership, Matthew Boedy, a University of West Georgia professor and Georgia representative for the American Association of University Professors, told Axios.
  • "Even if they don't accomplish their goal, they do force administrators to at least now pay a bit more attention to the people they need to run a successful college."
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