Emory Faculty Prepares “No Confidence” Vote for University President Greg Fenves

If passed, the vote could be a “profound victory” for students demanding the president’s resignation.

Lilac Leblanc is a student at the Emory College of Arts and Sciences studying Anthropology and Creative Writing. Ian Rein is a student at the Emory College of Arts and Sciences studying Political Science and Creative Writing. Both are expected to graduate in 2025.

ATLANTA—Last Thursday, April 25, Emory students and faculty, AUCC students, and other community members from Atlanta arrived on Emory’s quad to establish a Gaza Solidarity and Stop Cop City encampment. Protesters are demanding that Emory University immediately divest from Israeli and “Cop City,” the $109 million police militarization facility being built in Weelaunee Forest in unincorporated DeKalb County.

Almost immediately, Emory University President Gregory Fenves called the police to repress the protests. The Emory police, Atlanta Police Department, and Georgia State Patrol were all present. This decision to involve the police was in direct violation of Emory University policy on open expression, protest, and dissent.

That morning, police proceeded to brutalize and terrorize students, faculty, and community members, arresting 28 people—20 of whom were part of the “Emory Community,” as it is defined by university policy. The police brutality was especially disproportionate to Black protesters, including a medic who was tazed by police when they were already restrained on the ground.

Students and faculty walk out in protest of Emory University’s repression of Palestine solidarity encampment. Photo credit: @emory.journalists on IG

On April 26, the Emory College of Arts and Sciences (ECAS) Faculty Senate convened in an emergency meeting to discuss the events that took place on Emory University’s campus on April 25. Hundreds of faculty members convened to discuss a vote of censure against Fenves, ultimately deciding to move forward with a vote of no confidence. 

After discussion, the faculty senate passed a motion to bring a vote of no confidence to the entire university faculty through an electronic vote that will be conducted this week. Dr. Timothy Dowd, head of the ECAS sociology department, explained in a department newsletter that “the electronic vote is necessary given our procedures as well as [our] interest in providing anonymity to non-tenured faculty.”

If the ECAS’s vote of “no confidence” passes, it would be a profound victory for Emory students who are demanding Fenves’ resignation.

Throughout his tenure, Fenves has been heavily criticized by the Emory Community for regularly refusing to address safety concerns of Palestinian and Arab students. He has also been held responsible in a recently settled price-fixing lawsuit against the university and in an ongoing civil rights complaint filed by CAIR-Georgia and Palestine Legal on behalf of multiple Palestinian and Arab students who have been doxxed and harassed for their activism.

Fenves has also consistently refused to acknowledge the ongoing genocide of Palestinians, the university’s ties with the occupation, and its ties with “Cop City,” the $109 million police militarization facility being built in a predominantly low income Black neighborhood in Southeast Atlanta.

Due to the university’s financial involvement with the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF) and Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE), students and faculty believe that Fenves has a personal interest in maintaining police presence across Atlanta, supporting Israeli apartheid, and supporting the construction of Cop City.

A vote to censure President Fenves would express faculty disapproval of his actions, but a vote of no confidence goes further. A vote of no confidence signals that the faculty no longer supports Fenves as president. Put simply, they have “no confidence” in his leadership. While only the university board of trustees has the power to remove the president from his position, a widespread no confidence vote will signal the severity of the situation to the trustees and encourage them to act.

For days, hundreds of Emory students, faculty, alumni, and friends of the cause have been tirelessly protesting across campus. Since the police escalation on the protests, organizers have added the following to their demands: the full removal of outside police from campus, paid leave for maintenance staff, a meeting with Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, Fenves’ resignation, and care, reparations, and “no disciplinary action” for all arrested.

Faculty meet to discuss vote. Photo credit: an anonymous faculty member present at the meeting

Despite the students’ uproar, President Fenves has sent numerous emails to students and their families condemning their actions in decisively hurtful language, including describing the student protesters as “outside protestors [who] arrived on campus in vans.”

In addition to announcing the vote of no confidence, the recent motion passed by the faculty senate condemns the administration’s decision to summon police, the violence and arrests that followed, and the false statements that have been spread by both President Fenves and other members of the administration.

They have also demanded that charges against all 28 arrestees, including those from outside of the university, be dropped, and that the university pay for all legal costs.

In his email, Dr. Dowd emphasized that the department of sociology would be taking further measures that he could not share with students at the time. Similar messages of support have come from other university departments, including the departments of English, Creative Writing, and Philosophy. 

The Emory community is hopeful that the vote from the ECAS faculty will restore fundamental rights to Emory’s core constituents, the students. While calls for the university to divest from Israel, GILEE, and the APF have been ongoing, this support from the faculty has reignited hope in many students. 

Emory students hope to join in Atlanta’s legacy as the beating heart of civil rights in the South and affect change throughout Georgia and the United States.

With continued and growing support, the hope is that Emory University can be urged to divest from Israeli Apartheid.

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