Currently, the Africana program enjoys a lot of autonomy by being formally detached from the school of Arts & Sciences. For instance, Africana Studies is the only program on campus that hires faculty without reporting to a dean. It is technically separate from any other undergraduate college at Cornell, supervised by Provost Fuchs. Though their students apply through the college of Arts & Sciences and receive their degree from Cornell.
The administration cited greater opportunities for growth of the Africana center, such as the introduction of a Ph.D. program, but in their statement they claim that, “There was already agreement [established] in 2006 to proceed with […] a doctoral program without reference to the College of Arts and Sciences.”
The Cornell Insider, a blog of the Cornell Review newspaper, reported today that there were protests outside of the main administrative building regarding the move. “Roughly fifty students and faculty were on hand in front of Day Hall Friday afternoon […] Energetic speakers took turns on the megaphone, calling for students to take action. These speakers included both students and professors in the Africana Center. While the speakers’ anger was directed at the alleged rashness and lack of communication associated with the move rather than the move itself, the protest signs indicated a staunch opposition to the move.”
An email has been circulating around Cornell from the Africana students. There has been a laundry list of gripes, but here are some egregious ones:
“The Africana Center was established as an inter-college unit reporting to the Provost out of a logic that protected it from being subsumed under other administrative structures. The direct line to the Provost was essential for allowing its independence and self-determination.”
Provost Fuchs’ action will undo all the work that went into creating one of the most respected Africana Studies departments nationally and internationally.”
“Africana will now be open as a free for all for those who know little about the field.”
“There was no meeting with students prior to the Provost’s announcement.”
“The decision added additional stresses to students since it was dropped on them in the last week of school.”
The move for Africana Studies will ultimately benefit the program. They will be part of the college, gaining faculty and a Ph.D. graduate course of study. Furthermore, the reaction of the students has been absurd and worthy of little sympathy. Since when have administrators had to meet with students to make decisions?
Of course, the program has been controversial ever since it was founded in 1969, the same year that armed African-American students took over a building on campus. The first Director of the program is quoted as having said, “I do not believe white critics can be allowed to have any influence over the program.” Most recently, the Black Students United’s Sunday evening ‘Unity Hour,’ which strives to promote “lively and educational discussions,” featured Eddie Conway, an ex-Black Panther “Minister of Defense” to keynote their evening chat. Conway had to call in, though, because he is currently imprisoned in Jessup Correctional Institution for the 1970 murder of a police officer in cold blood. As the Cornell Review reported, Conway identified himself as a ‘political prisoner’ and the crowd treated him as such. Most of us students would have never come up with the title ‘political prisoner’ to designate a cop-killer. This is a reminder that more is at stake here than an administrative reshuffling of departments.”
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