LIVEBLOG: #AFAMIsWhy Meeting with President Roth and Provost Striegel Weissman


If you haven’t heard, there’s a meeting going on in PAC 001 with President Roth and Provost Ruth Striegel Weissman. This meeting was scheduled after a March on Wesleyan this afternoon to protest the administration’s lack of support for African American Studies. For those of you stuck in Olin right now, here’s a liveblog of what’s happening. Stay tuned for a longer post about the issue soon.


Jacob May 12, 20146:36 PM

The meeting is over. Thanks for following!

Jacob May 12, 20146:35 PM


Jacob May 12, 20146:35 PM

“President Roth why don’t you cut down your salary?”

Jacob May 12, 20146:35 PM

Roth: My job is to find more resources. When we make these hires in the early fall, that will allow us to plan for the long term. I hear you that It can’t just be about popularity because that is part of institutional racism. I am glad to hear that from you. I am happy to be helpful

Jacob May 12, 20146:32 PM

Antonio Farias (Chief Diversity Officer): I understand ethnic studies and I understand your anger because I went through this 25 years ago at Berkley. You all understand, we have four years, and we can play you for four years. We need to bring you into this process. Lets not just look at AFAM, lets look at this as a whole. I am part of this discussion. Hold me accountable. Starting tomorrow lets have this discussion. My recommendation is to kick start this process.

Jacob May 12, 20146:29 PM

Roth: These are steps that will be taken by academic affairs, so I don’t know how to respond other than saying we will hire two people. The way it normally works is that the dept puts together a plan for the program. That will be discussed with students, with the dean and then we would do searches that will lead to tenure track hires or multiple hires. I hear the urgency, but I don’t want to promise something that I can’t deliver”

Jacob May 12, 20146:26 PM

“This idea of student interest. This institution is producing students who don’t understand basic history. As a black student, I have to use my energy to educate white students. I am a AFAM teacher. This isn’t just black history, this is American history. That’s systemic racism. Its very scary that as a student my fellow students don’t know history. If you teach history at Wes. Students need to know what that is. Make sure people know their history and thats white supremacy.”

Jacob May 12, 20146:24 PM

“We want to help and we want our voices heard. I think we are in this predicament because we weren’t involving students.”

Jacob May 12, 20146:24 PM

“Can you give us a timeline?”

Jacob May 12, 20146:23 PM

Roth: Im trying to figure out not how to make it worse, and then how to make it better. I am going to think about what I can show you.

Jacob May 12, 20146:22 PM

Roth: All I meant to say is I have to figure out how to do it
Student: Then do it!

Jacob May 12, 20146:22 PM

“If Wesleyan really wants to really be at the vanguard, it needs to re-priorities AFAM. If not here, where?”

Jacob May 12, 20146:21 PM

“We need a re-center of what the school priorities. Right now, we prioritize white men. We don’t have enough programs that represent who we are”

Jacob May 12, 20146:20 PM

“Provost said that astronomy dept is kept because its an ancient dept. I want to learn about myself when I come to this school. It is so important that we have this here. Wesleyan was founded the same year as the Nat Turner rebellion. It’s nostalgic but in the worst way.”

Jacob May 12, 20146:18 PM

“Stop saying student interest! The university doesn’t prioritize AFAM”
“It seems like students who are interested in AFAM are paying same tuition but not receiving the same attention”

Jacob May 12, 20146:17 PM

Roth: There are a finite amount of resources for hiring faculty. Some areas get hires and some don’t. One of the factors is student interest.

Jacob May 12, 20146:17 PM

“Stop saying we are working for student interest. Look at the gov dept. If a class isn’t working, you replace the class. How are you going to improve the program that is there. I don’t think we would have this convo if it wasn’t ethnic studies.”

Jacob May 12, 20146:14 PM

Taylor: Toss up between student interest or an institutional problem. It is clear what we think it is, its an institutional problem. Personally, I was considering AFAM as a major, but this problem has deterred me. I want the program to be more supportive of African American students. Gauging student interest is affected by institutional problems. There are very few just AFAM majors, probably because it is not a good enough program.

Jacob May 12, 20146:11 PM

I’ll be taking over liveblogging

hermes May 12, 20146:09 PM

Unfortunately, I have to go. The forum is winding down, but obviously, this is not the last of this conversation.

Again, HERE IS THE PETITION to re-institutionalize AFAM that has over 800 signatures from current students and alumni:

hermes May 12, 20146:07 PM

Roth just answered the passionate student very sarcastically. Oh, Roth.

hermes May 12, 20146:05 PM

Student to Roth: “I’m sick of hearing your words. DO SOMETHING. These are not new issues. They were here before I got there and they’ll be here after I leave.”

hermes May 12, 20146:01 PM

Roth: “We try to look at a whole lot of other metrics, like for example whether or not the course is used for general education expectations or if students are taking a course because it’s just a great course.”

hermes May 12, 20145:59 PM

New student: “What are the metrics of measuring student interest in departments?”

hermes May 12, 20145:57 PM

Other student brings up that FGSS has the same issues as AFAM in terms of not having much University support and a lack of core faculty.

hermes May 12, 20145:53 PM

Student to Roth: “I feel like a lot of students don’t take certain courses because they’re exclusive to minorities. I think we should put a label on the ‘white courses’–or that’s what we should call them–so students know what they’ll really be learning.”

hermes May 12, 20145:52 PM

Meeting may or may not be winding down with the return of Roth?

kgibbel May 12, 20145:50 PM

Roth returns

kgibbel May 12, 20145:50 PM

I’m signing off, but thanks for reading! Meeting is winding down and I have to go to an event.

kgibbel May 12, 20145:49 PM

“What if we made an AFAM class a GenEd?” – Cherkira Lashley ’15

hermes May 12, 20145:47 PM

There is now a question for the provost on what makes a discipline into an actual institutionalized department.

kgibbel May 12, 20145:45 PM

Students (including Cherkira Lashley ’15) point out that certain courses like African Archaeology and African Art History are actually just about European contributions.

kgibbel May 12, 20145:44 PM

@hermes SO TRUE

hermes May 12, 20145:44 PM

Sadasia McCutcheon ’17 laying down the law.

kgibbel May 12, 20145:43 PM

Sadasia ’17 “President Roth got an award for the University being really accepting… and that’s really depressing!”

hermes May 12, 20145:43 PM

Update: The petition to re-institutionalize AFAM has gotten over 800 signatures in less than a week.


kgibbel May 12, 20145:41 PM

“This is not a question only for the African American students… To be sure we’re on the same page: this is not just a minority program. But the things you keep referencing, FGSS or Romance Studies… they are minority programs. I’m going to be a CSS major. They’re not having this problem!”

hermes May 12, 20145:39 PM

@Samira: A Roth face if I ever did see one.

kgibbel May 12, 20145:39 PM

Samira May 12, 20145:38 PM

Before Roth left:

kgibbel May 12, 20145:37 PM

“A lot of the conversation is asking professors to contribute to AFAM [from another department]”

hermes May 12, 20145:37 PM

Student to provost: “I ask that going forward you instead try not to lay blame on students or the department or not spend this meeting proving students wrong. I’m just asking for a shift in attitude.”

kgibbel May 12, 20145:35 PM

“I feel like the majority of this conversation is trying to prove students wrong–I ask that you come at this with the mindset of listening and asking what you can do to support this”

hermes May 12, 20145:35 PM

Also, several key administrators and faculty members are present, including Dean Mike and Dean Farias.

Samira May 12, 20145:34 PM

packed room

hermes May 12, 20145:33 PM

Students are generally looking very dissatisfied by this meeting.

hermes May 12, 20145:28 PM

Student: “I’m offended that you’re asking us why courses in AFAM don’t fill when you don’t ask other departments why they don’t fill classes.”

kgibbel May 12, 20145:27 PM

Maurice Hill ’14: “I am offended by your asking why we don’t fill classes… other classes in other departments don’t face that question. You should add professors to AFAM because students of color don’t have support and solidarity. You are not showing the SOC support on this campus”

kgibbel May 12, 20145:25 PM

Provost: “Let me address another misconception: you keep saying there are no faculty in the program, but there are a lot of courses offered by tenure track professors”

hermes May 12, 20145:24 PM

Other student: “You keep saying that it’s the department’s fault, but what are the administrative safety mechanisms to make sure that departments aren’t running themselves into the ground?”

kgibbel May 12, 20145:23 PM

“I don’t want to take classes with professors who are going to leave after 1 year”

hermes May 12, 20145:22 PM

Student: “All of the AFAM courses are literature courses that read the same books. And you all offer AFAM courses at the same time. There’s no way to take these courses if they’re scheduled at the same time.”

kgibbel May 12, 20145:21 PM

“One of the reasons I’m not taking AFAM courses is because they’re all English courses… I’ve read Maya Angelou four times. All of the classes are at the same times… I’m an AFAM major, and I can’t take classes at the same time!”

hermes May 12, 20145:20 PM

Provost: “We want to put up courses that you [the students] actually want to take.”

kgibbel May 12, 20145:20 PM

I think the AFAM department happened before (late 1960s) the American Studies Program (1980s/1990s). So the idea that AFAM was initially piloted as part of AmStud is not totally true.

hermes May 12, 20145:19 PM

Provost: “If you look at the last five years, courses with the AFAM designation don’t fill up to capacity. We’re trying to figure out why that is.”

hermes May 12, 20145:16 PM

Provost: “To me, I think the important thing is that changing these structures doesn’t mean that these departments are invalid.”

kgibbel May 12, 20145:15 PM

AFAM doesn’t want a merger because it would obscure their core values/area of study (…duh)

hermes May 12, 20145:15 PM

The provost just announced that she will have to leave by 5:30.

hermes May 12, 20145:14 PM

Provost: “AFAM was originally thought of as being part of American Studies, and the question was, should American Studies be a meta structure for all of these other departments?”

kgibbel May 12, 20145:13 PM

Roth just left

kgibbel May 12, 20145:13 PM

Roth (in response to CH ’15): I don’t believe in core disciplines

hermes May 12, 20145:12 PM

Roth: “I don’t know much about the core disciplines of most of the departments, but I don’t know if there’s a core discipline to any program.”

hermes May 12, 20145:11 PM

Christian Hosam ’15: “What do you both think is the intellectual spine of African American Studies?”

kgibbel May 12, 20145:11 PM

Roth: “I have to go, but this won’t be the last conversation. We are hiring in the short term and planning for long term stability”

hermes May 12, 20145:10 PM

Provost: “I just want to emphasize again that the administration and myself have been dedicated to trying to bring more professors into AFAM.”

kgibbel May 12, 20145:10 PM

(Although I have enjoyed my experiences in that department.. It’s just a little wack)

hermes May 12, 20145:09 PM

@kgibbel: PREACH

kgibbel May 12, 20145:09 PM

Anyone think it’s weird that, say, Medieval Studies program has 9 affiliate professors and WAY FEWER students than AFAM??

hermes May 12, 20145:08 PM

“We’re afraid that two or three years down the line, we’ll be having this same conversation again and again and again.”

hermes May 12, 20145:07 PM

Students are bringing up that there are greater race-related issues on campus every year that are constantly ignored, AFAM being one of them.

kgibbel May 12, 20145:07 PM

“The program should not be in distress because 2 people leave”

kgibbel May 12, 20145:04 PM

“What is Wesleyan University doing to keep Students of Color on campus?”

kgibbel May 12, 20145:04 PM

“This is not a cohort program… Why can’t there be a constant faculty in AFAM? Why are we not renewing contracts and why are we not starting contracts?”

hermes May 12, 20145:02 PM

Roth: “I will have to learn more about this, and along with the provost, I will need to find out how to bring long-term appointments to interdisciplinary programs.”

kgibbel May 12, 20145:01 PM

Roth: you’re absolutely right– it’s problematic that I don’t know why people are leaving AFAM.

hermes May 12, 20145:01 PM

Roth: “It IS problematic that I don’t know why professors are leaving the AFAM program.”

hermes May 12, 20145:01 PM

Students are still trickling into the room.

hermes May 12, 20145:00 PM

“What are you tangibly going to do in the next year to fix this?”

kgibbel May 12, 20144:59 PM

That’s not how tenured professor tracks work… you can’t go from visiting to tenure track without a national search.

hermes May 12, 20144:59 PM

Christian Hosam ’15: “It seems like AFAM is always in the midst of an existential crisis, and every five or six years, we ask, ‘Will the program be around in a year?'”

hermes May 12, 20144:58 PM

Provost: “There’s still a huge difference between visitors and tenured track, and at the end of the day, the department needs to come to us to say that they want those professors to be tenured track.”

kgibbel May 12, 20144:57 PM

“Both Professors Mahurin and Wright love Wesleyan and have both expressed that they wanted to stay”

hermes May 12, 20144:57 PM

Provost: “It’s not uncommon that professors will leave Wesleyan after five or six years, and there are certain opportunities at other colleges that we can’t match.”

kgibbel May 12, 20144:57 PM

“I still think you’re avoiding the question of: Why is it a pattern that these professors are leaving Wesleyan?”

kgibbel May 12, 20144:56 PM

Then how can the department go in a direction if there’s no one there to go with it??

hermes May 12, 20144:55 PM

Provost: “There are no professors who are tenured track in the AFAM line.”

hermes May 12, 20144:55 PM

Roth: “I understand that replacing people on an interim basis is not helpful. But we don’t want to hire someone permanently and then find out that they’re not going in the direction that the department is going in.”

kgibbel May 12, 20144:55 PM

in 2009 there were 7 tenured professors in AFAM and now there are 2– although this is being debated contentiously

kgibbel May 12, 20144:53 PM

@hermes yes Profs Brown and Rushdy are both English professors

hermes May 12, 20144:52 PM

@kgibbel: But apparently the two profs left in AFAM are both English profs?

hermes May 12, 20144:52 PM

Roth: “There used to be lots of professors in AFAM and they left it.”
Christian Hosam ’15: “And why do you think that is?”
Roth: “You’ll have to ask them.”
Sadasia McCutcheon ’17: “But why do YOU think that is from an administrative standpoint?”

hermes May 12, 20144:50 PM

Well over 100 students are packed into PAC 001.

kgibbel May 12, 20144:50 PM

Professors don’t find institutional help when trying to augment and better the AFAM department, causing some to come disillusioned and leave the department (ex: Prof. Ulysse and Prof. Demetrius Eudell)

hermes May 12, 20144:50 PM

“When we performed the sit-in in North College today, all the doors on the third floor of North College were locked, and in my four years here, I’ve never seen that happen.”

hermes May 12, 20144:49 PM

President Roth continues to try and interrupt Kwame Adams ’14.

hermes May 12, 20144:48 PM

Fact: The two profs left in the AFAM department are both English professors.

hermes May 12, 20144:48 PM

“AFAM is supposed to be interdisciplinary, but there are no courses in sociology, psychology, economics…Most of them are in African Lit, and it’s a very watered down version of African American studies.”

kgibbel May 12, 20144:47 PM

Comes out that there are no AFAM courses cross-listed with SOC or ECON, perhaps because AFAM doesn’t have enough social science professors

hermes May 12, 20144:46 PM

Provost: “When professors want to keep faculty, they go to the provost and deans and request to extend their contracts. The AFAM department did not request her, though we reached out to them to keep her at Wesleyan.”

hermes May 12, 20144:45 PM

Provost Weissman says that she has been trying since the summer to strengthen the program and help all of the students who want to take AFAM succeed.

hermes May 12, 20144:44 PM

It comes out that Professor Mahurin was going to leave Wesleyan regardless because of the package Wes gave her.

hermes May 12, 20144:43 PM

Professor Roth says that the University tried to give the two AFAM profs leaving competitive offers, but unfortunately, they decided to pursue studies elsewhere.

kgibbel May 12, 20144:41 PM

President Roth says he’s sorry that Professor Mahurin and Professor Wright are leaving– they have both been vital members of the AFAM program and of the Wes community

kgibbel May 12, 20144:40 PM

Maurice Hill ’14 a senior interviewer points out that academia needs to be inclusive

kgibbel May 12, 20144:38 PM

Dean Wood has arrived

hermes May 12, 20144:38 PM

Another picture from the march this morning:

hermes May 12, 20144:37 PM

Another 10-15 students have entered the room.

kgibbel May 12, 20144:37 PM

Wesleying writer alt chimes in to say that ethnic studies as a whole at Wesleyan are on the decline, including diaspora, Asian American Studies. They are prevalent in literature classes, but not so much outside of that cadre.

hermes May 12, 20144:37 PM

Here’s a picture from the march this morning (taken by Chris Caines ’16):

kgibbel May 12, 20144:36 PM

Christian Hosam ’15 introduces what the AFAMIsWhy movement wants: more full tenured track positions for the African American Studies Program.

hermes May 12, 20144:35 PM

Over 80 students are present in the room.

hermes May 12, 20144:35 PM

Students marched all over Wesleyan this morning, ended in a sit-in at North College. Because of this, President Roth and Provost Weissman decided to meet for this forum.

kgibbel May 12, 20144:34 PM

Meeting just started. To recap: the AFAM department will only have 1 full time professor next year.

  • Wondering

    For those of us just catching up on the events, where are the two professors heading? I’ve heard differing things about Mahurin, but nothing about Wright.

    • kgibbel

      Professor Mahurin will be a Dean at Yale next year and Professor Wright will be teaching at Harvard.

  • Cesar A. Chavez

    I think that the question asking President Roth to cut his salary is an important one. He mentioned earlier in the discussion that if the University was to increase funding from AFAM it would have to take the money fro somewhere else. Well we have already sacrificed poor students and increased tuition, why doesn’t President Roth sacrifice some of his salary? I am sure we can reduce his salary by at the very least 100K and still do fine. In the past President Roth has mentioned that he loves Wesleyan and that he wishes to make it a better place, why doesn’t he sacrifice himself as well? Why only sacrifice poor students?

    • Evan Okens


    • alum

      You can debate the economics, but the fact that someone asked Roth randomly like that is completely immature and counterproductive – you put him on the defensive, the question is personal and mostly rhetorical, and you shut down any dialogue you’ve generated. You’re really gonna ask someone that in front of 100 people? Please.

      As for him cutting his salary to pay for the professors’ tuition, my question is, why isn’t there an endowed professor position? Any maybe it should be a goal of the This Is Why campaign? Also it sets a bad precedent – should Roth cut his salary every time Wes needs another professor? Should he just work for free? Slippery slope.

      • Cesar A, Chavez

        I think that the principle is what matters. The issue is that Roth is constantly saying that the university needs to move resources from one program to another to make it sustainable. During the AFAM meeting Roth specifically said that in order to hire more AFAM professors the university would need to borrow money from somewhere else. Again why doesn’t he put his money towards AFAM? Why does he continue to sacrifice other people but himself? To me it seems that he is being hypocritical and willing to put himself above others. Yes Wesleyan is a business and yes it has problems but should our president set an example but cutting his salary and put more money towards AFAM or for scholarships? I am not asking him to work for free but I am sure he can do without some of the money he is currently making. I think the question was in fact very provocative and Roth’s reaction shows how much of a hypocrite he is.

        • alum

          Did you even read what I wrote? The question was completely inappropriate and as I’ve said, he makes the going rate for college presidents. Say he donates some of his salary and then the Romance languages need more professors – does he donate some if his salary to that too? It’s a bullshit argument that has zero basis in reality. Zero. Idealistic? Yes. Pragmatic? Hell no. Roth isn’t putting himself above anything – he’s just not putting himself below anything.

  • wentworth

    i was more interested in seeing more from the students of color who were not necessarily deep in the AFAM program but found it needed and important in their own way. Why did the livebloggers leave out the voices of the students who are not necessarily in the obvious organizing group? Like that one freshman girl just yelled things she thought people were already saying, she made no arguments with premises or original contributions. Has reporting for wesleying just come to what the loudest person or most obvious person thinks? No one wanted to see what one freshman had to say. Liveblog=fail

    • kgibbel

      Thank you for your comments. Writing a liveblog is actually very difficult in a crowded room where people are entering and exiting–it’s hard a) to hear everything and b) to record everything everyone says quickly enough, but I think you make a very valid point about including more opinions. After all, making excellence inclusive is the framing scaffold for this entire #AFAMisWhy movement. I think both hermes and I tried to do our best to record the most salient points as they came up in real time, but as I said, it is difficult. And for clarification purposes, there WERE comments from people in CSS, NSB, FGSS, English, and other departments that were featured in the liveblog.

  • alum

    ““President Roth why don’t you cut down your salary?”” Probably the least productive comment of the forum.

    Will be interesting to see what the admin comes up with as a response. I think it was unreasonable to think Roth and Striegel Weissman would have answers just hours after they agree to come to an impromptu meeting…

    • 2015

      wake up… they should have had answers 3 months ago. It shouldn’t take a sit in for them to realize what’s going on.
      Roth’s salary is like 500K. It’s a legitimate question to ask why he’s still making this much while important programs like need blind and AFAM are being cut.

      • alum

        Take it easy, there. Let’s be realistic here.

        First of all, again, that comment was completely counterproductive, and second of all, Roth makes the GOING RATE (excuse the caps) for a liberal arts college president. Yeah he make a lot of money. You wanna ask your doctor to take a pay cut so your insurance can be a bit cheaper? Doesn’t work that way. As for need blind, as I’ve mentioned in my other posts, Wesleyan can’t afford it RIGHT NOW, and it has NOTHING to do with Roth’s salary. Could he take a smal pay cut in solidarity? Sure, but it’s gonna do jack shit except make everyone feel a little better about themselves. After the next capital campaign, the endowment will be large enough to once again support need blind. It’s actually not a legitimate question to ask about “why he’s still making this much while important programs like need blind and AFAM are being cut,” when you understand the economics.

        As for AFAM, what does the department have to say for itself? Is it that requests for additional professors being actively denied? What about soliciting alumni for a gift to endow some professor positions? Seems like it might not just be about the money though, and something else is going on… whether it be lack of “support” or something not yet public on Wesleying…

        • 2015

          Economics R 4 Satan…

          • alum

            money makes the world go ’round… sad, but true…

  • stuckinolin

    Thanks so much for liveblogging this!