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.
The meeting is over. Thanks for following!
“President Roth why don’t you cut down your salary?”
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
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.
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”
“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.”
“We want to help and we want our voices heard. I think we are in this predicament because we weren’t involving students.”
“Can you give us a timeline?”
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.
Roth: All I meant to say is I have to figure out how to do it
Student: Then do it!
“If Wesleyan really wants to really be at the vanguard, it needs to re-priorities AFAM. If not here, where?”
“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”
“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.”
“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”
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.
“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.”
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.
I’ll be taking over liveblogging
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: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1DnhoRTDXqiJF6C480iE292PHwK4k6-RjzTEv2A6ALJk/viewform
Roth just answered the passionate student very sarcastically. Oh, Roth.
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.”
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.”
New student: “What are the metrics of measuring student interest in departments?”
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.
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.”
Meeting may or may not be winding down with the return of Roth?
I’m signing off, but thanks for reading! Meeting is winding down and I have to go to an event.
“What if we made an AFAM class a GenEd?” – Cherkira Lashley ’15
There is now a question for the provost on what makes a discipline into an actual institutionalized department.
Students (including Cherkira Lashley ’15) point out that certain courses like African Archaeology and African Art History are actually just about European contributions.
@hermes SO TRUE
Sadasia McCutcheon ’17 laying down the law.
Sadasia ’17 “President Roth got an award for the University being really accepting… and that’s really depressing!”
Update: The petition to re-institutionalize AFAM has gotten over 800 signatures in less than a week.
SIGN THE PETITION HERE: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1DnhoRTDXqiJF6C480iE292PHwK4k6-RjzTEv2A6ALJk/viewform
“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!”
@Samira: A Roth face if I ever did see one.
Before Roth left:
“A lot of the conversation is asking professors to contribute to AFAM [from another department]”
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.”
“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”
Also, several key administrators and faculty members are present, including Dean Mike and Dean Farias.
Students are generally looking very dissatisfied by this meeting.
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.”
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”
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”
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?”
“I don’t want to take classes with professors who are going to leave after 1 year”
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.”
“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!”
Provost: “We want to put up courses that you [the students] actually want to take.”
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.
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.”
Provost: “To me, I think the important thing is that changing these structures doesn’t mean that these departments are invalid.”
AFAM doesn’t want a merger because it would obscure their core values/area of study (…duh)
The provost just announced that she will have to leave by 5:30.
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?”
Roth just left
Roth (in response to CH ’15): I don’t believe in core disciplines
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.”
Christian Hosam ’15: “What do you both think is the intellectual spine of African American Studies?”
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”
Provost: “I just want to emphasize again that the administration and myself have been dedicated to trying to bring more professors into AFAM.”
(Although I have enjoyed my experiences in that department.. It’s just a little wack)
Anyone think it’s weird that, say, Medieval Studies program has 9 affiliate professors and WAY FEWER students than AFAM??
“We’re afraid that two or three years down the line, we’ll be having this same conversation again and again and again.”
Students are bringing up that there are greater race-related issues on campus every year that are constantly ignored, AFAM being one of them.
“The program should not be in distress because 2 people leave”
“What is Wesleyan University doing to keep Students of Color on campus?”
“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?”
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.”
Roth: you’re absolutely right– it’s problematic that I don’t know why people are leaving AFAM.
Roth: “It IS problematic that I don’t know why professors are leaving the AFAM program.”
Students are still trickling into the room.
“What are you tangibly going to do in the next year to fix this?”
That’s not how tenured professor tracks work… you can’t go from visiting to tenure track without a national search.
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?'”
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.”
“Both Professors Mahurin and Wright love Wesleyan and have both expressed that they wanted to stay”
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.”
“I still think you’re avoiding the question of: Why is it a pattern that these professors are leaving Wesleyan?”
Then how can the department go in a direction if there’s no one there to go with it??
Provost: “There are no professors who are tenured track in the AFAM line.”
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.”
in 2009 there were 7 tenured professors in AFAM and now there are 2– although this is being debated contentiously
@hermes yes Profs Brown and Rushdy are both English professors
@kgibbel: But apparently the two profs left in AFAM are both English profs?
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?”
Well over 100 students are packed into PAC 001.
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)
“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.”
President Roth continues to try and interrupt Kwame Adams ’14.
Fact: The two profs left in the AFAM department are both English professors.
“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.”
Comes out that there are no AFAM courses cross-listed with SOC or ECON, perhaps because AFAM doesn’t have enough social science professors
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.”
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.
It comes out that Professor Mahurin was going to leave Wesleyan regardless because of the package Wes gave her.
Professor Roth says that the University tried to give the two AFAM profs leaving competitive offers, but unfortunately, they decided to pursue studies elsewhere.
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
Maurice Hill ’14 a senior interviewer points out that academia needs to be inclusive
Dean Wood has arrived
Another picture from the march this morning:
Another 10-15 students have entered the room.
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.
Here’s a picture from the march this morning (taken by Chris Caines ’16):
Christian Hosam ’15 introduces what the AFAMIsWhy movement wants: more full tenured track positions for the African American Studies Program.
Over 80 students are present in the room.
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.
Meeting just started. To recap: the AFAM department will only have 1 full time professor next year.