Beginning at noon today from the Science Library, students have been marching across campus in protest of the administration’s lack of support for African American Studies. This comes at the heels of a massive petition campaign, where other members of the Wesleyan community were encouraged to add their names to a resolution calling for the Provost to prioritize faculty hires in AFAM, to fill the empty lines that are in AFAM currently, as well as demanding a response from President Roth or Provost Ruth Striegel Weissman.
This resolution previously passed the Wesleyan Student Assembly on May 4th, when the WSA decided to suspend their bylaws (in which they are not allowed to vote on a resolution introduced that same day) to vote on the resolution the day of. The resolution passed unanimously and within a week’s time, has garnered over 850 additional signatures from the community.
The March today, entitled “March on Wesleyan,” moved from SciLi into Olin, then across Foss, through Admissions and Usdan, then through North College and ending at South College. Along the way, everyone chanted various phrases, as well as singing the following version of the fight song:
So now we’re fighting our Wesleyan
They won’t give in.
Roth’s killing AFAM;
Where’s our inclusion?
Administration gives no support
To staff, or students.
So now we fight fight, fight fight,
For our department.
In total, over 100 students participated along the way. At this moment, students are currently sitting in at North College. They are waiting for a response from the Provost and President, as well as a time and place later today to meet to have a conversation.
The #AFAMisWhy campaign has been also gaining steam on social media, where the hashtag #AFAMisWhy has been used on Twitter and Instagram, and many participants of the movement have also changed their profile pictures on Facebook to reflect their support of the AFAM department.
For little background on what’s going on with AFAM right now: Professors Leah Wright and Sarah Mahurin are both set to leave Wesleyan for other institutions at the close of this semester, leaving only two professors left in the AFAM department, as it stands currently. The two professors are Professors Ashraf Rushdy and Lois Brown, with Professor Brown taking over as chair of the AFAM department. Rushdy will only be in the department part-time as well, as he takes on a position as Academic Secretary of the university. This essentially leaves AFAM with only one and a half tenured professors in the department. The university has allegedly been unwilling to give more institutional support in faculty hires and replacing faculty that leave their lines in the department, as witnessed with the steady decline and loss of professors from AFAM in the last decade.
The blurb from the #AFAMisWhy campaign:
The Problem: Our African-American Studies Program is and has been disintegrating. Both Professor Leah Wright and Sarah Mahurin will be leaving the department at the end of this semester. Only two professors, Ashraf Rushdy and Lois Brown will remain in the Department after this year. In addition to teaching their respective courses, they will also be handling the administrative side of the Dept. as well. This present issue of an inequity of education is one that has historically never been dealt with properly and as students we demand full attention and appropriate action to be taken finally. As members of the Wesleyan community, we all pay to attend this University and achieve a full range of academics. With the current state that the AFAM Dept. is in, we are thoroughly being cheated out of our college education and it is time to make noise about it. We must act in solidarity.
More updates and images of the protest to follow. If you have any images or updates, please email staff[at]wesleying.org with the subject line, AFAM Protest.
Update: Students have cleared North College after a commitment to meet by Roth and Weissman today, at 4:30pm, in PAC001 to have a conversation on this issue.