Daily Egyptian

Column: An anti-racist institution would never cut Africana Studies

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Daily Egyptian file photo

Daily Egyptian file photo

Daily Egyptian file photo

By Sam Beard

Fall classes had been in session for a little over three hours Monday and there was already a student-led demonstration underway — a group of students were protesting the proposed elimination of the Africana Studies department, a move one demonstrator called appalling.

About a month ago, SIU President Randy Dunn said to me personally that his rationale for cutting the department was its low enrollment. But, as contrary as this may sound in a world as calculated as our own, not all things can best be described with numbers.

The document outlining these proposed cuts is called the “Financial Sustainability Plan,” and it states that the departments on the chopping block — as well as those that are not — have been entered through an algorithm and undergone quantitative analysis to determine who should stay and who should go.

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However, during a July meeting with the press and the Board of Trustees, Dunn said the decision will not end with this numbers game. He described a “qualitative” analysis the departments will be awarded to ensure we cover all of the bases before entering the elimination chamber.  

Specifically, he said just because he wants to cut the departments outlined in the plan “doesn’t mean there won’t be a continued discussion on campus about what ultimately happens with them.”

Well, it appears that conversation got a bold kick-off the first day of school with a group of young people marching from the Student Center to Anthony Hall chanting “KEEP AFRICANA STUDIES.”

We live in a time of immense racial turmoil and polarization (to say the least). And no, it is nothing new. Sure, the Civil War might have ended on paper, but the battle for racial justice still continues today.

Chattel slavery formally ended, but dominant forms of oppression continuously reinvent themselves through time to provide the masses with the illusion that things are getting better.

Slavery turned into tenant farming and Jim Crow, which turned into segregation, which turned into the War on Drugs, which turned into mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. Right now in America things are still not getting better — only this time, it’s a tad more obvious.

In fact, things have gotten so bad that people have to stand in the middle of an interstate and scream “Black Lives Matter” just to get the point across. And yet, they still get run over.

SIU has an entire month dedicated to black history to make up for the fact that white people have systematically erased it. This erasure will continue into the future without organizations, groups and departments dedicated to resisting it.

An anti-racist institution would never cut Africana Studies. And in a world like the one we are facing today, it is clearly the time to be investing in it.

Having a healthy, well-funded department will help ensure black history will no longer be subordinated to a narrative of whiteness.

I speak for at least some of my constituents when I say that people are pissed — pissed that a group of predominantly white administrators want to cut black studies because it is not making them enough money.

That continued discussion on campus about what ultimately should happen with the department is all around us. All you need to do is listen and, well, care.

Student Trustee Sam Beard can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at (618) 453-8418. His office is located in the Registered Student Organization Suite on the third floor of the Student Center and his office hours are Mondays/Wednesdays: 11:00 a.m. – 12:50 p.m., Thursdays: 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., or by appointment.

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4 Comments

4 Responses to “Column: An anti-racist institution would never cut Africana Studies”

  1. Bradley Skelcher on August 30th, 2017 9:56 am

    I support you and would like to add that we must save the Ph.D. Program in Historical Studies. I earned a Ph.D. in Historical Studies in 1990. After that I received an appointment as an Assistant Professor of History at Delaware State University, an 1890 Land Grant College and a Historical Black College and University. I am presently Associate Provost. Without this program, I would not be here today.

  2. Tom Keliher on August 30th, 2017 11:50 am

    Oh please Sam. Would you put a lid on it. People are tired of this. And besides, this is coming from a soon to be graduate in philosophy with a minor in misunderstanding, ignorance, and every social injustice ‘trigger word’ out there? You have no real life experience but you are really good at pointing out just how unfair life is. Try a little homework Sam. What do you think it cost the Illinois taxpayers and students to pay just two instructors (Smoot and Brown) in the department of Africana studies to teach the departments total of 8 FT students? Don’t want to overload your mind so I will do it for you….$174,000 in salaries alone! That equates to $21,750 per student! Now add on rich insurance coverage and an unbelievable, vulgar pension program and the costs multiplies itself to astronomical levels. Did you know that there are retired SIU faculty/staff receiving a pension in excess of $73K a year with a total payout over $3,000,000? In conclusion Sam, if I were you, I would enroll this spring semester in Economics 101. And please stop the incessant whining about anything and everything. First of all, no one is going to hire you in the private sector with your babble. However, you will be considered a valuable asset at any Starbucks.

  3. Holly Hurlburt on August 30th, 2017 2:57 pm

    Thanks Sam, for this powerful statement in favor of a crucial program that does so much more than simply enroll students and create majors!

  4. Sedonia Sipes on August 30th, 2017 7:51 pm

    Well said, Sam!

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