Friday, December 03, 2010

PRESS RELEASE: Africana Under Attack


Provost Kent Fuchs of Cornell University announced on December 1, 2010 his plan to relocate Africana Studies and Research Center within the Arts and Sciences unit and thereby undermine its effectiveness and autonomy in the larger institutional structure.

  • There was no consultation with the faculty prior to this decision.
  • There was no meeting with students prior to the Provost’s announcement.
  • No research evidence was provided to justify this move.
  • Africana resources such as budget and faculty lines are in jeopardy of being absorbed by Arts and Sciences.
  • Africana will now be open as a free for all for those who know little about the field.
  • There has been a revolving cycle of similar attempts from the founding of Africana 41 years ago.The Ph.D., which is offered as a new gift, is already in proposal form and only left to be implemented.
  • There was blatant disrespect of Africana faculty in this process.
  • The decision added additional stresses to students since it was dropped on them in the last week of school.

Africana has been a leader in the field for over 41 years. The Provost’s decision has implications for the larger field of Africana Studies in general. 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.

If you also oppose the Provost’s actions we ask you to contact the Chairman of the Board of Trustees immediately and urge reversal.

We, as members of the Cornell community, adamantly reject this decision, and will actively protest today starting at 1pm. Wearing Black clothing and armbands, we will depart from the Africana Studies and Research Center and march to Day Hall, where we will rally until 3pm.

Contact Information:
Alyssa Clutterbuck grad: (P) 607-592-3380;
Tia Hicks ’11: (P) 607-229-8451;

Thursday, December 02, 2010


The faculty of the Africana Studies and Research Center (ASRC) at Cornell University is surprised and appalled by Provost Kent Fuchs’ unilateral decision announced today, December 1, 2010,   to dramatically change the Africana Center’s structure.  There was no consultation with the faculty prior to this decision.  

His approach in explaining his decision to the faculty was patronizing, autocratic, and non-negotiable.  He announced the decision as a fait accompli. It was not based on any empirical research or on any of the prior program reviews of the Africana Center.  He essentially decided to change the structure which will gravely undermine ASRC in the future.  He indicated that he had consulted with other units and individuals but had not given the faculty of Africana the same courtesy and opportunity to deliberate on the specific details of his plan. The Provost acknowledged that this major shift was not due to the current major economic or budgetary situations.  He promised support for a Ph.D. program linked to the administrative structure of the College of Arts and Sciences.  There was already agreement from the external review of the Africana Center in 2006 to proceed with the establishment of a doctoral program without reference to the College of Arts and Sciences.

The faculty of ASRC finds the Provost’s decision unacceptable.  We are concerned about a change of such major proportions taking place at this time.  We asked him for time to respond, to digest his decision, to offer a process of discussion and mutual exchange but this offer was refused at every request. We also have not seen any concrete written proposals of how this change would work. 

This lack of transparency bodes ill for decision making within the university.  That the Provost would approach such a grave issue in this manner and that he was unwilling to engage in a process of discussion over time with the faculty that could produce a mutually agreeable plan and time table for implementation is ominous.

Prof. Robert L. Harris, Jr. has tendered his resignation as Director of the Africana Center based on the agreement at the time of his appointment that he would report directly to the Provost, as has been the administrative arrangement since the inception of the Africana Center. Moreover, he had expressed his strong objection to the Provost about this change and the process by which it was made. The faculty stands in support of the director’s opposition to this type of treatment and the principled position he has taken in this matter.

The Africana Studies and Research Center has a history of functioning and operating with budgetary prudence and stability, integrity and success as an academic unit for more than forty years.  Africana has been a leader in the field and such a decision has implications for the larger field in general.  There are historical reasons why the Africana Center was established as an inter-college unit reporting to the Provost.  Those historical reasons have not changed substantially. 

These ideas are not new and have not proven effective for other departments across the country that  have looked to the Africana Center at Cornell as a model.  This change in administrative structure will weaken the integrity of the Africana Center.  The Provost indicated that he would provide greater financial support for the Africana Center, but that he would have to try to find it.  The Africana Studies faculty had hoped for more concrete discussion of the Provost’s decision and his promises, but he has rushed to judgment and has run roughshod over the faculty.  We reiterate our objection at being treated in this blatantly disrespectful and patronizing manner.
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Negrointellectual by Vernon C. Mitchell, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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