About 60 people rallied outside Day Hall Dec. 3 to oppose the administration's decision to have the Africana Studies and Research Center report to the College of Arts and Sciences.
Also Dec. 3, Robert L. Harris Jr., professor of African-American history, agreed to continue serving as the center's director at the unanimous request of Africana Studies faculty.
The rally, which included students, faculty, staff and community members, gathered at the center and marched through campus to arrive at Day Hall. Provost Kent Fuchs and President David Skorton met in the Office of the President with two student representatives, who delivered letters of protest.
Skorton and Fuchs have agreed to attend a public forum on the issue Dec. 6, and then meet with the faculty on the same day, they said.
Fuchs later responded to the main complaint -- that he made the decision without consulting the faculty or the Africana Studies director. In fact, he based his decision "on an extended and careful consideration of the best way to provide the robust institutional support that Africana Studies deserves and needs," Fuchs said. "That inquiry included input from a number of sources, including Africana's current director and his immediate predecessor, as well as an external review of the center."
The external review, conducted in 2005 by Africana studies faculty at peer institutions, characterized the fact that Africana Studies reports to the Office of the Provost, and not to a dean, as a "peculiar arrangement" and "an administrative anomaly" and recommended that it be revisited.
After reviewing Fuchs' recommendation, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve it, Fuchs said, as "necessary to achieve our common aspirations not only for Africana, but also for the College of Arts and Sciences and the university as a whole."
Fuchs also responded to the charge that Africana Studies may lose such resources as its budget and faculty lines to the College of Arts and Sciences. Africana Studies will not only maintain its budget but will also receive increased resources to establish a Ph.D. program, he said. Those resources will include new faculty positions and enhanced administrative support. Africana Studies will also retain its faculty and staff, and remain in its current location on North Campus, he said.
"I am encouraged that all those who have contacted me -- whether they agree or disagree with the decision -- strongly affirm a commitment to finding the best means of supporting and further strengthening the Africana Center," Fuchs said.