African-American Studies Department Faces Cuts

by Mar 3, 2013 3:37 pm Tags: , , ,



The African-American studies department has been cut, in the midst of a campus-wide controversy in which some African-American students say they are feeling discriminated against.

“What's been happening on campus is adding fuel to the fire,” said Alexander Donald, a sophomore political science major.

Donald said the African-American studies department has a lot to offer students, and it is unfortunate that the department doesn't have the best opportunity to teach students on campus.

"It is a big deal," he said.

The department is being cut for budget reasons and low enrollment, said Ruth Wilson, chair of the African-American studies department.

Not enough students are enrolling in African-American studies classes, which Wilson said is one of the main reasons the department is having trouble.

“We don't have any lecturers,” she said. “And you cannot enter the university as an AFAM major.”

Wilson said the department is being cut, and to obtain a degree in African American studies students must apply under a different major and change it while enrolled as a student.

“It doesn't directly affect me because I'm graduating in May,” said Camyl Anderson, a senior African-American studies major and chair of the 2013 African-American Commencement Committee. “But I absolutely love my major and I'd hate to see it go.”

Anderson said she's passionate about cultural education, especially the African-American culture.

“Without the numbers, it is difficult for the administration to keep the department due to budgeting,” Anderson said.

There are a low number of declared African-American studies majors and minors, and only three percent of all students on campus are African-American, said Anderson.

“Students in the future won't be given the opportunity to learn about their culture and history because that opportunity has been denied to them,” Anderson said.

Josey Kimani, a freshman industrial engineering major, said her friends in the African-American studies department were not immediately made aware of the department being cut, and were only told after the department had already been cut.

“They lost their opportunity,” Kimani said. “It's just sad. It takes away from enlightening (students to) our culture as well as other cultures."

Jamelia Little, a senior child and adolescent development major and African-American studies minor, said the news of the department being cut is disheartening.

“We already don't know a lot about each other now, (and even though) I've taken about four or five classes, I still feel as if it isn't enough,” she said.

Little said she feels anything on campus related to the African-American community is being targeted.

“They're building these (million dollar) buildings around here,” she said. “They could use those millions of dollars to fund the African-American students.”

Some students of African-American descent feel SJSU does not take their culture seriously.

“I feel less involved and less connected to SJSU,” said freshman communications major Donntay Moore-Thomas.

The African American culture at SJSU is singled out, she said.

Freshman theater major Shamari Bell said SJSU cutting the African-American studies department is a sign that the school doesn't respect the things African-Americans have done for the campus community.

“The biggest statue on campus is dedicated to us, but we can't even have a department,” she said. “That doesn't make sense.”

Bell said as an African-American student on this campus she doesn't belong because she feels undermined, and that SJSU should try to fix the department instead of just cutting it.

“Imagine if every school took away AFAM studies," she said. "We would be a lost culture for sure.”

Wilson said the department is trying to find a way to resuscitate itself.

“AFAM is still alive and we would like to grow, we just need a plan (and) I think students need to be a part of the plan,” she said.

There is a meeting planned for the students with the dean of the College of Social Sciences on March 20 at 4:30 p.m. in the African-American studies department office in Washington Square Hall Room 216, Wilson said.

“(We want to) let them know that we're here making an impact on this campus, we want to learn, we want to educate, and we want to educate others,” Donald said.

Anderson said she will be working with advisers and students to do all she can to keep the African American studies department on campus.

“By simply having students enroll in the AFAM classes, the risk of completely canceling the department lessens,” she said. “(I will) do what I can to keep this amazing department on campus.”

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