Board votes to eliminate Africana Studies

Cassie Buchman, News Editor


The Board of Trustees voted to eliminate the Africana Studies major at its meeting Friday.

Students already in the program will be able to continue on in it until they graduate.

Also voted to be deleted was adult and community education, though that had already been put on hiatus.

While the elimination of career and technical education was originally put up by the administration for the Board’s consideration, trustees voted to retain it.

The philosophy major was also scheduled on the board report to be considered for elimination, but following an agreement made between the department and university administration, this recommendation was withdrawn. This agreement includes the program getting 20 majors by 2020 and reducing faculty from four through seven through attrition by 2019.

The Board did not take action on philosophy at Friday’s meeting, which was the only program whose elimination would lead to faculty layoffs.

Seven programs were originally recommended for elimination by vitalization project Workgroup no. 7, which looked at academic programs. This was later dropped to four programs being formally considered by university officials.

During the meeting, Provost Blair Lord presented the reasons for the administration’s elimination recommendation for Africana Studies.

This included its low enrollments of majors, though it had “substantial enrollment in general education coursework,” Lord said.

According to the board report, there were seven students enrolled in the Africana Studies major in fall 2016.

The minor and general education courses for Africana studies will continue on as a part of the curriculum.

According to a board report attached to the meeting’s agenda, the Africana Studies program has associated with the Latin American, Asian and women’s studies minors to consider how to consolidate current offerings, focusing on develop a broader program in an area such as multicultural studies.

“Programs evolve to meet the needs of the current student body, and this change could achieve this,” it said in the board report. “At this time, however, continuation of the existing Africana Studies programs is not warranted.”

Jan Spivey Gilchrist was one of two out of eight trustees who voted no to eliminating the program.

“When a young person is begging to learn something, even if it’s a small amount, it needs more publicity,” she said. “It doesn’t need to be eliminated.”

She said she would never vote down the major, even though classes would still be offered.

“(African-Americans)  actually built this country with everybody else,” she said. “Everybody matters- this is a country of immigrants, so everybody matters equally. This class- I couldn’t vote against it.”

Eastern President David Glassman said because there are few students taking Africana Studies as a major, it was felt that the major “was not essential for the university.”

It was not particularly an issue of finances, he added.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education reviews all low-enrolled courses or programs at universities, with the expectation that programs should have forty majors, Glassman said, with seven graduating every year.

“This is the goal, so if we have programs that have 10 or 12 students and one or two graduate per year, we’re not following the guidelines from the Illinois Board of Higher Education,” Glassman said.

The elimination of the major, Glassman said, would give faculty time to refocus on the broader major they are working on.

Several faculty members showed up to the Board meeting with signs protesting the elimination of the Africana Studies program.

History professor Sace Elder said they decided to do this because they could not stay silent.

Decisions were being made in the interest of efficiency, she said, with the result of treating education as if it is a commodity.

“Africana Studies is needed on campus,” she said. “It’s not just about what majors are here; it’s what we offer our students, and our students of color do not see themselves reflected in their curriculum or in their faculty.”

Elder said taking away Africana Studies would mean taking away one of the programs that represents students of color.

Jeannie Ludlow, coordinator of women’s studies, had a sign that said “Keep Cutting Around the Edges, soon, you’ll Cut Out the Heart,” a quote she attributed to State Rep. Katie Stewart, (D-Edwardsville).

“Africana Studies is a heart that shows students of color they are valued here, even if they chose not to major or minor in (it),” she said.

Check back for a full story Monday.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]