Temple's black studies program tries to overcome turmoil

VALERIE RUSS / DAILY NEWS STAFF At the Bell Tower: 'Soufas must go!' Temple University students protest last week over the school's choice of candidates to head the African-American Studies Department. See story on Page 19.
VALERIE RUSS / DAILY NEWS STAFF At the Bell Tower: 'Soufas must go!' Temple University students protest last week over the school's choice of candidates to head the African-American Studies Department. See story on Page 19.
Posted: April 17, 2013

TWO CANDIDATES for the chairmanship of Temple University's African-American Studies Department will present their plans for reviving the struggling department to faculty and students Tuesday.

The candidates are Molefi Asante, a former chair who created the nation's first doctoral program in African-American Studies at Temple in the 1980s, and Anthony Monteiro, an expert on the sociologist and scholar W.E.B. Du Bois.

In recent months, national publications such as Inside Higher Ed and Diverse Issues in High Education described the situation at the Temple department with terms like "crisis" and "turmoil."

Faculty and students are upset that Teresa Scott Soufas, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, rejected the faculty's choice of Kariamu Welsh, a professor and former chair of Temple's dance department, to succeed former chair Nathaniel Norment when Norment retired last July.

That turmoil has boiled over with two public demonstrations on campus.

Last Wednesday, undergraduate students organized a protest at the Bell Tower on Temple's North Philadelphia campus to demand that the university "save black studies."

Some of the 250 protesters, joined by longtime community activists Pam Africa, of MOVE, and Sacaree Rhodes, of the African Daughters of Fine Lineage, shouted, "Soufas must go!"

Graduate students held a previous protest March 20.

The demonstrators said they were angry that Soufas placed the department in receivership and appointed Jayne Drake, the college's vice dean for academic affairs, as acting chair, rather than appointing Welsh.

"Contrary to popular belief, we - black people - have the right to self-determination," a young woman shouted to the crowd.

Soufas said in an interview Monday that the undergraduate students are "very much misinformed." Soufas said the university strongly supports the program and recently hired two new faculty members when they had planned to hire only one.

Asante declined to comment on the controversy Monday. Monteiro could not be reached for comment.

Some students pointed out that Welsh is Asante's ex-wife and questioned if that was a factor in her not being appointed chair.

A faculty committee will meet Wednesday to make recommendations to Soufas for a new chair.

"This is fundamentally about respect for black people and respect for the department," said Ama Mazama, an African-American Studies professor and chair of the faculty committee.

Mazama said 19 years ago the department had 17 faculty members, and now there are half a dozen.

Soufas conceded the department has lost some faculty, but said all departments suffered under recent state budget cuts.


On Twitter: @ValerieRussDN

 

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