ACADEMICS African American Studies Sought by Fall By Roxanne Tingir Hoya Staff Writer

Georgetown students have been working on a draft of an African American Studies Program proposal which could go in effect as early as the fall of 2002. The initiative is pending review by Georgetown’s Curriculum Committee, supporters and administrators said.

“We’re proposing for it to be a minor in the College, as an interdisciplinary program,” African-American studies supporter and Caribbean Culture Circle President Nikki Duncan (SFS ’02) said. “The minor, modeled after the interdisciplinary curriculums such as the American Studies program, would have six basic requirements and we’d hope to have it as a major in the near future.”

The first proposal for the creation of the program was developed last December. Of the top 25 universities in the U.S. News and World Report rankings, Georgetown is one of six schools without an African American studies program, the others being mainly engineering schools. Students would enroll in four required courses and two electives to qualify for the minor. Advocates estimate that the program would cost $15,000 to $20,000 – a relatively small cost for an academic program. Over 1,000 students have signed a petition endorsing the program.

Duncan, with Jason Williams (COL ’03) and Aaron Polkey (COL ’02), researched various African American Studies programs at other competitive schools and the feasibility of similar programs at Georgetown.

“Georgetown tends to compare itself to the 31 [Consortium on Financing Higher Education] schools,” Polkey said.

“We found that for the most part every other large liberal arts university in the group has had this type of program for the last 20 years and they’re well-developed and well-funded. The only schools that didn’t are the small liberal arts colleges like Carlton and Amherst and the technology and science-based ones like MIT and Johns Hopkins.”

English Professor Angelyn Mitchell composed a proposal draft on the basis of this research and past interdisciplinary programs at Georgetown, Duncan said.

“The only new course in the proposal is an introduction to African American Studies foundational class,” Mitchell said. “Thereafter, you’d be required to take two pertinent courses, one in English and one in history, and then you can choose classes from any related departments. A senior independent study experience is also included in the program.”

Current offerings such as Black Liberation Theology, Portraits in Black and White and many of the history department courses could easily be incorporated into the proposed program in conjunction with the newer courses in Mitchell’s proposal, Duncan said.

The draft, which contained suggestions from Associate Dean of Georgetown College Kevin Wildes, S.J., was submitted to the College Dean’s Office earlier this year as a starting point for the final proposal.

“We’re more than happy to have this developed,” Wildes said. “We have a number of interdisciplinary programs that are successful largely due to intellectual content and merit, which this obviously has, and long-term faculty interest.”

The endorsement of Georgetown faculty and the amendments it may propose to the current proposal draft have been the focus of GUSA’s Academic Affairs Committee. GUSA representatives Nazareth Haysbert (COL’05) and Somil Trivedi (COL ’04) said they are working to achieve full departmental support before officially presenting the proposal to the Curriculum Committee.

Haysbert, who has been in contact with many faculty members, said that GUSA “wants to go through the departments first and get their endorsement . if there’s any changes that need to be made to the proposal we welcome all recommendations and concerns that are brought up by faculty and administration.”

While the Government and Art, Music and Theater departments made some suggestions about the availability of proposed classes, they have granted their endorsements. Haysbert, however, said he has been “unable to reach an accord with the faculty head and members of the English department as to when we can get together and flesh out the details.”

Trivedi, who is working with the History, Sociology and Theology departments, said that there is general faculty support but measured progress.

“They like some of the courses that we propose and suggest tweaking of currently-existing classes,” he said. “However, it’s moving slowly because the faculty has questions about who’s going to fund the program, who’s going to teach the classes and how they will be taught.”

According to Trivedi, it has been suggested that the money come from the Dean’s Discretionary Fund, but the proposal is not yet official.

Originated last year by Jamal Epps (COL ’01) and Carrie Solages (SFS ’01), an African American Studies program resolution was unanimously supported by GUSA last April.

“The school was very positive in its response,” Polkey said. “I’m glad we’ve moved from the `why’ to the `how’ stage.”

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