By: Adia Robbins
Students and faculty have started a resolution to get a program that was suspended in 2011 at Western Michigan University back. The once active program will be hearing from the provost office this April on the status of its return.
In the fall of 2011, former College of Arts and Sciences Dean Alex Enyedi gave news that Africana Studies was no longer going to be enrolling new students into the program, said Associate Professor Mariam Konaté. She was hired in 2007 to teach in the Africana Studies program, and in 2012 moved to Gender and Women’s Studies.
The Africana Studies program at Western Michigan University is to educate students to know about African American, African and Caribbean affairs and cultures. There hasn’t been much to educate students on since the program was suspended.
When the deans’ office announced the news of no more enrollments, it was decided that all majors and minors in Africana Studies at that moment could finish and get their degrees.
“We were told the program was going to be put under review and we didn’t know what that meant because there was never a review until now,” said Konaté. An academic program review is to see how viable a program is instead of just shutting it down, and depending on the outcome, the university will know where to go with the program from there, according to College of Arts and Science Interim Associate Dean Sherine Obare.
Enrollment was very low and there weren’t enough students majoring in the program, so they felt there wasn’t a big need for Africana studies, said Obare.
Deija Primus, an undergraduate student who transferred from Wayne State University this fall, took an African American studies course there and wanted to get similar classes here at WMU.
“I wanted to take a couple more African studies courses before I graduate and I went to look at the offerings and saw how little options there were and I was very confused,” said Primus.
According to Konaté, there are about two courses offered every semester, which includes the Intro to Africana Studies that Dr. Onaiwu Ogbomo teaches.
The other course being taught is, Black Experience to 1865, which will be showing the strides made by enslaved Africans free people of color, taught by Konaté. There will now be three courses offered this summer, which was apart of the plan of getting the program back, said Konaté.
The third added course would be Forms Of Black Consciousness taught by Professor Fredah Wambui Mainah. The class will focus on the history of black consciousness in the African Diaspora from the seventeenth to twentieth century.
“Since summer 2013, we have been working to make sure the program is back and that our students have the opportunity to take these courses,” said Konaté.
Asia Dunbar, an undergraduate student majoring in public relations, took Intro to Africana Studies. Dunbar said she took the class for a requirement but throughout the course realized she really enjoyed and was unaware that the AFS program was under suspension because it is never brought up.
Katie Grinnell, an undergraduate student double majoring in Film, Video and Media Studies and Spanish with a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies had been thinking about the issue for some time now.
“I find it strange that the university took away the Africana studies program because, there are so many programs at Western that fall under enrollment and are still up and running so why aren’t they taken away too,” said Grinnell.
In the summer of 2010 The Board of Trustees released a statement saying they eliminated other departments, industrial design and materials and sciences and engineering, with the degrees associated with the department, according to the Office of University Relations.
Grinnell thinks the university should give the students and staff updates on how each program is doing, so that nothing is being done unfairly.
“I’ve never personally taken an Africana studies course but I have seen from being a GWS minor that there is lack of African American culture in that program, so the school needs to bring back Africana studies to help expose and educate people on the topic,” said Grinnell.
In this situation it is a matter of what’s important to other people and what is not important, said Konaté. The reboot of the program started looking good in 2014 when a grant was awarded to the Africana studies program from the Kellogg Foundation through the diversity and multicultural office here at WMU, according to Konaté.
Konaté seemed hopeful and optimistic for the soon return of Africana Studies at WMU. Until the provost office makes their decision on the status of the program, students and faculty plan to continue getting the word out about the program.