Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

African-American Major Sought By GU Students

Georgetown students recently stepped up efforts to influence the College to implement an African American Studies Program as early as 2003, Jamal Epps (COL ’01), a supporter of the program said.

According to history professor and program supporter Michael Kazin, faculty, students and administrators will meet today to brainstorm and exchange ideas. The purpose of the meeting is to move toward forming a proposal that would be presented to the College dean and Provost Dorothy Brown. Topics included in the proposition would include funding, the hiring of new faculty and a possible timeline for the implementation of the program.

Epps and Carrie Solages (SFS ’01), who began structuring the first formal initiative for the establishment of the program earlier this semester, said that students, campus organizations such as the Black Student Alliance and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and faculty have helped make the plans close to reality.

“What makes this different from attempts in the past is the faculty and alumni support,” Solages said. On April 3, GUSA also expressed its approval by unanimously voting in a resolution to pass the program.

“[GUSA] just wants to give whatever support it can to students who are pushing for these programs that have been ignored in the past,” GUSA Vice President Brian Walsh (COL ’02) said.

While 1,000 student signatures have already been gathered on a petition, Solages said at least 2,000 would be ideal in formulating a strong proposal case. He said they also plan to ask the university to hire an outside expert over the summer who would explore the feasibility of developing the program at Georgetown.

According to Epps, the intended interdisciplinary program would collaborate and enhance several existing departments. Some potential new courses would include studies in African American literature, a class in African American identity through the sociology department, a Brazilian and West African History course and a government class on urban politics.

New faculty would also be hired.

“We could get [the program] going with four new faculty members but five to six would be ideal,” Epps said.

Solages said the program would allow students to use their knowledge in the professional field and would foster on-campus diversity.

“What better way to teach people about the equality of human beings than to organize a course of studies that pays respect to the dignity and humanity of African Americans?” he said.

Kazin, who has been circulating a petition for the program among faculty and administrators, said that almost every institution of higher learning that is of Georgetown’s caliber has this kind of program.

“It has become fairly routine to have [African-American studies programs] and Georgetown is fairly behind,” he said. He added that having an African-American Studies Program is essential not only to the black experience, but also to the American experience.

“This is not a race matter,” Solages agreed. “This is a matter of academic justice. There are all types of students at Georgetown who are interested in and have a desire to learn about the African American experience and who don’t have this desire satisfied or fulfilled.”

While recent headway has been made, including a letter presenting the proposal to Dean of the College Jane MacAuliffe, Epps said a great deal of work still lies ahead. “This is a long process and it will take about a two to three year period to see this come to fruition,” he said.

Epps and Solages, both graduating seniors who have been guiding the project since they came to Georgetown, said they hope to pass on control to dedicated students like Nikki Duncan (SFS ’02), co-president of the Caribbean Culture Circle. With the support of students, on-campus organizations, faculty, administration and GUSA, Solages said he sees a promising future for a dream that will not die out.

“There is support out there among students and faculty … the next step is to get funding,” Walsh said.

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