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

Students Sign Petition for African Studies Prof

Students Sign Petition for African Studies Prof

By Tina Morin and Rebecca Sinderbrand Hoya Staff Writers

Over 1300 students have signed a petition requesting that Professor Margaret Lee of the African Studies program, who has been offered a part-time post for next year, be offered a full-time position at Georgetown University. Some students organizing the petition drive say the Lee situation is symptomatic of a larger issue: neglect of the African Studies program.

Lee was hired to substitute for Professors Herbert Howe and eredith McKittrick, who were on sabbatical during the 1998-99 academic year. The university’s intention was to have Lee act as an interim professor, until Howe returned, according to Robert Dunkley, assistant dean of the School of Foreign Service.

With Howe’s return and Lee’s subsequent move to part-time status, Lee has decided not to return. Students say that Lee’s departure will further weaken what they say is an already neglected program.

Specifically, students have said the program lacks adequate faculty and resources. Dunkley and Dean Robert Gallucci of the SFS have said the university is doing all it can with the resources it currently has available.

Lee declined to comment on the matter.

Students have praised Lee’s abilities as a teacher. “Her class was the true definition of higher learning for my studies at Georgetown,” said Taina Rodriguez (SFS ’99), a student in one of Lee’s classes. Lee taught two courses this semester, African International Relations and Politics of Changing South Africa, which had a waiting list.

Gwendolyn Mikell, director of the African Studies program, said the Lee situation indicates a larger problem, that of how the study of Africa is treated in academia.

Students claim that the university doesn’t support the growth of the African Studies program.

Gallucci, however, maintained that the university is committed to the program. “The objective is to have a quality African Studies Department,” he said.

The students who organized the petition drive have made three “core demands” of the university. They are seeking more staff in the African Studies program, in particular, a grant writer. They are seeking more professors for the program, and they are seeking more funding, from $200,000 in the short-term, to a long-term goal of $2 million, along with a center for African economic and business development, all things Mikell has said the department needs.

The program’s budget has grown by 85 percent over the past year, from $75,000 to $139,000.

“Resources are in high competition for right now. We have a special opportunity to impact powerful people in D.C. just as the German department did to raise funds,” Gallucci said. The German department currently receives funding from BMW and the German government.

But Mikell said that her program lacks its own faculty, a resource other regional studies programs have, and something she said would make her program “grow dramatically.”

Most of the professors in the African Studies program are from the English or history departments; they are not African studies experts. Mikell said the most immediate need is for a political economist, since Professor Carol Lancaster, who formerly filled that role, has been named interim dean of the MSFS program.

However, Dunkley said, “We don’t have the resources right now to hire more professors. Slowly but surely, we’re working on it.”

The lack of African Studies professors has become a pressing issue for students looking to complete their theses. Petition organizer Omekongo Dibinga (SFS ’99) said he had to go to Howard University to find a mentor.

The protestors say that Professor Lee’s exit from the university also brings another issue to the forefront of campus debate: the lack of black faculty.

The Affirmative Action office said that there are 52 African-American professors in the university as a whole, 16 of which teach on the on Main Campus, in both graduate and undergraduate schools.

The university currently employs 1,576 full-time faculty members, 585 of them on the Main Campus.

Some students have become frustrated by what they view as a lack of options when it comes to African Studies. Said Kristin Reed (SFS ’99) a petition organizer, “Is Georgetown really an international school if doesn’t have an adequate African Studies major?”

“Before we can expand the program, we have to make the best of what we have now. Director Mikell is doing a great job,” Dunkley said.

Additional reporting on this story was done by Carrie Solages.

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