by Michelle Emokpae.
At an energetic meeting on Thursday, the president of the Black Student Union urged students and faculty to fight to restore the troubled Black Studies program at CCNY to its former glory.
“If we don’t demand anything, we won’t get anything,” said Rakim Jenkins.
The meeting, billed as “Black (Studies) Is Beautiful,” was organized to spark discussion on how to build up Black Studies and brainstorm ways to reinstate the program back to a department.
In the mid-90s, Black Studies was stripped of its status as a department, following controversial and widely-repeated remarks by then-chairman Dr. Leonard Jeffries. The demotion made it difficult for professors to teach full-time and to be granted tenure, and for the program to receive funding.
Many at the meeting were outraged. “This is a fight not only for Black Studies; this is also an attack on the freedom of speech,” said Jenkins.
Some pointed to racism for the demotion.”This is an attack on minorities; they don’t want us to know about our history,” said a disgruntled CCNY student.
Others blamed Black Studies for its own troubles. One student described a recent Black Studies class where students waited a week and a half for the professor to show up to teach the course.
Students need more context, others insisted. “Professors are not teaching students about the history of this program. That should be the first lesson. It is not a class that you just take to fill your schedule,” said Tachaka Moore, CCNY student.
Others worried about the lack of interest in the topic and demand for the courses. “If no one is demanding to get Black Studies as a major, how do we expect to get it,” said Jenkins. “Closed mouths don’t get fed.”
To rebuild the program, supporters plan to start a coalition to inform the community and students about their history. BSU will also be circulating a petition to give to the Administration. Eventually, they’d like to organize a walk-out and teach-in.
The conversation will continue on February 23, at 12:30- 2 PM, in NAC, room 3/201.