Campus / News / May 7, 2014

Africana Studies seeks new space

The Africana Studies department and the headquarters for the Association for Black Culture Centers is housed in a small space on the second floor of the athletics building. (Michelle Orr/TKS)

The Africana Studies department and the headquarters for the Association for Black Culture Centers is housed in a small space on the second floor of the athletics building. (Michelle Orr/TKS)

A plan to move the Africana Studies from its current location in the Memorial Gym to Borzello Hall is seen by some as an improvement, but others question why the departments are being moved so far from the center of campus.

Sophomore Catlin Watts, president-elect of A.B.L.E., spoke about the weird feeling she had when she found out about the office’s placements.

“When I first realized that that’s where they were, I felt kind of weird that those two departments were in such a small space.”

“When I toured here and we went to the gym, they didn’t even mention that the Black Studies department was upstairs. As an athlete, and me spending most of my time in the gym, something should have been mentioned to me,” said freshman Demarcus Thompson.

The conversation of the move to Borzello began when Professor of Africana Studies Fred Hord was approached by former Dean Larry Breitborde in the 2011-2012 academic school year.

“What triggered things was President [Teresa] Amott being successful in renovating Alumni Hall,” said Breitborde. “It was obvious that Borzello Hall’s East half was going to open up. I saw that as academic space so I went over to Fred and talked to him about it.”

To add more historical context, Breitborde discussed how the program never really had their own facility before moving to the gym.

“Fred has always had an office, but even years ago it was in the A.B.L.E. house, then it was Old Main for awhile and we had to do something to give it an identity. The space they have right now used to be one big open area with a big room, but we built that facility with donor’s support.”

He said that the department would not be forced to leave the gym. However Professor Hord says that he was told just the opposite.

Hord met with members of Gender and Women’s Studies, his own program and the Association for Black Cultural Centers. They jointly decided that they wanted to stay for another five years in their current location.

Somewhere the lines of communication were crossed.

Hord met with President Amott about another matter and she said that she believed the Africana Studies program had consented to move to Borzello.

“I told her I don’t speak for other people, but that I had talked with everyone and voted. Shortly after I got another email and in it it said we got to go.”

“We weren’t told initially that this was going to happen, we were told we had a choice.”

President Amott commented by saying, “My understanding is that this negotiation is between the Dean and the department.” President Amott stated that matters like these were out of her hands.

“This would not typically be handled by me. By definition the Dean and Vice-President of Academic Affairs would handle this … I absolutely care that they have good facilities, but it’s not my area. This is something I put in Dean Breitborde’s hands. In principle I think that academic departments belong in academic spaces and buildings.”

This move has garnered mixed feelings from students, as some do not see why they have to go from one edge of campus to another to attend Africana Studies classes. As the national headquarters of the Association for Black Cultural Centers, the Africana Studies department and the Gender and Women’s Studies department, students believe that they should have had a space of their own already.

“They’re trying to push the black studies department further and further away from the campus…” said Thompson. “We had this Jackson Katz guy come and talk about sexual violence and how men treat women, but we also need to talk about racial discrimination, prejudice and violence within the world, because that’s just as important.”

“At least the school is trying to make room for them, even though they should have had room to begin with,” said junior Angel Zuanznabal.

“I guess it’s a good thing,” junior Marisol Gonzalez said. “It sucks to have [only] a couple rooms for their classes. They should have already had a space aside from the two, three rooms.”

Tags:  africana studies association for black cultural centers borzello hall Fred Hord memorial gym

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