The Johns Hopkins Gazette: March 3, 2003
March 3, 2003
VOL. 32, NO. 24


New Africana Studies Center in A&S to Have Threefold Focus

By Amy Cowles

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Recognizing the need for a program dedicated to African and African-American studies, the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences is establishing the Africana Studies Center, according to Daniel Weiss, the James B. Knapp Dean of the school.

The center is likely to be housed in the Greenhouse and is expected to offer its first courses during the spring 2004 semester.

Daniel Weiss

"We are responding to the needs outlined in our strategic planning while responding to student and faculty interest at the same time," said Weiss, who in spring 2002 appointed a task force of five students and eight faculty members to address the issue.

Based on the task force's recommendations submitted in the fall, the center's threefold focus will be African studies, African-American studies and the study of the African diaspora, Weiss said.

"We are already a leader in this country in African studies," Weiss said, "so we'll be building the other areas upon that position of strength."

Task force member Jane Dailey, an associate professor of history, said, "The program in Africana studies combines the best of our faculty strength in African and African-American studies, addresses student-identified curricular lapses and preserves much of both the comparative and global outlooks of the [former] Program in Comparative American Cultures. The next step," she said, "is to outline the program and get it up and running as soon as possible, so that the students who have worked so hard to achieve this end will be able to benefit from it."

The university is making a substantial investment in the program through joint appointments of faculty, creation of postdoctoral fellowships and dedication of administrative support and space to the Africana Studies Center, Weiss said.

"We don't have any new money for the center, but we will be transferring costs and taking on new costs as needed," Weiss said.

While Weiss said that it's difficult to say for certain how much it will cost to administer the center, he estimates that by the end of next year, some $20 million to $30 million will have been invested in the project. Students behind the ongoing campaign for the center are calling the creation of the Africana Studies Center "a victory," according to sophomore Gerald Rash-eed, president of the Black Student Union. While the BSU and JHUnity are the two groups that led the charge, Rasheed said thousands of students signed petitions supporting the center, for which generations of Hopkins students have pushed.

"What we really want to do now is make sure the whole campus knows they are a part of this," Rasheed said. "It has been created largely due to student response, so if that response continues, it will bode well for the center."

The English Department is currently searching for a professor specializing in African-American literature, Weiss said. Future joint appointments will be created based on the ongoing recommendations of the task force's executive board and as the center's mission becomes more clearly defined. Students envision the Africana Studies Center evolving into a department with its own full-time faculty.

"Though it's not what is being created right now, we'll keep pushing for a department," said task force member Morgan MacDonald, who is affiliated with both BSU and JHUnity. "We'd like it to be recognized like the History Department or any other department."