Students at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, walked out to protest against a lack of support for the Africana Studies program. They say no professors are currently teaching the program – making it impossible for students to complete majors or minors and forcing many to drop out.
In solidarity with the students, alumni, faculty and community of the #AfricanaStudies program at #SetonHall . Got a chance to speak with them yesterday. Let’s all support them as they continue the real fight for Black Studies in these spaces. pic.twitter.com/VnRIOy38jx
— Greg Carr (@AfricanaCarr) May 5, 2023
“I came in, wanted to go into pre-law programs and they said Africana Studies programs was not the route to do political science so students are actually discouraged from taking Africana courses,” Jayde Dieu, a student, told ABC7NY.
The walkout turned into a sit-in at the university’s president’s office on May 3, reported the news outlet. Students say the only full-time faculty member recently dropped out. This led them to organize a protest and launch an online petition, which has been signed over 1800 times so far.
“We don’t have resources, we don’t have professors and we don’t have the support that we need,” Tawanna Brown, another student, told ABC7NY.
“We came here hoping to get this education that’s offered online; it says ‘lively and thriving, Africana Studies, the first in New Jersey,’ you know, the first university to have it, and they’re not giving us the resources,” student Elizabeth Tescum added.
Students are asking the university to hire three or four full-time professors, reinstate Africana Studies as a department by next spring, appoint a full-time director for the program and allow students to serve as liaisons with voting power for hiring.
This is not the first time students called for support of the program. A protest was organized in 2018.
The university addressed the criticism in a statement.
“Seton Hall University enthusiastically supports the discipline of Africana Studies and underscores how vital it is for all our students, independent of their major field of study, to be able to learn about their (and other) cultures, histories, and identities,” it said.
Laurie Pine, the university’s spokesperson, added that officials are currently searching for a new director and a tenure-track faculty candidate.
“The faculty contract and negotiation process involve personnel matters and is confidential, with policies in place to ensure discretion and privacy for those involved,” Pine told NJ.com.
The Africana Studies program was originally a department established in 1970. It is the oldest in New Jersey, according to school officials.
The program’s former director, Kelly Harris, quit last December and supports the protests, she told NJ.com. She reportedly left because of the university’s lack of commitment to developing the program and because she was offered a new salary for at least $20,000 less than his current contract at the University of Pennsylvania.
“You cannot run a program, a department, and offer a major and a minor with one full-time faculty member,” she said. “It’s nonsense.”