African American Studies Department Coming To UCLA

April 15, 2014  |  

African American studies in the U.S. “is alive and well,” according to a recent report.

In fact, it’s growing despite reports to the contrary. The study by the department of African American studies at the University of Illinois, found that of  1,777 U.S. colleges and universities, U. of I. researchers looked  at 76 percent had some form of black studies.

“Twenty percent, or 361 institutions, had formal academic units, most classified as departments or programs, according to the study. But another 56 percent, or 999 institutions, had a course or courses dedicated to the black experience,”reports U. of I.

Institutions in the South were the most likely (87 percent) to have black studies while schools in the West were the least likely at 56 percent. And interestingly, 46 percent of black studies unit heads were women.

Now add UCLA to the list. Its Academic Senate’s Legislative Assembly has unanimously approved to create the Department of African American Studies at the university.

According to a press release, faculty reps voted to dismantle the Interdepartmental Program (IDP) in Afro-American Studies but approved bylaws of a new department and approved the transfer of B.A. and M.A. degree programs from the IDP to the new program. There was a yearlong debate over the creation of the Department of African American Studies.

“It’s wonderful and long overdue,” said Robin Kelley, the Gary B. Nash Professor of American History and acting director of the IDP. “Clearly, the faculty recognized the need for a department … Now the really hard work is about to begin because just declaring it a department is not enough. We need to make this department work for the benefit of the broader UCLA community, the college and the university. We’re going to do that work.”

UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, Kelley said in his letter, will work closely with the newly formed department. “The Bunche Center is not only an ally but a key asset as we move toward departmentalization,” said Kelley. “As we plan to expand and refine our curriculum, we expect to continue to rely on the Bunche Center faculty to teach in the department, develop new courses and deepen our faculty base.”

UCLA is not alone in turning a African American studies program into an official department. Harvard, Yale, Brown, UC Berkeley, University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, among others, have done so as well.

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