I believe it is appropriate that I correct two impressions in the article (see “Soul Survivor,” Dec. 10 edition) on the doctoral program that I created at Temple University in 1987. First, I did not misappropriate anyone’s work. Secondly, my opposition to Heather Thompson was not personal.
If 1 had “misappropriated” any person’s work, I would have been and should have been fired from Temple University. Why would Diverse deliberately include such a statement in this report about the department? Who would have created this fanciful story about my resigning the chair after 12 years?
As to the recent hire in the department, Dr. Ama Mazama and I did not oppose Heather Thompson as Heather Thompson; we opposed the idea that a Department of African American Studies could not hire persons who had doctorates in AfricanAmerican studies from Massachusetts, Berkeley, Harvard, Yale, or Michigan State or other Ph.D. programs. Furthermore, we opposed Dean Teresa Soufas’ imposition of Dr. Thompson’s tenure without input from the majority of the tenured faculty. My letters to the dean and provost on this situation are public knowledge. I resented the fact that the previous year Dean Soufas had called a Black female candidate with equally strong credentials unqualified and denied her an appointment although she had been unanimously approved by a search committee.
Dean Soufas we ask, where you goin run to?
Academic Apartheid at Temple University
As a prospective student visiting Temple University, we are sure this institution has marketed itself as “Diversity University.” While it is true that Temple has students of a variety of different ethnicities, the idea of “Diversity University” is far from the truth. In actuality, Temple embraces enrollment of diverse races and cultures, but does not embrace the study of non-European culture. The most prevalent example of Temple’s restriction on the exhibition and cultivation (level of wording again) of non-European culture is seen through the actions of Dean Soufas regarding the African American studies department.
After Dr. Nathinel Norment, the former department chair of African American Studies retired, the African American Studies department elected Dr. Kariamu Welsh Asante to replace him. However, Dean Soufas refused the faculty’s recommendation and did not provide an explanation to the faculty, students, or Dr. Welsh Asante herself. In essence, Dean Soufas has acted as a tyrant and is attempting to restrict the department’s ability to determine its future. Furthermore, by disallowing the faculty’s appointment of a new chair, Dean Soufas is making it clear she wants to control the leadership and direction of African American studies despite having no background of scholarship within the field of African American studies.
Dean Soufas’ attitude regarding the leadership and future of African American Studies mirrors that of the Dutch and British during their implementation of apartheid of South Africa, which concluded in 1990. The British (a European minority in South Africa) oppressed Black South Africans through controlling the government and consequently the laws and future of the country. Similarly to Dean Soufas’ interaction in African American Studies, the British oppressed South Africans by restricting their right to speak and represent themselves.
By using Temple University policy to restrict the ability for African American studies faculty members to determine their future, Dean Soufas is limiting how African and African American culture is studied and showcased. She is attempting to dictate how African Americans and Africans study and showcase our culture. This inclination shows Temple’s proclamation of “Diversity University” is a disguise to fool students into thinking Temple is a place where even non-European cultures can flourish and be showcased.
For questions regarding the African American Studies department, or to voice your displeasure, please feel free to e-mail both the Assistant Dean, Dr. Jayne Drake at email@example.com and Dean Soufas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please sign our petition to allocate funding for a department chair search at change.org.
The danger of Eurocentricity is the fact that it has become hegemonic; meaning Eurocentricity is accepted, promoted, and deemed the authority as the standard worldview thus discounting all other non-European cultures as inferior. Furthermore, the rise of Eurocentricity as the hegemonic culture is a direct result from the genocide of the Native Americans, the enslavement of Africans, and the evolution of European domination through racialized, gender, and economic oppression.
The true challenge of ensuring ethical decisions are made is the lack of transparency. This is especially the case at Temple University concerning Dean Soufas’s decision to install Dr. Jayne Drake (the Vice Dean who’s dissertation is in 19th Century British literature) as the African American studies department chair. Dean Soufas has not communicated this decision to students nor has she outlined a plan of action for how the next chair will be selected. Her lack of communication is reason to believe she has a plan for the future of the department that students and faculty of African American studies will not support. The less transparency in this process, the more likely Dean Soufas is making a decision (on behalf of Temple University) to further destabilize African American studies.
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves
As an African American studies major at Temple University, I am asking for all members of the Pan-African community to actively consider Kujichagulia – self- determination, in our everyday work. Our community and ability to frame our lives autonomously, free of Western European influence is constantly under attack. Generally, when we have interaction with a Western European institution, it is the mission of the Western European to restrict the African’s ability to create or promote a traditional African standard of living. This is especially the case at Temple University and its relationship with the African American studies department.
After the retirement of Dr. Nathinel Normett as the department chair of African American studies at Temple, our ability to define, create, and speak for ourselves has come under a vicious attack from the College of Liberal Arts Dean Teresa Scott Soufas. Her attack began with the refusal to accept the faculty’s recommendation of Dr. Kariamu Welsh Asante to replace Dr. Normett as chair and continues as Dr. Jayne Drake (the Vice Dean for academic affairs) serves as the “acting chair.” By refusing to accept the recommendation of Dr. Welsh Asante, Scott is restricting our ability to speak for ourselves.
After a discussion with Dr. Drake, it became clear that the dean wants to dictate the future of the African American studies department. Dr. Drake made it clear the dean has the ability to choose whomever she wants to lead the African American studies department and Temple University has shut off funds for a search for a new chair to replace Dr. Normett. Additionally, it would appear Heather Thompson (http://www.temple.edu/history/thompson/index.html) is the dean’s preference to lead the department. There are three critical problems with the dean’s suspected preference for Thompson 1) the majority of the department’s faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students would not embrace this decision (as seen through a student vote in which Thompson received 0 out of 20 votes for chair endorsement), 2) the dean is dictating to a department who will be their leader, 3) Thompson is on record as stating her agenda as chair would be to model Temple’s program after Northwestern.
The first two issues with Thompson are quite clear and do not need to be elaborated, so I will shed light on the third issue. Modeling our department after Northwestern’s would require for our department to disregard our African centered paradigm and adopt a method of study that would no longer include traditional African and African American intellectual philosophies, but would rather study Black folk from a Western European perspective. In many ways this objectifies Africans to be lab rats and trivializes our culture and intellectual heritage. This clearly goes against Kujichagulia as we are no longer determining our method of study and allowing our field to be dictated to us by Western Europeans who have constructed a society that wishes for us to be African in skin tone, but European in thought and action.
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