New requirements lead to lower enrollment in Black Studies

As Black History Month is celebrated at Northern Kentucky University, classes in black studies are seeing a large decrease in enrollment and the program’s director is pointing fingers at recent reforms to the general education requirements.

Students must take certain courses in various departments to meet the general education requirement. These are often part of other programs, such as those in the Black Studies Program.

Michael Washington, the program’s director, described black studies as once being a “critical component” of general education. But the changes to general education requirements may change that.

Washington said he is seeing first hand that fewer classes and crossover options are offered to students.

“The GenEd curriculum crushed us; it crushed us, man,” Washington said.

He added that several Black Studies general education courses were cancelled due to low enrollment.

Washington said he felt it to the fact that students no longer needed to take those courses for general education credits.

“The new GenEd requirements hurt a lot of programs and a lot of departments because it happened so quickly that people were not able to plan and adjust to it,” Washington said.

Due to a moratorium on general education submissions, professors cannot even submit classes to be considered for general education credit, Washington said.

Karen Cudjoe, a former adjunct faculty member, also shared her thoughts.

“By dropping the GenEd courses NKU will increasingly lack the ability to distinguish itself from other colleges,” Cudjoe said.

Cudjoe added that some universities use ethnic studies to attract target groups, instead of eliminating the program when budgets are tight.

“I feel NKU should be growing Black Studies, not diminishing it, and find better ways to promote what it has or had, and could have again,” Cudjoe said.

Oulimata Ba, from Senegal, West Africa, is a freshman at NKU. Fluent in Fulani, Wolof, English and French, Ba said she feels that the program is important to other students.

“I think, in education, it helps to know a background of certain other cultures,” Ba said.

She said she felt it is not fair to cancel these courses and deprive students of knowledge.

“I’m from Senegal, and before I came to the United States, I knew something about the United States,” Ba said. “If they cancel it, it’s like saying it’s not something important for students to know,” she added.

Washington also feels that the Black Studies program contributes to the campus.

“If you have a black studies program,” he says, “it has to have function.” He explained that by saying that the program creates a sense of community and drive among its members.

“We’re supposed to be interacting in ways that create bonding relationships that help people to be inspired to continue their education,” he said. He also mentioned that it creates a sense of mission for students, motivating them to better themselves.

But Washington is still pushing for more courses to be added to the general education curriculum.

“Our approach is to submit courses that will get us back into GenEd,” Washington said. However, he adds, “We don’t even know when it’s going to be possible.”

Story by Sean Dressman