Department reconsiders eliminating Black and Women’s and Gender Studies Minors

At 9:31 a.m. on Oct. 31, the Northern Kentucky University history listserv received an email of great significance.

The email, sent on behalf of Debra Meyers, briefly explained that the former pre-proposals to combine the Black Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies minors into a major – Gender and Race Studies – and thus eliminating the minors, were officially being withdrawn.

The pre-proposals had been at the head of inner-departmental and student discord since the advent of their introduction via email on Sept. 8. In the email on Oct. 31, Meyers cited “student and faculty opposition,” as the reason for the change of direction.

Paul Tenkotte, chair of the history and geography department, said that the end of the semester is too close for another draft of the pre-proposals to be created. Tenkotte said that a new, “Plan C” will be presented next semester, which includes both the minors and the major coexisting.

Tenkotte mentioned that he had met with about “three dozen,” faculty and students to speak with him about potential changes to the Black Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies programs. Tenkotte said that there was a lot more support for the programs than anticipated and that the faculty and students requested alternative solutions.

The department was granted an extension until next year for an evaluation by the Kentucky Council on Post-Secondary Education (CPE). When asked about the current status of Black Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies under the CPE standards, Tenkotte said that Black Studies is now found in compliance and any future changes will only be to “bring it into the 21st century.” However, Women’s and Gender Studies still will need changes and a “tightening” of its curriculum.

Now that it appears that Black Studies will still exist as a minor, the question was posed as to who will be filling Dr. Washington’s position as director of the program. Tenkotte responded that they will be making a one-semester full-time hire to fill that role. In the meantime, Tenkotte is serving as interim director of the program.

According to Dr. Washington, former director of the Black Studies program, the motivations of his removal as director and the potential changes to Black Studies were racial and were reflected in both the swiftness of their implementation, as well as handling of the pre-proposals.

In light of the retraction of the pre-proposals, Washington requested a meeting be held on Nov. 11 to discuss the intentions of the pre-proposals, and why they were so quickly tabled. Attached to the email sent to Meyers and the history Listserv on Nov. 7 requesting the meeting was a proposal by Washington as to how an investigation into the departmental motivations be handled.

“Was the idea to create a major in Race and Gender Studies at Northern Kentucky University the focal point of the opposition or was the opposition directed toward the elimination of the minors by means of a sequestered process? All evidence tends to point to the latter,” said Washington in the Nov. 7 email.

The pre-proposals were introduced shortly after Tenkotte sent an email to the history department on Sept. 4 explaining the potential need to change the history, geography, black studies, women’s and gender studies, military history and medieval and renaissance studies departments to comply with future Kentucky Council on Post-Secondary Education (CPE) changes. Tenkotte explained a desire to be “proactive rather than reactive.”

Tenkotte said that with the decision to re-work the proposals and a new deadline, they will be able to “slow the process down” and “get a better product.”