Fate of Black Studies in our Hands

Among NKU’s regional and state-wide peer institutions, three of them are Division-I universities with Black Studies units that appear on a directory titled “The 100 Most Popular Schools for African American Studies Majors & Degree Programs…” The institutions include 17th ranked University of Louisville, 31st ranked Miami University-Oxford and 36th ranked University of Cincinnati. As NKU moves towards Division-I status, it is important that its Black Studies Program reflect the quality of academic preparation comparable to its peer institutions. It would appear that NKU is disadvantaged in that all of the peer institutions have Black Studies departments that offer undergraduate and some graduate degrees while Black Studies at NKU is an interdisciplinary program (not a department) that offers only a minor. The director of the Black Studies Program seeks to rectify this disadvantage by promoting NKU’s program as a national model for improving retention rates especially among African American students. It is well known even among the African American students that those who minor in Black Studies tend to be retained in college until graduation. In addition, the data from the Black Studies/Learning Community courses suggest a high correlation with African American retention. The data also suggest that white students in these courses have better than average retention rates. Hence, Division-I athletes of all races can be assured that the Black Studies Program will offer the nurturing, mentoring and intellectual stimulation that will prepare them to succeed in the classroom and life.

Unfortunately, the pre-proposal for a major in Race and Gender Studies threatens to kill the Black Studies Minor. According to Dr. Debra Meyers, the Assistant Chair of the History & Geography Department, there are new rules and regulations that govern academic programs. Because of these rules, she believes the most feasible plan for a successful major in Race and Gender Studies is to replace the minors in Black Studies and Women’s Studies. For the effort to have integrity, it is important to Dr. Meyers that the document be viewed as a “pre-proposal” and not a “proposal” because anyone and everyone is invited to provide input. It is surmised that within the public sphere there are lots of people who can help Dr. Meyers and her committee create a feasible plan for a Major in Race and Gender Studies that embrace rather than exclude both minors.

Integrity also demands honesty. For this reason Dr. Meyers believes it important to distance her effort to create a good academic program from any unethical schemes to undermine the Black Studies mission. Having assisted the chair, Dr. Paul Tenkotte, during the summer in creating a promotional brochure and web site for the department, Dr. Meyers is aware that neither the minor nor the director of Black Studies is mentioned in the promotion materials. For instance, the web site (see for yourself) disregards describing the minor. Instead it is replaced by a discussion by an African American instructor about his enjoyment in teaching Black Studies courses. Hence, as early as the summer, evidence points to a plot to destroy the Black Studies Program by killing the minor hence having no further need for a director. As it turned out, the creation of the committee to create the Major in Race and Gender Studies in the Fall of 2011 was well-timed to issue the death blow to the Black Studies Minor and it is important to Dr. Meyers that her efforts be distinguished from those who would use the pre-proposal for such insidious aims.

With your help integrity can be restored to Black Studies at NKU. Please do what you can to help Dr. Meyers and her committee use the new rules and regulations to construct a Major that embraces the minors in Black Studies and Women’s Studies. The fate of Black Studies is in our hands.

Michael Washington
History and Geography Department
Former Director of Black Studies