News | African Studies fights to restore introductory course

AUS now mandated to help promote their cause

The Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) will now begin to actively lobby to restore the African Studies program’s introductory course, and support the program in general, following a motion that passed during the AUS General Assembly on November 9.

The motion mandates the AUS to, specifically, lobby to hire a full-time faculty member to teach the introductory course AFRI 200.

According to Kathleen Fallon, chair of the African Studies program, the Faculty of Arts is required to have an introductory course for all interdisciplinary programs – in this case AFRI 200 – and a higher-level seminar to allow for cohesiveness within these programs.

However, the course was not offered this year because of financial constraints.

“It seems counterintuitive to require it, and then take it away,” said Fallon.

John Galaty, former chair of the African Studies program, used to teach the course, but was unable to continue due to other responsibilities in the Anthropology Department.

According to Galaty, efforts were made to receive more funding to hire a new faculty member to teach the course.

“Despite our complaints and pleads, they weren’t able to provide the funds. I then proposed that we teach it on an alternate basis, every other year, but at least until now they haven’t responded positively,” said Galaty.

Noteh Krauss, president of the African Studies Student’s Association (ASSA), said the course is fundamental for giving foundational knowledge to students who wish to pursue the African Studies program.

“Without AFRI 200, except for a 500-level seminar at the end of the program, there is no class that gives students a foundation to what they are going to study. Without this class, it’s just a mix of random courses, and that’s not a proper education in African Studies,” said Krauss.

The ASSA is also seeking to gain more respect and recognition from the Faculty of Arts, as it feels it has been overlooked because of the smaller size of the program.

“We are talking about not just one specific class that we are fighting for – in fact, the most important class of the program that we are fighting for – but also it’s just a general lack of funding for the program. It’s generally been a program that has been disregarded,” said Krauss.

Galaty said that the lack of funding might reflect reduced confidence from the Faculty of Arts towards interdisciplinary programs.

“The argument, of course, is financial, because the faculty has gone through a budget cut, but it may also represent a larger lack of confidence in interdisciplinary programs…which is strange in some sense because the University has made [interdisciplinary practices] – whether in teaching or research – one of its priority areas,” said Galaty.

Yusra Khan, AUS VP Academic, wrote in an email to The Daily that the AUS is ready to “put its full support” behind the ASSA.

“I will be bringing this issue up in the AUS Academic Council, where we will decide on the appropriate way in which to help the ASSA in its endeavors,” wrote Khan.

Khan also stated that the faculty has put in place several committees to review the needs and highlight the importance of smaller programs, although the Committee on African Studies is not scheduled to meet until the winter semester.

“There has not been active discrimination or negligence against smaller programs in the Faculty of Arts,” said Khan.

The ASSA is also concerned about the future of the African Studies program if the course is not restored.

“A lot of first years and second years will take an introductory class to African Studies because they are curious, and that’s exactly how students get involved in the program. Without that spark of curiosity, students aren’t going to keep getting involved in the program, and it’s going to die off,” said Krauss.