The introductory course to the African Studies program, AFRI 200, has been officially reinstated for the fall 2012 semester.
The decision was made after a months-long campaign by the African Studies Student Association (ASSA), which included a petition signed by over 1000 students.
ASSA President Noteh Krauss spoke to The Daily about the interest students have shown in restoring the course.
“Students who are curious about learning about the continent have the opportunity to explore those interests,” said Krauss. “I really believe that the program was on its deathbed without AFRI 200.”
Since its General Assembly on November 9, the AUS has been mandated to lobby for the restoration of the African Studies program’s introductory course.
Yusra Khan, AUS VP Academic, explained that the course was not offered this year because of bureaucratic oversight.
“It wasn’t so much that the course was taken away. There were some administrative and structural problems with the way interdisciplinary programs work that led to a delay in the request of a TA. So the professor did not want to teach a course without a TA,” said Khan.
Even though the ASSA enjoyed student support, Kraus expressed that the process for getting the course back was “slow and extremely bureaucratic.”
“It’s like wading through a swamp, and it’s misty and it’s damp and the water is mucky and you don’t know where you’re going. That’s why we took another way, that is, to go to the individuals and keep going up the ladder, until we could get to someone who made the decisions,” said Kraus.
“We just kept going higher and higher until we reached the level of the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning).”
Khan also commented on the ASSA’s lobbying of Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson.
“On the one hand it is sort of inefficient, because the problem with AFRI 200 was of TA availability, which is something solely determined by the faculty. When it comes down to it, the offering of the course is not under [Mendelson’s] purview,” she said.
“But it is important that smaller programs really emphasize their causes to the faculty and to the University. Because when you do that you’re going to get in everyone’s radar,” she added.
Although both the ASSA and the AUS were involved in the lobbying process, Krauss expressed being “disappointed” with the support of AUS.
“I found them to be less helpful than I would’ve expected, especially after they were mandated to advocate for us… I think that for an organization that represents all Arts students and then was mandated in a general assembly not even during council… I really don’t think they did everything they could.”
“[Khan] specifically did bring it up at certain committees and on her academic council they discussed it, but nevertheless I found the support of the AUS not to be that strong,” he added.
According to Associate Dean of Arts (Academic Administration and Oversight) Gillian Lane-Mercier, the course was restored due to the “energy, dismay, and increased interest shown by students.”
“When the budget for both the supplementary teaching allocations was communicated to me, and the TA budget was communicated to me for 2012-2013, I was well aware of the issues and it made me very happy to be able attribute a budget that will enable the two core courses to be taught next year,” said Lane-Mercier.
The course will be offered to 100 students, with spots reserved for students in the African Studies department. However, it was only reinstated for the upcoming 2012 – 2013 academic year.
“We also discussed with the Associate Dean about what happens the year after this. We don’t want to be continually fighting for it. And the thing is, she told me that basically the way things are we can only take it one year at a time,” said Kraus
Lane-Mercier explained to The Daily that the course was only reinstated for a year because the budget allocation is done in a year-by-year basis.
“In any department there are ups and downs, there are cycles… You can never predict. If there is support from the students, you know if enrolments are high and the energy is maintained, then certainly these are all signs that it’s very positive and it enables us to support the program in the following year,” she said.