Black studies major proposal stalled for program prioritization

By Satta Kendor

The Center for Black Studies and NIU students said they hope to expand black studies from a minor to a major pending program prioritization.

NIU administrators met with the Center for Black Studies on April 29 to discuss the possibility of black studies becoming a major — a program request made by students, according to an April 9 Northern Star article — however the process remains in the discussion phase as more than 260 academic programs will soon be under review by the program prioritization academic task force.

Program prioritization is the process NIU will undergo to determine mergers, cuts and increases in funding for academic and administrative programs. Members of the two task forces that will review programs have been appointed, but their names will not be announced until all letters of agreement have been signed.

“Right now we’re just talking about it because … we have the prioritization process going forward this summer and so we would put that in as something that we would like to see,” said LaVerne Gyant, Center for Black Studies director. “I think people don’t tend to see black studies as a viable discipline; they see it as a feel good discipline. So because they think they’ll get an easy A they don’t think the work is rigorous — and that is not true.”

Ashley Palmer, junior English major and black studies minor, said students can go a lot further with a black studies major.

“I think that there are a lot of relevant career paths that a person can take with a black studies major,” Palmer said. “I think that it’s important because of contributions that African Americans have made since we have been in America.”

Departments are mandated to write reviews on all programs and will have the opportunity to propose any new programs this fall, said Carolinda Douglass, vice provost for Academic Planning and Development and facilitator for the program prioritization coordinating team. The reviews and proposals will then be sent to the academic task force.

“I think anything that we can do to promote the wonderful diversity that we have at NIU and to create innovations that draw and retain students to NIU — students of diverse background and experiences — is certainly worth very serious consideration,” Douglass said.

The task forces will look at reviews and proposals starting in spring 2016 and the university can anticipate results in April 2016, Douglass said. If the academic task force approves the major proposal, the program will then need approval from the Board of Trustees and the Illinois Board of Higher Education. These processes could take six to 12 months, depending on how backed up the Illinois Board of Higher Education is, Douglass said.

“This is a movement that [we’re] just going to continue until we are ready to move forward with the university and all of that,” Gyant said. “We can’t do anything until this prioritization and the financial situation of the university is better.”