The University will hire three new core faculty members to teach in the African and African Diaspora Studies Program (AADS). One of the incoming professors will teach African American literature and culture in the English department, while the other two will be hired by AADS to teach courses in race, religion, and the African diaspora. One of these professors will be based in the theology department, and the other appointee will be based in either the art, art history, and film department or the history department.
AADS currently consists of six core faculty members and 13 other affiliated professors and offers a minor and an independent major. Classes within the program can fulfill cultural diversity, history, and English core requirements.
In January 2015, the Undergraduate Government of Boston College released a report that called for the University to expand its diversity efforts. In addition to increasing funding for AADS, the report called for a greater allocation of resources to other potential majors such as Native American studies, Latin American studies, and Asian-American studies.
Last March, Introduction to African Diaspora Studies was added to the social science core and African Diaspora in the World I and II were added to the history core. Around the same time, a minor controversy broke out as some students criticized the history core for being, in their eyes, Eurocentric.
In a letter to The Heights in May of last year, Sarah Gwyneth Ross, the director of the history core, acknowledged the legitimacy of some student concerns with Eurocentrism within the history core at BC, but offered the addition of these courses as evidence of an increasingly international perspective and continued commitment to building a more diverse academic program.
The expansion of the AADS faculty represents an important step in promoting a more culturally diverse curriculum at BC. For a University that designed its honors program around the “Western Cultural Tradition,” working to grow programs and departments that educate students outside of the traditional canon represents a commitment to becoming a more inclusive and diverse institution.
The University took an important stride in amending its curriculum when it added those courses to the core in the spring. Students at BC have expressed concern that classes reflecting study outside of the Western culture are often restricted to the cultural diversity core. The addition of further courses within the AADS program that can fulfill history and English requirements represents a necessary acknowledgment of student concerns on the University’s behalf.
Martin Summers, the Director of AADS, hopes that the addition of the three new faculty members will move the program one step closer to the quorum necessary to establish it as a major. Although this will depend on student interest, the establishment of an AADS major at BC would represent a heightened step towards intellectual and cultural diversity on campus.
The University should continue to develop programs such as AADS, as well as others, to create a more inclusive and broad academic program. As incoming classes at BC continue to become more diverse, it is important that the University’s academic programs reflect the backgrounds and interests of not just some students, but all of them.
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