Nearly 50 years after the Black Forum advocated for and won ‘black studies’ classes at Boston College, the program, now under the name African and African Diaspora Studies (AADS) has become a major. The minor, created in 1985, was academically neglected and most popular for cultural diversity core requirements until 2006, when the program was revamped and renamed.
Offering AADS as a major shows the University’s considerable investment in continuing to recognize the AADS program as a serious area of academic study. Though interdisciplinary by nature, its new major status should allow the program to hire its own faculty, like the also interdisciplinary International Studies major has done. The Heights encourages the University to use the change to hire faculty specific to AADS and to increase academic resources for majors and minors.
The program plans to gradually increase its enrollment of undergraduates. The change also lays the groundwork for AADS to eventually become a graduate program. Additionally, BC has the opportunity to hire faculty whose research is specifically based in diasporic studies, presenting a new advantage for minors and future majors, especially in regard to advising. Current core faculty are joint-professors and or shared between a department, such as English, theology, or sociology, and AADS. This can create a disadvantage for students looking for AADS-specific advising.
Hiring of AADS-specific faculty should be a priority, however, it is also imperative that other department hires, such as those in the theology and sociology departments, can also act as joint-faculty to maintain the interdisciplinary state of the now-major.
Ultimately, the change signals that BC is recognizing AADS’s credibility as an academic discipline instead of just being a Cultural Diversity core. Originally, the cultural diversity requirement, created in 1993, was meant to be a way to require all students to take a then-black studies course. Classes were mostly taught by part-time faculty at night and seen at the time as an easy GPA-booster.
AADS becoming a major signifies BC’s acceptance of the discipline. AADS should be able to focus on students developing a deep understanding of the subject, like majors and minors, instead of on students looking to fulfill their cultural diversity requirement. It’s not incumbent upon the AADS program individually to ‘diversify’ students’ education at BC, but rather it’s incumbent upon BC’s educational foundation as a whole.
The Heights again commends BC for upgrading AADS to a major, and reiterates the University’s need to now hire AADS-based faculty to support majors and minors. The program is a respected interdisciplinary study and deserves the appropriate faculty and resources to support its new majors.