On Sunday, May 4, the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) unanimously passed a resolution titled, “Demanding the Re-Prioritization of African-American Studies at Wesleyan.” The resolution had 421 University student signatures as of press time.
“[The WSA] calls upon the University to recognize the importance of African-American studies; demands that the Provost prioritize faculty hires in African-American Studies; urges that these hires are made across disciplinary lines to fill the gaps that have been present in the program for years; demands a public and documented response to the first three clauses from the Provost and/or the President of Wesleyan,” the resolution reads.
Sadasia McCutchen ’17 and Christian Hosam ’15 drafted the resolution with the input of other University students, some of whom are affiliated with the African American Studies major and some who are not.
Hosam described the drive behind the creation of the resolution.
“We are under the impression (and are open to being corrected) that the University feels that there isn’t any demand for African-American Studies,” Hosam wrote in an email to The Argus. “Our work, therefore, will be to correct this false assumption in order to demonstrate the demand for more courses in the program as well as the anger that students have over feeling that a program that deals intellectually with issues of oppression and marginalization has to prove its worth in spite of a very material oppression and marginalization.”
Hosam went into further detail about his dissatisfaction with the University’s handling of the African American Studies Department.
“The fact that two professors leaving the program leaves such a huge gap indicates the shallowness of the faculty pickings to begin with,” Hosam wrote. “Taking the #MahurinisWhy campaign for example, the outcry for [Visiting Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies Sarah] Mahurin to stay was not received with the idea of making her an opportunity hire. Furthermore, [Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies Leash] Wright decision to leave Wesleyan was a difficult one for her and one that we are certain was precipitated by the fact that a large amount of the work that Professor Mahurin was doing this semester would fall to her.”
Hosam discussed what changes he hopes will be brought about with the passing of the resolution.
“What we absolutely need is an explanation of how the University is prioritizing its hires and why [African American Studies] seems to be so low on the list,” Hosam wrote. “Students should have a say and know the ways that the university comes to its decisions in terms of its academic decisions.”