Nineteen graduate students from the Department of Africology and African American Studies penned a letter President Richard Englert on June 12 demanding changes in the department to be implemented by the start of the fall semester.
The letter was driven by people “…waking up to the facts of police brutality and discrimination against Black citizens,” and the President being “quite inactive when it comes to the concerns of the students and faculty of the Department of Africology,” it reads.
In the letter, students demand an increase in graduate resources, teaching and research assistantships, and faculty, the ability to teach courses on African languages, and dropping “African American studies” from the department title, among other demands.
President Englert meeting the letter’s demands will “lay actual groundwork in not only mending the relationship between our department, your administration, and the University at large, but create a true foundation so we as graduate students can do the work we came to this university to do,” the letter reads.
With less faculty in the department, there are a limited variety of undergraduate and graduate level courses for students to take, said Tarik Richardson, a second-year doctoral student in the department and spokesperson for Temple’s Organization of Africology/African-American Studies Graduate Students.
“Now there seems to be attention, more so than ever and it seems that the President, he’s in a position where he has to act,” Richardson said. “People are watching. Where beforehand, there was really no push to be accountable.”
The letter also commended Englert and Vice President and Provost JoAnne Epps’ mention of alumnus Ibram Kendi’s book, ‘How to Be An Anti-Racist,’ as a resource for education in an email sent on May 31.
The Department of Africology and African American Studies is respected for being one of the oldest in the country, in addition to being the first to offer a doctoral program in the field, Englert wrote in a statement emailed to The Temple News.
“The work of its faculty is respected throughout the academic world, and its alumni are scholars whose reach and influence is incredibly impressive,” Englert wrote.
The department’s chair, Molefi Asante has an impressive record of teaching, research and leadership, Englert wrote.
“We look forward to working collaboratively with him on the issues that have been raised and exploring ideas for the future,” he added.
The graduate students have been persistent in discussing issues that affect the department, Asante said in a statement to The Temple News. Asante himself has also worked to bring the issues to the university, he added.
“People have reached a boiling point in their desire for a different paradigm in relation to African American interests,” Asante wrote. “These are not undue demands; they are justified by the lack of attention to them for decades.”
“I believe that the University administration has a will to respond positively and timely and I will be ready to assist in any way that I can,” he added.
A spokesperson for the College of Liberal Arts did not respond for comment.
Meeting the letters’ demands will also “contribute to the restoration of Temple University as a moral voice and premier institution in leading the global conversation on race and racial injustice,” the letter reads.
“Our demands are fueled not because they are a reactionary clause,” Richardson said. “These are things that we’ve been wanting for years.”