New council to aid in hiring Asian American and Latinx studies faculty, though students still push for department status


Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

Crowe Hall, home to the Asian American Studies and Latina and Latino Studies Programs. Using money from a $2.75 million Andrew W. Mellon grant, the programs will begin hiring faculty without tenure homes in other departments.

Cameron Cook, Assistant Campus Editor

Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences has authorized the formation of an Intercultural American Studies Council, a group that will conduct faculty searches to appoint tenure-track professors for the Latina and Latino Studies and Asian American Studies Programs.

The council will search for potential hires who don’t already have appointments in other departments, Weinberg Dean Adrian Randolph said in an interview with The Daily in December. In the past, faculty searches were limited to candidates who already had a tenure home in an existing department, a concern student activists shared when they began pushing for department status last year.

The council will be co-chaired by Prof. Shalini Shankar, interim director of AASP, and Prof. Geraldo Cadava, the LLSP director.

The program directors and deans have been discussing the formation of the council since last year, said Prof. Frances Aparicio, the former LLSP director. Administrators drafted a document over the summer, Aparicio said, which was sent to faculty in both programs for feedback.

Sharing professors with other departments has cost both programs autonomy, Randolph said, and the formation of the council will aid in solving that problem. Both AASP and LLSP have been advocating for more autonomy for their programs “for years now,” Aparicio said.

“The ability to hire and promote our own faculty members will reaffirm each of our fields as sites of knowledge production on our own,” she said.

The increase in autonomy could be a step toward departmentalization, Randolph said. Students and some faculty in LLSP and AASP have been seeking departmental status for years — the “to-be departments” have received backing from Associated Student Government and faculty members, but giving these programs departmental status would be “very challenging,” Randolph said.

The college has to consider the criteria for allowing departmentalization before opening “a Pandora’s Box of unanticipated requests,” he added. Also, he said, not all faculty want the programs to become departments — departmentalization would require more administrative work on the part of the programs’ faculty, most of whom already have multiple appointments.

But members of the Latinx Asian American Collective, a group of students that has been organizing to achieve departmental status for both LLSP and AASP, were not included in the decision to form the council, said Weinberg senior Natalie Vega.

“Dean Randolph should have been talking to us while these decisions were being made,” Vega said. “We’re the ones who advocated for these rights for the programs and pushed for them to take action. I feel like this decision to create this council is directly influenced by our work.”

Vega added that, while they’re glad to see moves being made toward expanding the programs’ stability, hiring more faculty doesn’t achieve the same result as making AASP and LLSP departments.

Weinberg junior Erykah Nava, another member of the collective, said departmentalization is the end goal.

“It’s important to have tenure-track faculty, but that shouldn’t be conflated with our goal of becoming a department,” Nava said. “Departmentalization is something greater to us.”

Nava added that, while she’s happy the University is making an effort, she’s unsure whether the council’s contribution to the programs will be “meaningful.”

She said given the large role students — specifically students of color — have played in making ethnic studies available at Northwestern, they should be allowed to provide input on who the council recommends for the new positions. In addition, hiring more faculty won’t necessarily solve all the problems the programs are having, she said.

For now, Randolph said, the council is the solution to the “root issue” — the programs’ curriculum inconsistency and lack of full-time professors with no other departmental allegiances.

The new faculty will be hired using about half of a $2.75 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, funds which should last roughly five years. After that, Randolph said, the cost becomes the college’s responsibility. The college hopes to grow each program by at least one tenure-ladder faculty member and one teaching-track position within the next two years, Randolph added.

At the moment, the college is running searches to fill a tenure-ladder position in LLSP and a teaching-track position in AASP, he said.

“My sense is, at least next year, we’d be proposing to run two more searches,” Randolph said in December. “That’s our proposal. Whether it’s accepted or not, I don’t know, but I assume it will be.”

Allowing full-time professors for the programs could also make achieving tenure easier, Shankar said, because meeting tenure requirements for multiple departments and programs can be “burdensome.”

The formation of the council will also help to streamline the tenure process, because the council provides a consistent “critical mass” that will both hire professors and vote on their futures when they’re up for tenure. With committed, tenured faculty, both programs will become more stable, Randolph said.

“I am delighted that the deans have listened to our needs and have acknowledged the importance of ethnic studies and our two programs on our campus,” she said. “These structural changes are imperative for the fields to be sustained and to continue growing.”

However, Vega said, the council doesn’t address the need for more administrative work within the programs. Departmentalization, they added, would provide that.

“Just having more teaching faculty is going to put a greater strain on the few administrative faculty that we have running these programs,” Vega said. “This is a good step forward, but it’s not the solution.”

Alan Perez contributed reporting.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @cam_e_cook

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