African American Studies faculty vote to rename department Black Studies, pending University approval


Daily file photo by Brian Meng

Crowe Hall, home of the African American Studies department. The department announced its plans to pursue a name change at the 50th anniversary celebration Friday.

Maia Pandey, Campus Editor

African American Studies faculty voted unanimously on April 6 to change the department’s name to Black Studies, department chair Mary Pattillo told The Daily Monday.

In accordance with Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences rules for renaming a department, the change could take about a year to be finalized, Pattillo said in an email to The Daily. The department must first submit a formal proposal to Weinberg Dean Adrian Randolph, who will review it and put it on the college’s faculty meeting agenda for readings and a vote. If the dean and faculty support the proposal, it will be submitted to the University provost and president.

Pattillo said conversations about a renaming have been ongoing for the past 10 to 15 years, with the department hosting a town hall every couple of years on the topic. She added that when the department announced the plans for a name change at its 50th anniversary celebration Friday, attendees responded with a standing ovation.

“The motivation comes from the fact that the name ‘African American Studies’ privileges the Americas (over Africa, Europe, and other regions) and is most often read to mean the U.S., leaving out Latin America, Canada, and the Caribbean,” Pattillo said in the email.

To gauge community input, Pattillo said she sent out a survey this year to current African American Studies majors and minors, graduate students, faculty and students enrolled in the department’s courses. Of 151 respondents, only 36% thought the current name represented the people, content and curriculum of the department, Pattillo said.

The department hosted a session on March 30 to discuss these survey results, attended by about 40 people in-person and virtually, Pattillo said.

“At that meeting the clear consensus for a new name was Black Studies,” she said. “This name better reflects what many Black people call ourselves, and it encompasses the entirety of the Black Diaspora.”

The name is also more reflective of the 1968 demands of student activists for “a Black Studies course,” Pattillo said. These demands, issued in the aftermath of the Bursar’s Office Takeover, led to the creation of the department.

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