Cornell: Swallowing Up Your Program, for the Good of Your Program

On Wednesday Robert L. Harris Jr. resigned from his position as director of the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell. This apparently came about because Cornell decided to make the research center part of the College of Arts and Sciences. It’s currently independent.

According to an article by Lawrence Lan and Ben Gitlin in the Cornell Daily Sun:

Though Arts and Sciences Provost Kent Fuchs said the Africana center would enjoy increased efficiency and better support as part of the College of Arts and Sciences, the move was met with immediate backlash from Africana students and faculty alike, who said they were unhappy with the lack of dialogue regarding the administrative change as well as other concerns.

Fuchs explained that the merger was a way for the university to save money and would also allow the university to provide the center with more support. It also means that Africana studies could soon have a Ph.D. program. As the article put it:

Fuchs said the decision was made to provide Africana faculty and students with better support than his own office was able to provide. He said that his office did not have adequate resources to meet his own goals for the center.

“I’m convinced that 20 years from now, Africana faculty, students, alumni and staff will look back and say, ‘This is the best thing that ever happened to us,’” Fuchs said.

Well maybe, but that’s not really the point. If you value the program shouldn’t you have consulted it before you made major changes, wonderful though those changes may turn out to be?

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer