"BEST PRACTICES" IN THE FIELD IN ADMINISTRATION AND PEDAGOGY
Stanlie M. James (University of Wisconsin): I’m from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Afro-American Studies department, and we’ve been dealing with what Afro-American Studies would be like in the twenty-first century, as I’m sure most of you are also dealing with. We know that at least in the publics [i.e., state-sponsored institutions of higher learning], I don’t know about the privates, we’re dealing with harsh realities of budgetary cutbacks. We are also trying to think about how to incorporate multicultural, diasporic, and global dimensions into our work even as we are continuing to make sure that gender is thoroughly integrated in our curriculum. It seems to me that all of these kinds of tasks that we have to do really can be enhanced by a strategy we call “building bridges.” …
What we did — as I outlined in my paper — was to develop formal relationships with the English department and the History department into bridge programs. The bridge programs allow our students to simultaneously apply for admission into the Afro-American Studies department and into the department of their particular interest; English or history. They complete the MA with us either in our literature and culture area or in our history area, and then they cross the bridge into the respective PhD programs. So when they finish, the students have a concentration MA in African American Studies along with a PhD in another discipline.
This allowed us to strengthen our MA program, while at the same time, it helps both English and history…. It was really important to do this also because our graduate students were being accepted, after they completed their MAs all over the country. They were going to Rutgers, Duke, all over the country. So it wasn’t about them not being up to par. It was about UW not being able to do what they needed to do about providing enhancements or programs that would welcome students of color into the university.
The programs, both in history and English, have been so successful that we have been approached by other units in the university about establishing additional bridge programs with us, including the art history department and the library school. We are now carefully considering those additional options because we also know that if we get more grad students to come in to be involved in those programs, then the university has to turn loose some more resources for us to be able to support them in a way that they need to be supported. That’s one example of the bridge building. …
James reiterates points from her paper on the consortium aspect of Wisconsin’s “bridge building efforts.” She also reemphasizes that the internal successes have sparked considerations for additional opportunities for building different kinds of bridges with Chicano-Latina Studies, American Indian Studies, and Asian American Studies programs.
We have faculty in our department who are engaged in this process in different ways. For example, we have one who does Asian American and African American Studies and he has served as the chair of the Asian American Studies program. He’s now directing the UW service-learning program, which is one of our versions of twenty-first century activism.
The other thing that I wanted to mention is that we have done a couple of things that have been innovative, one of which is that we recently did a program where we took students on a bus tour down to the southwest where they met with academics, activists and people who were engaged in the struggles for freedom, Native American, African American and Chicano/Latino. This was a continuing saga, because we’ve done a number of bus tours. I just happened to go on one the week the students went to Selma, Alabama, over spring break. We’ve been running a class on civil rights at the university over the last semester. And then we took the students down to Selma to spend a week at the [National] Voting Rights Museum. There, they were engaged in doing whatever needed to be done, including cleaning up. But they also were excitingly engaged in interviewing those people who had participated in the Selma and Montgomery marches … .
We did audio- and videotaping of people who were eighty, ninety and even one hundred years old who had been activists in that movement. So the students not only had a semester of learning about the Civil Rights Movement, they also had a hands-on experience of talking to the people who participated in the movement; and it was service-oriented in that they helped to mount exhibits; they helped to clean up the park—there was a park surrounding the place; it was both inside and outside the classroom.
Nathaniel Norment, Jr. (Temple University): I know those of you who are chairs and [who] have been chairs—this is a learning experience. And my past five years at Temple has [been] more than a learning experience. When I got to the question, in terms of best practices, there’s something called a wish list. So what I have is also best practices. The things that I’ve learned being the chair is what I think chairs should do and could do. So if you take it in that context of being best practice, I’ve learned some things; but also best practice in which I think chairs should do as … chief administrator.
All of you have mentioned that all the institutions of higher education have become like running a business, especially our experience at Temple. We get direct emails from the president in terms of how to construct our syllabi. It’s very micro-managed, even to the extent of having chairs meeting twice a semester with [an] agenda that’s thicker than this; and it’s all about management. And it’s really about the sense of treating students as clients and customers. What I have is my experience and also that sense of the wish list.
There are two parts to my presentation: the program administration piece and a second part is pedagogy. I divided pedagogy into two places in terms of African-centered pedagogy—a sense of “applied” Black Studies and the sense of “public policy.”
In addition to the major points of his paper, Norment introduces key practices implemented at Temple University as a means of providing experiential understandings of the problems departmental and program administrators face.
This is our experience. I know at Temple I think we had a max fifteen faculty at one time. But I think, for our program and our curriculum to be taught effectively, we need at least fourteen or fifteen faculty. As chair you must consistently request additional full-time faculty appointments, and at the same time where we have so few openings for faculty appointment, there’s a whole process of recruiting part-time faculty and you have to interview; you have to meet with them; you have to evaluate their teaching. We have something we call CATEs, which all faculty, part-time and full-time, must administer; and as chair you must read these and determine what part-time faculty you want to re-appoint.
In the five years I’ve been chair, there’s been one or two incidents with part-time faculty. Many of our part-time faculty are our graduate students and PhD students who have completed their course work who were TA’s at one time, and they’ve now become adjuncts. Also, we have about three or four people who are graduates of our department and also different people in different areas of expertise that we evaluate.
Norment recaps his paper’s discussion on pedagogy by explaining the value of an African-centered pedagogy. He also addresses the dearth of scholarship on teaching Black Studies.
Someone mentioned yesterday doing research in a particular area. In terms of our discipline, I think maybe I have come across maybe one article on teaching within the discipline; one article on the whole concept of applied — an article by Upton that deals with adult education. I’ve been thinking about the whole concept of African-centered teaching when we sit in rooms and talk theory, and I think that’s necessary. We are at Temple, and someone mentioned that we’re in North Philly and you can sit in your office and look out to Ross Street, and there seems to be more and so many things there that we need to address in our communities.
African American culture and historical knowledge, techniques and perspectives must be applied to the range of courses taught in the discipline. Now more than ever, African American Studies researchers and scholars must become actively involved in community and social organizations, as well as develop, implement, and evaluate social solution-oriented programs that seek to address the needs to improve the social, political, and economical life of the community.
Abdul Alkalimat (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign): Clearly, we have two interesting programs that are quite a contrast that sum up some of the things that we talked about yesterday. The bridge concept and then the turning inward to develop the concepts that Professor Norment just explained.
Lee D. Baker (Duke University): I just want to say that, Professor Stanlie James, you probably know that you’ve got a reputation for being the most dynamic and efficient chair around the country. The reputation is well-deserved because you just demonstrated that being innovative and creative as well as responsive and adaptive, being able to leverage what’s available at a state institution, and then working with people enables you to move your agenda forward without compromising it. You should be a dean.
I think this is a real model for so many ways of when we are limited to funds to leverage these other relationships. And I guess what I’m saying is your reputation is well-deserved.
Stanlie M. James (University of Wisconsin): Thank you so much.
Irma McClaurin (Ford Foundation): I wonder if you can talk a bit about, in terms of the bridging program, what is the cost and a little bit about the consortium, starting with external funding. How do you sustain it beyond when that funding runs out?
Stanlie M. James (University of Wisconsin): That’s a problem. We have not been able to sustain the consortium in the way that I would like for us to do. We’ve met a couple of times since then. This has been an extremely difficult year because we lost Nellie McKay. She was our president; we made her the president of our consortium. So we’re still kind of reeling from that and thinking about what we can do both internally in the department and then in terms of the consortium.
We know that we’re going to have to find other ways of funding this. I think that when we get ready to do the consortium again … this is something for me because I’m not good at technology. I think one of the things we may need to think about doing is to do the consortium interactively. We’re going to have to do it in terms of doing some team teaching over the internet. We have a model for it. We did it at Madison with a Mellon grant with Stanford, University of Minnesota-Minneapolis, and Madison, in Women’s Studies. We had three professors from each of the different units to work together. They came together in the summer and put together a syllabus where students come online through video conferencing once a week. And I think if we continue the consortium, that’s one of the ways we’re going to have to do it. We don’t have the money to do the traveling that we were able to do previously.
As for the bridging program, what is problematic about that is supporting our graduate students through the first two years of the program. So part of what we’ve had to say to English and history, which have much stronger budgets than we do, is that if you want these students, you’re going to have to help us support them through the first two years. So they are sharing their resources with us in terms of providing that support.
Molefi Kete Asante (Temple University): I want to go back and look and say that I agree with Nate Norment’s idea that the department is the most authentic and stable unit for institutionalization within the university. And it raises a question. I like the bridge program concept with the exception of a couple of things. One, I wonder what the ultimate objective is say, in your department, for advancement toward the PhD. Because ultimately the terminal degree itself, given by a department, is the most stable way of reproducing people in Black Studies; because the people who have a PhD in history or English will be PhD’s in English and history. I don’t think they’ll get a PhD in history and they name it Black Studies.
It occurs to me that what all of our departments or programs ought to be evolving toward is a degree of autonomy, both in terms of our structure—that is the departmental and administrative unit—as well as the delivery of a terminal degree; that to me is the only way, administratively, we ought to be moving. This sounds nice, crossing the bridge. But crossing the bridge to where is a very important question to me.
Carole Boyce Davies (Florida International University): I know that Wisconsin has a long history of having a white, Eurocentric-based African Studies framework. I say this deliberately because I’m a regular African Studies Association member and there is a discourse about white Africanists who say that people of African descent are not really knowing themselves and so on. So I wondered how you navigate that divide and what types of strategies you use to collaborate. Do you collaborate with them? I’m wondering how you manage that profile.
Abdul Alkalimat (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign): Before you answer that, let me add another question. I want to try to give both panelists an opportunity, at the end, to sum up and to get everybody else as much as possible in. What I wanted to say about the consortium is that institutionally there is stratification. And in a state, there is also the concept of the flagship campus. What is the responsibility of PhD-granting programs at flagship universities, relatively speaking, with well-endowed resources, to all of the other smaller institutions in the state, for example, that don’t have resources or a number of Black students?
Say, here’s a campus with fifteen students. They’re not going to be able to generate the resources; and yet there’s a desire. How can we figure out an effective way to deliver curriculum, mentoring, expertise, networking, so that in a state like Wisconsin—because from Madison to these other places it’s like linking the mountaintops. And the question is how do we keep all of our constituency involved in sharing the resources that are at these flagships institutions?
Stanlie M. James (University of Wisconsin), Abdul Alkalimat (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), Molefi Kete Asante (Temple University):
Stanlie M. James (University of Wisconsin): So we understand that that’s the way we have to address the problem in Madison. And that’s what we do. Now I think that what you do at Temple will have to reflect what goes on in Pennsylvania; same in New York. You have a different population; you have a different agenda from what we have to do in Wisconsin. In general, the whole thing is a social justice process. That’s what we’re all focused on. But you need to be able to make strategic interventions that make sense from where you are.
Now, the collaboration part of it … one of the things that I didn’t get to say is that part of our strategy is to make sure that we don’t get dismantled. Let’s put it on the table. We are in a time that is neo-conservative, we have a situation where the budgetary cutbacks are going on, and people who didn’t want us there in the first place are using that to try to take these departments out. So our first purpose is to make sure that we are so deeply embedded on that campus that they cannot easily take us out. Hence, the bridge programs to English and to history.
Now we are making … the other ethnic studies programs are programs, we are a department. We have been a department for almost forty years. The programs are not tenure granting; we are. They have come to us and said, can we think about doing some joint appointments because we need to have a place where they can have a tenure home. The historians don’t want them; the political scientists don’t want them; the sociologists don’t want them. And we’re saying we’ve got some issues here. We’ve got issues where the Chicanos and the Blacks need to be talking to each other instead of fighting with each other. And one way to do that is to begin to set up these kinds of programs. And that’s where we’re headed.
In Women’s Studies, we now have a concentration in Black Women’s Studies that grew out of the consortium. When we did the consortium program I facilitated the Black Women’s Studies year; and from that we looked at our program in Afro-American Studies. We have strong relationships with Women’s Studies. But we do Black Women’s Studies and it permeates our entire curriculum.
We now have a concentration in it, and we recently did an Introduction to Black Women’s Studies course that was team-taught by four of us. We had a historian, a scientist, literature, and an art historian. We make sure that we have relationships with Women’s Studies; we have relationships with other ethnic studies programs; one of our faculty is a joint appointment with the psychology department; we have a sociologist; we have historians; and everybody has relationships all across the campus in different ways. I work with African Studies. I also work with the African Diaspora research program.
Nathaniel Norment, Jr. (Temple University): I think also in Pennsylvania we have students who have never seen a Black person except for on TV. Being in New York for about thirty years, you’ve got people coming from upstate that have never seen a Black person.
I’d like to summarize that I think this is a great opportunity for all of us. Part of responding to the question is a sense of a wish list. And I hope we begin talking about applied Black Studies. I hope we begin to look at our different programs and look at public policy and the role that we should play in terms of African American Studies.
I think another thing as a discipline, as a field, we all know that many of the student activists on the campuses evolved from the cities and the high schools, whether in New York, Philadelphia, or Chicago, and that’s one area where I don’t think we have been involved in terms of that K-12 curriculum. I know that Dr. Asante is involved in terms of Philly. There are about three areas that we ought to begin to look at: Applied Black Studies, public policy, and K through 12. Many students in K through 12 do not ever come to our campuses.
Irma McClaurin (Ford Foundation): I just have a question about administration; I was struck by your description of what it is that chairs now have to do in terms of the kinds of skills they need to have. My question would be that you’ve been there for five years and some of you have been chairs for a long time, but for that new generation that may be coming in when you retire or decide you want to go back to doing research, how do they acquire those skills? This is not something where that information is necessarily shared. I wonder if you can say a little about that.
Nathaniel Norment, Jr. (Temple University): One thing I think we all mentioned is that it is almost being run like a corporation. There are meetings in terms of the president, the provosts, dean’s meetings where they have different components of the university. The budget director comes in and gives a presentation; the development office; all the offices of the university to make the university official come in; and you have chairs leading workshops on how to do these things. The whole thing of the digital piece, you can go in on a morning and you have thirty emails from either the dean or some office. And I’m not one of those who is very computer literate, so I’ve had to learn that in the last five years. You need to turn on the computer.
At Temple, the president that we’ve had for the last three years, even appointment letters of adjuncts, there’s a form. You can go on the web and find every form that you need to do everything you need. You don’t have to think but you need to know how to enter things. As for the young people coming in, they will train you. But I think in my experience you have to be committed to the discipline, because it is a constant battle with the dean, with the provosts and the president. They’ll teach you budgets. Even the secretary meets with the budget director each month to go through the budget. In a budget, you don’t have much money to manage; maybe for paper, copying, and so forth. But everything else is salaries and everything else. … I think it’s important that faculty work together and identify the mission and roles of the department’s disciplines, I think the management piece of the university is all top down and you really don’t have much choice as to what you do… .
Edmund T. Gordon (University of Texas, Austin): In terms of administration, my biggest problem is dealing with joint appointments, particularly the intellectual aspect of it. It is enormously difficult for the chairs in our system to play a role in terms of three-year reviews and tenure reviews. And for me to be handling twenty-five faculty members who have those kinds of needs where my input is key in terms of trying to get intellectual arguments for these folks in front of the university and in front of their departments … it is an enormous problem. I just want to get that on the table. And if somebody has something they can help me out with that situation, please—as it relates to best practices—see me afterwards.
Terry Kershaw (Virginia Tech): I have a point I want to raise in terms of leadership. We also need to think about this in terms of mentoring future leaders, and in particular mentoring them to understand the difference between leadership as status quo and leadership for change. All the things that you were talking about, Nate, help to promote the status quo. But we also have a responsibility to show them how to bring about change. And it seems to me you do that by giving them opportunities to show that leadership; going to committees and seeing how they work, for example; understanding the initiatives of the university; getting involved in those kinds of opportunities, it seems to me, helps to cultivate in them a certain sense of this is what I’ve got to deal with and this is what I have to move, and this is the way to do it. So through practice and through mentoring, but also through understanding the difference between leadership of the status quo and leadership of change. It seems to me a part of what we have to do is try to bring about change. So our leadership has to be about the business of trying to change those fundamental relationships.
Abdul Alkalimat (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign): Let me make a concluding point that the best practices, it seems to me, lead to two things. First, whenever we gather, like at this meeting, it would be helpful, for example, to have a huge table so that we can do show and tell. In other words, we don’t know what’s really happening on each other’s campus. But we all produce products, reports, and other things. So we’ve got to be able to share these things. And it’s cost effective just to bring a document and let everybody take a glance at it.
The second thing is that we need manuals; how to do whatever; because we can’t just clone ourselves. So as an example, the Cyber Church project that I talked about, we produced a manual and we’re trying to get Black Studies programs to adopt the relationship between their program and the local church community. And by church I mean all religions. The other thing is with regards to hip-hop, we can’t talk about that enough because that is the cultural matrix out of which our students are coming.
We have a project on information technology. Guess what? [He shows participants a CD case.] This is our local hip-hop community. This is a CD about information technology; it’s the gateway to the future. Get linked or they mute you.
Irma McClaurin (Ford Foundation): I need to ask the question because I think your point is well taken. One of the things I would encourage you to do is to possibly go to the National Women’s Studies Association’s website, because one of the things they have on there are guidelines where they maintain the kind of information that you’re talking about; how-to manuals for running a Women’s Studies program. And they’ve compiled the best practices. And what I’m hearing is that there’s no one location where one can go if you are administering an Afro-American Studies program for some examples of those best practices or guidelines. So that’s something to think about as to how to grow the field; consolidating and putting that together and trying to figure out where would be the best location for that kind of information, I think, would be really important.