Students and faculty push for establishing Africana studies minor

Women’s studies program director C.K. Magliola has been a part of shaping the curriculum for the women’s studies minor, which was created in 2005. Photo by Cassidy Keola

For almost a year, integrated educational studies professor Quaylan Allen has wanted to create an established Africana studies minor at Chapman. But Allen now faces the obstacle of finding 12 students to enroll in the program and make it an established minor in the course catalog.

Allen’s goal is to show students that the minor isn’t tailored to black students. Instead, he said, it’s meant for those who are interested in learning about or working in the fields like global affairs or locally in the communities that are discussed within the program.

“You shouldn’t need demand to know this is important to have on the college campus, if we want to compete with universities and be seen as the Harvard of the west,” Allen said. “Well, guess what? Harvard has these types of programs.”

Jacky Dang, a junior screenwriting and peace studies double major, has a self-designed Africana studies minor, serves as cochair on the Diversity and Inclusion Curriculum Task Force, and is involved in the Chapman Diversity Project. She’s helped Allen and Jerrica Newkirk, a senior integrated education studies major, advocate for the establishment of the Africana studies minor.

“It’s so important to have identities reflected in the curriculum that we haven’t been able to experience or be a part of,” Dang said. “It’s been taught through history that curriculum is very Eurocentric with a lot of white pedagogy, so being able to study outside of what we know is critical to be a proper human.”

Africana studies began as a self-designed minor when Newkirk was one of the first to take part in the program. The Africana studies cluster examines humanities in African and African American culture while looking at its contributions to world civilization, according to Chapman’s course catalog.

Allen, who spoke on the program at Chapman’s 2018 Education & Ethnic Studies summit, and has acted as a liaison between students and the administration. The group has also reached out to administration and faculty who might be interested in teaching courses for the minor.

“We help look over the syllabus (for the minor) before it goes through, and then also asking students from clubs and classrooms to see what classes they like, what classes they don’t like and then also what classes they want to create,” Dang said. “It’s important to include students in that voice.”

Another thing that Dang mentioned the task force considers is the diversity of staff involved in the minor.

“(Chapman should) hire more professors who are people of color, so we can see more of ourselves reflected on campus,” Dang said. “Half the student population isn’t white, so shouldn’t the faculty also be like that?”

Chapman hired activist and professor Prexy Nesbitt to teach in the peace studies department, Allen said, but Nesbitt has also shown interest in supporting the Africana studies minor.

Nina LeNoir, Chapman’s vice provost for Undergraduate Education, said that interdisciplinary minors aren’t just for those part of that culture.

“We’re not going to learn about each other if we separate each other,” LeNoir said. “Creating an atmosphere where everyone is welcome is going to be a big challenge, but I think they’re doing that.”

Interdisciplinary minors at Chapman began when the women’s studies program was created in fall 2005, according to LeNoir. Since its inception, these unique areas of study now include a disability studies minor and a LGBTQ studies minor.

But some students in the LGBTQ studies minor struggle to find courses to complete the program, with after the core requirements are done – because the electives are only offered “as needed.”

Ally Evans, a junior creative writing major and LGBTQ studies minor, said she understands the university doesn’t offer some classes every semester because they might not be filled to maximum capacity, but believes it’s still necessary to offer them.

LeNoir told The Panther that the university doesn’t want to “allocate resources where there’s no interest.”

“I’m sitting here as a junior, going to graduate and I need three more classes that I haven’t taken,” Evans said. “I find that because we don’t have our own classes, the school looks at them and says, ‘The major doesn’t need these right now.’ They don’t think about the minor.”

C.K. Magliola, a women’s studies professor, said the program struggled in its beginnings because there was no faculty to teach the core courses. But Magliola sees her teachings as essential to educating well-rounded students.

“You can graduate and go your entire educational career … and if you didn’t take Intro to Women’s Studies, then you wouldn’t know so many important basic things,” Magliola said. “Our curriculum, our culture, our academia is androcentric.”