On February 4, 2016, President Degioia articulated a clear urgency for Georgetown to address the continuing legacies of slavery and racial injustice. He launched a new initiative “…because our social and political culture has not been remedied; and, in fact, from a set of recent events, it has deteriorated; because there is a holy impatience among the African-American community that delay is just another way of saying NO; because the moral imperative for complete social justice continues to summon us not to discussion but to action and that summons will not go away–we ignore social morality at our peril.
There were several key features of the initiative: 1) the construction of a new academic unit with faculty devoted to the teaching of an African-American Studies undergraduate major, minor, and elective courses, 2) the building of a Research Center on Racial Justice, 3) the establishment of PhD fellowships and postdoctoral fellowships to help staff the Center, 4) the recruitment of new faculty to staff the academic unit and the research unit, and 5) the establishment of a senior administrative officer to help faculty recruitment with an aim to enhancing the representation of faculty of color at Georgetown.
A Working Group of faculty, staff, and students has been meeting for several weeks.1 I thought it might be a good time to let everyone know how the work is proceeding.
The group first discussed alternative plans for the academic unit. The group decided it would best if it were a department in the College and drafted a mission statement for the unit. It would have both 100% tenure-line faculty, joint appointments with units from other campuses and schools, and, if necessary, non-tenure-line faculty. The department would have an annual budget, by-laws governing its work, and a reporting line to the Dean of the College. Joint appointments between African-American Studies and other units would have formal memoranda of understanding with other units, which specified the rights and responsibilities of the jointly-appointed faculty member and the two units involved. A chair of the department would be recommended by the core faculty and forwarded to the president, as with all department chairs, for final appointment. Current Georgetown faculty, who were previously active in the African-American Studies program, have been polled regarding their anticipated role in the new department.
The working group then tackled the recruitment of the faculty for the initiative. It decided to launch a search for four faculty members of open rank for the African-American Studies Department. The group drafted an advertisement for all four positions simultaneously, in order to underscore the institutional commitment to the initiative. The searches mounted in academic year 2016-2017 will recruit core faculty members to the department, those whose citizenship is primarily focused on the department. The searches planned for 2017-2018 will focus more fully on the leadership of the Research Center.
The Graduate School is re-establishing the Healy fellowships for graduate student support, which we hope might also benefit the Research Center.
The Working Group is now beginning to discuss the desirable attributes of the Research Center. President Degioia specified that the Center will be a university-wide entity, and one of the topics of discussion is how best to ensure the sustainable health of such a unit at Georgetown. It has already realized that there are many faculty members whose scholarship might be relevant to the Center. Hence, it is considering how best to get input from those faculty members on the future outlines of the Center.
The Working Group is on schedule with its task as assigned by the president. We will meet over the summer to extend our work. With each meeting, the group reminds itself how important a task they have been given. We have much more to do, but we are making progress on this important initiative for Georgetown.
1 The members of the working group are Reena Aggarwal, Paul Butler, Soyica Colbert, Robert Groves, Edward Healton, Maurice Jackson, Rosemary Kilkenny, Charles King, Gwen Mikell, Angelyn Mitchell, Jasmin Ouseph, Robert Patterson, Precious Stephens-Ihedigbo, William Treanor, Edilma Yearwood.