Florida State University’s W.E.B. DuBois Honor Society will sponsor a long-awaited civil sit down with some of the university’s top administrators Thursday at 7 p.m.
Every black organization on campus is expected to be present, along with FSU’s provost.
The panel discussion “It’s a Major Issue,” to be held in the Oglesby Student Union was originally intended to focus on FSU’s lack of an African American Studies major. However, after several conversations between the society and FSU brass, as well as a piece on a local news station, the discussion will now center on how FSU can go about obtaining the major.
The change in focus came as a surprise to Patrick Mason. Mason, FSU’s director of African-American Studies and associate professor of Economics said he could make the plans and draw up the proposals to put the major in place. But ultimately Mason said he is not the one who is able to make that decision.
“Knowing how to get one is not difficult at all,” said Mason, who’s been at FSU since 1999. “If that’s where we are, that’s good.”
If the major ever comes into existence at FSU, it definitely wouldn’t be groundbreaking. Five other schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference, including the University of Miami, offer African-American studies as a major. Florida International and the University of South Florida, fellow institutions in the state university system, also offer the major.
Mason pointed to institutions of higher learning located in areas with little to no black population, such as the University of Wyoming and the University of New Mexico.
“You can go to the University of Paris and major in African-American studies,” Mason said.
“What do the people in Paris know that we apparently do not?”
Currently, FSU offers undergraduate degrees in Latin American, Caribbean, Asian, Russian and East European studies.
FSU offers four courses in it’s African-American studies minor.
“It’s very backwards because FSU has this big black population,” said Donnie Garner, president of the FSU Black Student Union. “There are a lot of students who want to study African-American history further.”
Both Mason and Garner agree that FSU would have to increase the number of black faculty who have done research in the necessary areas.
Members of the honor society don’t want Thursday’s discussion to be the grounds for students to protest against the administration.
Garner said he has warned approximately 1,000 potential attendees via mass e-mail to make sure they do research before asking questions and act accordingly.
“It’s not so much that we worried about a riot or anything like that,” said Brittney Biggs, member of the honor society who serves on the panel discussion’s committee.
“It’s just that it’s taken a few tries as far as getting everyone together. We want the focus of the panel to be at the forefront.”
Mason said he believes it’s unfortunate that African-American studies is still fighting for academic legitimacy in a lot of people’s eyes.
“This is not about racial or ethnic cheerleading,” Mason said. “This is about serious academic inquiry.”
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