N.J. students protest lack of support for Africana Studies program

The protesters at Seton Hall University, led by the Protect AFAM Movement, claim the South Orange college – the first in New Jersey to offer Africana Studies – has stopped its commitment to the program.

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Students at a college in New Jersey are protesting what they call the school’s lack of support for its own program in Africana Studies.

Seton Hall University students left classes Wednesday in protest to draw attention to its Africana Studies courses. According to ABC7 New York, they claim that the South Orange university – which in 1970 became the first in the state to offer an Africana Studies program – has stopped its commitment to the program.

“We came here hoping to get this education that’s offered online,” student Elizabeth Tescum said, ABC7 reported. “It says ‘lively and thriving, Africana Studies, the first in New Jersey,’ you know, the first university to have it, and they’re not giving us the resources.”

Africana Studies Seton Hall
Students at Seton Hall University protest on Wednesday, decrying what they call a lack of support for the Africana Studies program. (Photo: Screenshot/YouTube.com/CBS New York)

The protest, led by the Protect AFAM Movement, became a sit-in at the university president’s office. The group claimed Seton Hall representatives put off gathering resources or posting a job opening for a new tenured professor for the program, making it impossible for students to fulfill majors or minors in Africana Studies, according to NJ.com.

“The program’s only full-time professor and program director was forced out of the university,” part of a statement from Protect AFAM read, NJ.com reported, “and our administration has failed to recognize the severity and urgency of the situation.”

Students claim that the institution misrepresents the teacher deficit in Africana Studies. According to ABC7, they allege that just a few students can enroll and that the institution frequently discontinues it because of a lack of dedication to the program.

Jayde Dieu said that she wanted to take Africana Studies while enrolling in pre-law programs but was told that wasn’t the best route for political science.

“So students are actually discouraged from taking Africana courses,” she contended, ABC7 reported.

This reportedly isn’t the first time Seton Hall students voiced their concerns about the program, formerly a department. In 2018, a group known as the Concerned 44 held a demonstration at President’s Hall, taking over the campus site for several days. Their efforts resulted in responses to some of their demands, but none of the university’s promises “have seen meaningful longevity,” Protect AFAM officials said in a statement.

The movement wants the Catholic university to hire three or four full-time professors, hire a full-time tenured director for the program, reestablish Africana Studies as a department by next spring and permit students to act as search committee liaisons with the ability to vote on hiring.

While the former director of Africana Studies at Seton Hall claimed the institution does not adequately fund social issue-related courses, the university maintained that it knows how vital the program is to students and its curriculum.

“Seton Hall University enthusiastically supports the discipline of Africana Studies,” the university said in a statement, ABC7 reported, “and underscores how vital it is for all our students, independent of their major field of study, to be able to learn about their (and other) cultures, histories, and identities.”

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