March 31, 2011

University Increases Budget For Africana Center By More Than 50 Percent

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The University promised Thursday to increase the budget of the Africana Studies and Research Center by more than 50 percent over the next five years. The University has faced sustained opposition to the transfer of the center to the College of Arts and Sciences.

While administrators have guaranteed additional funding for Africana since the relocation was announced in December, Thursday’s pledge — which would increase the center’s permanent budget from $2.3 million to $3.5 million — was the first time the University made a specific fiscal commitment to the center.

Additionally, ASRC will receive a one-time allocation of $2 million to “recruit new faculty, support research and develop a new Ph.D. program,” according to a University statement.

Some students, however, argued that the administrative relocation of Africana would compromise the 42-year-old center’s autonomy — a loss they said was not solved by the additional funding.

“I welcome the increase in resources; I don’t welcome the merge. And I don’t see this as a mutually exclusive situation,” said Zach Murray ’11, co-chair of Black Students United.

He added that the funding increase contradicts the administration’s rationale for Africana’s transfer, since, according to Murray, the University cited budget shortfalls in defense of the relocation.

“The whole argument of reduced revenue doesn’t make sense here. For them to use that as an excuse for why Africana has to move into the College of Arts and Sciences is invalid — it’s fallacious,” Murray said.

Another student who has voiced opposition to the proposed transfer of Africana, Tia Hicks ’11 agreed that the University’s financial pledge did not mean she supports the relocation.

Professors in Africana studies did not respond to requests for comment late Thursday night.

“We are unable to comment because it’s brand new information to us,” said Gregory Rothman, press secretary for the Save Africana Action Committee, referring to the announcement.

According to the University, the center’s relocation, effective July 1, will bolster Africana studies at Cornell.

“[The center] will remain both a center and an academic department. The director will also be the department chair with the same authority and influence over the budget as any other department chair in the college,” the University’s press release Thursday stated.

Despite assurances that Africana director will exercise the same control over his department as department chairs across the University, Murray said the center’s current, distinctive status is what made Africana reputable.

“What makes Cornell great is that it’s an anomaly, as a public land grant university,” Murray said. Similarly, “Africana is a top ranked program because of its anomaly status.”

The University’s statement also notes that the increased funding “was sent out at the same time budgets for 2012, which include $31 million in reductions already scheduled in other units, were issued to all deans and vice presidents.”

Original Author: Jeff Stein