For 50 years, African and African American Research (AAAS) existed at Stanford as a tutorial program: the primary ethnic research program at Stanford and the primary African and African American Research program at a non-public establishment within the U.S. In 2021, after half a century of scholar and college activism calling for this system to be expanded into a proper division, a activity drive charged with recommending a brand new framework for the research of race advisable the departmentalization of AAAS at Stanford.
The Committee for the Departmentalization of AAAS was created and tasked with outlining departmentalization plans. The committee’s chair, English Professor and Chair of the English Division Ato Quayson, will change into the inaugural chair of the AAAS division.
The Each day spoke with Quayson about AAAS and its future as a division.
This interview has been evenly edited and condensed for readability.
The Stanford Each day [TSD]: What’s the distinction between a division and a program?
Ato Quayson [AQ]: The undergraduate curriculum is generally delivered, or powered by, departments. Departments are answerable for designing and planning long-term curriculum. Packages — inter-departmental packages (IDPs) — are totally different. Within the English division, my colleagues right here and myself have a required set of educating obligations yearly, and you need to ship it. If you happen to don’t ship it, you could possibly be requested questions. The IDPs and AAAS program rely upon the goodwill of professors. Now, this goodwill dependency implies that their basis programs are sometimes taught by visiting school, lecturers — and they also’ve been doing nicely … however the consistency just isn’t at all times there for the straightforward cause that they don’t have the steadfast dedication. We aren’t obliged to show something for AASS; it’s goodwill. Sometimes the programs are cross-listed programs, however the educational school are usually not obliged to show it in these. So the very first thing is continuity of high quality supply, as a result of the division can rent school and the college have a dedication to show and serve on the division degree.
The second factor is: allow us to say the English division needed to develop a brand new space in media and literary research. We may go to the library and inform them “you already know what, we would like you to place collectively all related media and literature assets on the planet and make it out there for us.” A program has no energy to try this — to requisition assets. Solely departments can try this. Even now, I’m already in dialog with the Inexperienced Library for me to share with them what I feel are assets we’d want to start out a brand new division. That is large, as a result of the college may also assign a price range. The division, it’s a special ballgame. It’s a serious improve in energy … over what a program can do.
[TSD]: What sparked efforts to departmentalize AAAS and what did the method seem like?
[AQ]: The method was lengthy. This system is over 50 years outdated. It was arrange within the late 60s, after scholar rights demonstrations and scholar calls for. It was a program that was run very effectively, however there’s at all times been calls for for departmentalization, endlessly. There’s a historical past of it. At all times asking or demanding. College students asking. College asking.
Now, one thing modified after George Floyd. George Floyd made the calls for appear extra believable to the college. George Floyd, let’s name it the second of George Floyd, modified The College’s perspective towards, you already know, Black research or African American/African research. To chop a protracted story quick, a committee was struck to have a look at Black research — not simply African American Research, or AAAS, however what the environment of Black Research was like. The primary advice they got here up with was to arrange a division. One other crucial advice was to arrange an Institute on Race. As quickly as the advice got here down from the committee, I used to be part of the committee. The provost lit up. She was terribly supportive of the whole course of from departmentalization.
I used to be chair of the committee, and the committee was fact-finding. We’ve met lots of people, invited individuals to speak to us. The committee met from April 21, 2021 to roughly Could or June 2022. That is the method: a number of conversations. We invited our competitor establishments from everywhere in the nation: Harvard, Princeton, Michigan, UCLA. We discovered the most effective observe — “how did you arrange your division,” and so forth, at Columbia. We obtained actually good recommendation and suggestions, and we … fed all that recommendation into our personal doc. The provost obtained the report. All of the whereas, the provost gave us indications that we must always dream massive. She really mentioned it to us on the assembly: “Dream massive.” So we’ve dreamt massive. Proper now, the place we’re at, the curriculum has simply been authorised. Within the remaining section, it needs to be offered to the Senate. There’s a distinction between the curriculum and the division. The curriculum will begin within the fall of 2023. However the division will begin in 2024.
[TSD]: Why do you suppose it’s vital that AAAS is its personal division?
[AQ]: A part of the reply has to do with the truth that a division is significantly better for delivering excellence than a program. It will possibly ship extra and it has a dedication of Tutorial Council school, higher programming, higher curricular and extracurricular packages.
However the different factor is that Stanford is approach behind its rivals. It’s embarrassing. Harvard arrange its division, not program, in 1968. Princeton arrange its division approach, approach again. For many universities it’s been in several phases. First, within the late 60s, there was a clutch of AAAS departments. Then there was a hiatus till the early 2000s, then one other clutch of them. Extra lately, from about 2017-18, Columbia is blowing up. Columbia arrange a division of African American and African Diaspora Research. The College of California, Santa Barbara additionally arrange theirs. This was simply final 12 months.
So Stanford is definitely embarrassingly behind its rivals, however … now we have to get on with it. The second cause why it’s vital to have an AAAS division, versus merely a program, is that it additionally helps in recruiting each college students and college. Many nice Black school which have come to Stanford which have left — they arrive, however there’s no group. The division will meet that want. So we are able to appeal to a number of the brightest minds. Not simply Black however Black figuring out [folks]. So the division’s not an enclave. It’s for Black individuals and anybody who identifies with the superb mission. That’s so mainly Stanford can catch up. Now we have a number of vibrant college students with no clear focus. A division will repair that.
[TSD]: What’s going to AAAS, the foremost, seem like as part of a division?
[AQ]: It’ll have three tracks. It’ll have the African American Research monitor and the African Research monitor; each of those are already out there at Stanford in several configurations. However it’s going to have a 3rd monitor additionally: a World Black Diaspora Research monitor. The breadth necessities would require that every of the tracks — if, let’s say, you had been doing an African American Research monitor, you need to take some programs in African Research and in addition in World Black Diaspora Research. That’s very totally different from how issues are proper now.
The second distinctive function is that it’s going to have an inbuilt group engagement facet. Group engagement shall be a requirement. They’ll take it for items. Group engagement shall be descriptive, so some a part of the course you’ll have to establish a group. There’ll be a director of group engagement within the division who assists, advises and locations college students. Group engagement can cowl quite a lot of issues. It will possibly cowl Black organizations, not simply within the Bay Space; presumably a lot of the analysis could possibly be additional out.
[TSD]: As the present chair of AAAS, what’s your imaginative and prescient for the division and the longer term?
[AQ]: Let me preface this by saying: I’m an optimist. I see lovely issues. Let’s begin from fundamental scholar members. I see, I envision, I mission that it must be fashionable. Faith at present has one thing like 14 majors. Historical past has one thing like 61 majors. English has 130 majors and is likely one of the greatest within the humanities and social sciences. The AAAS program has 15 majors. My projection is that, in 5 years, we needs to be hovering round 50. That is my dream … it will take a really very long time to be as massive as English, however we are able to undoubtedly outstrip faith and linguistics.
The second factor is that we are going to get to place out mental programming. This isn’t simply programs …as a result of I at all times suppose past Stanford, however within the area, in California, and nicely past, we wish to be a hub. Consider the metaphor of a beehive. Everyone seems to be coming to take a little bit of the holy circle and in addition deposit what they’ve and so forth. To be a depository of excellence. It’s my job to suppose like that — it’s going to be massive … Everybody shall be there.
There was a information merchandise that they wrote introducing me as a brand new chair, and I mentioned that I don’t care the place you come from. You can be Korean. You can be German. You can be Greek. I don’t care, however you need to be capable of align your self with a wonderful mission represented by AAAS. We’re not organising an enclave. This can be a division of the College. Division of excellence. I would like as many individuals as doable to establish with what it’s to Black tradition, Black society, to know “American” otherwise. America is known in quite a lot of methods. There may be nonetheless room to outline what it’s to be American via them.
[TSD]: What’s the present standing of AAAS now and what ought to we begin to count on from it sooner or later?
[AQ]: It’s close to completion. Curriculum has been authorised, areas are being sorted out. They’ve assigned this house, it’s going to be refurbished and we’re able to roll. Now we have a sure variety of school inside to the College who’ve already agreed to hitch the division. We’re additionally considering some model new hires. Within the subsequent 5 years, we’re going to rent fairly a number of individuals. The long run is vibrant, it’s golden and it’s fantastic.