For 50 years, African and African American Research (AAAS) existed at Stanford as an educational program: the primary ethnic research program at Stanford and the primary African and African American Research program at a personal establishment within the U.S. In 2021, after half a century of pupil and college activism calling for this system to be expanded into a proper division, a process power charged with recommending a brand new framework for the examine of race really useful 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 turn out to be the inaugural chair of the AAAS division.
The Day by day spoke with Quayson about AAAS and its future as a division.
This interview has been calmly edited and condensed for readability.
The Stanford Day by day [TSD]: What’s the distinction between a division and a program?
Ato Quayson [AQ]: The undergraduate curriculum is often delivered, or powered by, departments. Departments are in control of designing and planning long-term curriculum. Applications — inter-departmental packages (IDPs) — are totally different. Within the English division, my colleagues right here and myself have a required set of instructing obligations yearly, and it’s a must to ship it. In case you don’t ship it, you may be requested questions. The IDPs and AAAS program depend upon the goodwill of professors. Now, this goodwill dependency implies that their basis programs are usually taught by visiting school, lecturers — and they also’ve been doing properly … however the consistency will not be all the time there for the straightforward cause that they don’t have the steadfast dedication. We’re not obliged to show something for AASS; it’s goodwill. Usually the programs are cross-listed programs, however the tutorial 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 school have a dedication to show and serve on the division stage.
The second factor is: allow us to say the English division wished 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 sources on this planet and make it accessible for us.” A program has no energy to do this — to requisition sources. Solely departments can try this. Even now, I’m already in dialog with the Inexperienced Library for me to share with them what I believe are sources we would want to begin a brand new division. That is big, as a result of the college can even assign a funds. The division, it’s a unique ballgame. It’s a significant 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 previous. It was arrange within the late 60s, after pupil rights demonstrations and pupil calls for. It was a program that was run very effectively, however there’s all the time been calls for for departmentalization, endlessly. There’s a historical past of it. All the time 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 an extended story brief, a committee was struck to have a look at Black research — not simply African American Research, or AAAS, however what the ambiance of Black Research was like. The primary suggestion they got here up with was to arrange a division. One other essential suggestion 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 your complete 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 folks to speak to us. The committee met from April 21, 2021 to roughly Might or June 2022. That is the method: numerous conversations. We invited our competitor establishments from everywhere in the nation: Harvard, Princeton, Michigan, UCLA. We discovered the most effective follow — “how did you arrange your division,” and so forth, at Columbia. We acquired actually good recommendation and suggestions, and we … fed all that recommendation into our personal doc. The provost acquired the report. All of the whereas, the provost gave us indications that we should 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 authorized. Within the last part, 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 necessary that AAAS is its personal division?
[AQ]: A part of the reply has to do with the truth that a division is a lot better for delivering excellence than a program. It could 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 means behind its opponents. It’s embarrassing. Harvard arrange its division, not program, in 1968. Princeton arrange its division means, means again. For many universities it’s been in numerous 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 not too long ago, 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 opponents, however … we’ve got to get on with it. The second cause why it’s necessary 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 among the brightest minds. Not simply Black however Black figuring out [folks]. So the division’s not an enclave. It’s for Black folks and anybody who identifies with the superb mission. That’s so mainly Stanford can catch up. We’ve numerous brilliant college students with no clear focus. A division will repair that.
[TSD]: What’s going to AAAS, the most important, seem like as part of a division?
[AQ]: It can have three tracks. It can have the African American Research monitor and the African Research monitor; each of those are already accessible at Stanford in numerous configurations. However it can 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 have been doing an African American Research monitor, it’s a must 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 side. Group engagement will probably be a requirement. They’ll take it for items. Group engagement will probably be descriptive, so some a part of the course you’ll have to determine a group. There’ll be a director of group engagement within the division who assists, advises and locations college students. Group engagement can cowl a variety of issues. It could possibly cowl Black organizations, not simply within the Bay Space; presumably a lot of the analysis might be additional out.
[TSD]: As the present chair of AAAS, what’s your imaginative and prescient for the division and the long run?
[AQ]: Let me preface this by saying: I’m an optimist. I see lovely issues. Let’s begin from primary pupil members. I see, I envision, I mission that it must be widespread. Faith at the moment has one thing like 14 majors. Historical past has one thing like 61 majors. English has 130 majors and is among 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 positively outstrip faith and linguistics.
The second factor is that we’ll get to place out mental programming. This isn’t simply programs …as a result of I all the time suppose past Stanford, however within the area, in California, and properly past, we need 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’ll be massive … Everybody will probably 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 possibly can be Korean. You possibly can be German. You possibly can be Greek. I don’t care, however it is best to have the ability to align your self with a superb mission represented by AAAS. We’re not organising an enclave. This can be a division of the College. Division of excellence. I need as many individuals as attainable to determine with what it’s to Black tradition, Black society, to know “American” in a different way. America is known in a wide range of methods. There’s 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 anticipate from it sooner or later?
[AQ]: It’s close to completion. Curriculum has been authorized, areas are being sorted out. They’ve assigned this house, it’s going to be refurbished and we’re able to roll. We’ve a sure variety of school inside to the College who’ve already agreed to affix the division. We’re additionally considering some model new hires. Within the subsequent 5 years, we’re going to rent fairly a couple of folks. The long run is brilliant, it’s golden and it’s fantastic.