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Black Studies: Building on a Proud Tradition

Department experiences unprecedented departures

A team of faculty and staff is working to respond to an unprecedented wave of near-simultaneous departures of Black Studies faculty at SUNY New Paltz.

Department of Black Studies Chair Major Coleman, College President Donald P. Christian, Interim Provost Stella Deen and Dean of Liberal Arts & Sciences Laura Barrett met on June 12 to discuss possible courses of action following the sudden loss of four Black Studies faculty. Long-tenured professors A.J. Williams-Meyers and Zelbert Moore have announced their retirements, LaTasha Brown is transferring to the Department of Digital Media & Journalism and Karanja Carroll has resigned.

Plans are underway for the prompt hiring of two, two-year visiting assistant professors and additional adjunct professors to support immediate class demands and student advising and mentoring needs. Funding for all positions vacated by retirement or resignation remains in the Black Studies Department budget. The ultimate goal is to refill the vacancies with full-time, tenure-track faculty.

A strategy for filling newly-vacant tenured faculty positions in Black Studies is also being developed. In crafting this strategy, faculty and administrative leadership are guided by a recent External Review Report of the department, submitted on May 2.

External reviews of all academic departments at New Paltz are conducted every five years in accordance with accepted best practices for colleges and universities.

“We view external reviews as opportunities to look at what we do well and what we can do to make strong programs better, and we appreciate the need for academic programs to align with new and important national trends and intellectual dialogues to better serve students,” said Interim Provost Deen. “External reviews help our departments identify pathways to that alignment, and so we think of them as indicative of our investment and our confidence in our academic departments and faculty.”

The Black Studies External Review team, which consisted of Veronica Gregg, Associate Professor at Hunter College, and James Stewart, Professor Emeritus at Pennsylvania State University, recommended that in replacing outgoing faculty the Department of Black Studies should aim to address “fundamental intellectual and pedagogical shifts in the discipline.”

In their conversations with Black Studies majors and minors, the review team observed that “the students value strong mentoring relationships with faculty and see the need for updating curriculum and for employing more engaging pedagogical strategies.”

Some steps have already been approved for achieving this goal. The President’s Office has allotted resources to the department to develop an “internal development workshop, facilitated by an invited specialist,” per the recommendations of the review, and staff will continue partnering with students and faculty to implement the recommendations of the External Review Report and ensure the sustained vitality of Black Studies at SUNY New Paltz, Deen said.