Saturday, December 09, 2006

More News stories about new IAS Director

African Studies at Columbia
Mamadou Diouf, the incoming director of the Institute of African Studies at the School of International and Public Affairs, is visiting campus this week in anticipation of his appointment this coming summer.Diouf, a professor of history and African-American and African studies at the University of Michigan, said he was looking forward to taking over the institute, which has been without a director since 2004. In May, SIPA Dean Lisa Anderson temporarily suspended the institute because of funding and staffing issues. In a meeting Friday, Columbia administrators will formally introduce Diouf to students. While student leaders stated that they were excited about the appointment, they said Diouf would need support and that they could not be the sole providers of that support."I'm extremely excited about his being appointed," said Christabel Dadzie, SIPA '07 and president of the SIPA Pan-African Network. "He wants to make Africa part of the discussion. We have someone who knows what he's talking about."Vice President for Arts and Sciences Nicholas Dirks said that while regional studies at Columbia have already begun to gain from a more sociopolitical and economic perspective, Diouf would help "catalyze" the interdisciplinary study Africa required."Professor Diouf will be one of the key architects of that reality," he said. "This is a several-part effort now, which of course is to reopen the African Institute, reinvigorate it, provide resources for it, connect better outside the University."He added that he'd like to avoid the understaffing that tugged on former director Mahmood Mamdani's efforts: "We still have to hire quite a number of faculty."Diouf said he was eager to try to tap into the financial and educational resources Columbia, New York, and Africa itself could offer the institute."It's great-this is a great place to be," he said, adding that the institute will connect with students in nearby universities and Africa. For the full story:


Dear Friends,For those of you who have not seen this, I would like to draw yourattention to the announcement about the hire of a Director for theIAS. Again, thanks to everyone for all your efforts. This isdefinitely the beginning of greater things to come for AfricanStudies in Columbia.
Best,Christabel DadziePresident, SPAN

Mamadou Diouf, West African Scholar, Selected to Lead Columbia'sInstitute of African Studies.Bollinger hails Diouf's hiring as a critical step forward inUniversity's work on AfricaOn December 7th, Columbia University President Lee C. Bollingerannounced today that Mamadou Diouf, a renowned West African scholarand historian, has been hired to lead Columbia's Institute forAfrican Studies at the School of International and Public Affairs.Diouf will also become a faculty member in Columbia's Department ofHistory."We are delighted to have someone of Mamadou Diouf's extraordinarytalents and admired scholarship to join us and take on theleadership of our Institute for African Studies," said Bollinger."His hiring is an important step toward fulfilling our goal ofmaking Columbia the foremost center for teaching and research, inboth theory and practice, on Africa—its history and culture, itspolitics and economics, its challenges in public health andextraordinary human potential."Diouf will join Columbia on July 1. He is currently a member of thefaculty at the University of Michigan in the Department of History,where he also serves in the Center for Afroamerican and AfricanStudies.For the complete article:

Monday, November 06, 2006

Student meeting with President Bollinger

Student Meeting with President Bollinger
October 24th, 2006; 3pm

In attendance: President Lee Bollinger; Christabel Dadzie(SIPA); Fanta Toure (SIPA); Adoma Adjei-Brenyah (Columbia College); Christopher Kuonqui (SIPA)

President Bollinger expressed his agreement with the students’ concerns about the suspension of the Institute of African Studies. He stated that it is an embarrassment for Columbia University to only have 2 or 3 senior Africanist faculty; An institution like Columbia should have 12 or 13 faculty members teaching contemporary Africa, and this will become a reality in the next 3 to 5 years.

It was a shock to him that the IAS was suspended. The Institute was closed down by the Dean of SIPA. Deans have the prerogative to make such decisions. It was unfortunate that Dean Anderson found the need to close down the Institute, and the University is doing all it can to address the issues that surrounded its closure.

He shared various projects that he was working on to promote a better African program at Columbia. He is also working on major funding avenues for African studies. These initiatives cannot be made public yet as they have not been finalized, however, he is sure that most of them will be finalized soon. The President is particularly passionate about research centering on economic development in Africa; and discussing this issue from a practical perspective. He is hopeful that a major grant he is working on will be able to support this initiative, among others.

The President’s Office has committed a couple hundred thousand dollars (was not able to give a definite figure at this time) to running the Institute. This commitment has been shared with Prof. Diouf, a candidate for Director of the IAS.

President Bollinger explained that Vice President Dirks is in charge of hiring Africanist faculty, and has begun to work on various initiatives with current departments to make this a reality. The Administration is incorporating Africa into the larger discussion within the Committee on Global Thought, the Earth Institute, among others.

He believes that SIPA should be the core academic Institution to make the Institutes bigger and better, but unfortunately, SIPA does not have the financial and logistical capacity to make this a reality. The goal is to aid SIPA to overcome these barriers as it makes sense for SIPA to be the central force for the revitalization of all regional institutes at Columbia University. Addressing space issues is one of the ways moving forward, but this will take time. There are plans for SIPA to either move into URIS or Manhattanville, and will have a building of its own. This will solve most of SIPA’s space issues. In the meantime VP Dirks has plans for creating space for the IAS to be reopened.

The Office of the President has plans to offer a major communication to the community in January. This public statement is meant to share the impressive set of projects / funds that have been put in place for Africa. According to President Bollinger, “The University is looking into every opportunity to study Africa, and this is absolutely a central part of my Presidency”

In the meantime, President Bollinger has agreed to issue a public statement about Columbia University’s commitment to African Studies and to elaborate on the projects that the University is currently undertaking to revitalize African Studies at the Institution.

Student Meeting with Vice President Dirks

Meeting with Vice President Nicholas Dirks, Vice President for Arts and Sciences, and Professor Mamadou Diouf, Professor of History at University of Michigan, and candidate for Director of the Institute of African Studies
Wednesday October 11th, 2006 at 5pm

Vice President Nicholas Dirks:
Vice President expressed knowledge about the concern surrounding the closure of the Institute of African Studies (IAS) and explained that Institutes do best with faculty leadership. At the moment, there are a good number of africanist hires and there are several more in the works: Anthropology – 2; Art History – 3; History will have 3 if Professor Diouf accepts the job at Columbia University; Political Science – 2. The plan was also to hire 3 more Africanist faculty by next fall. He also stated that in the next day (Thursday) he would be sending out a letter to faculty about a special committee he was setting up that would foster the employment of African and Africanist faculty around campus.

MEALAC will soon be changing its name to Africa, Middle East, and Asia, so there is a home for the study of humanities in these regions.

It is important for the restructure of the IAS to be viewed as a global initiative with a focus on Africa. He is also working on getting Professor Sachs and the Earth Institute more connected to the ways courses are taught at Columbia, especially since the Earth Institute has received some funding for hiring faculty.

The IAS, which is currently being reviewed by the academic committee, will be re-opening fully in July 2007

About Space: The VP is aware of the space issue and will be having a meeting tomorrow (Thursday) to discuss space. In the short run, the 11th floor at SIPA will be reorganized somehow. In the long run, there are conversations about moving all the Institutes out of SIPA.

The Africa Program at SIPA will be maintained and will have close contact with the IAS. The plan is to have such programs in the different students, with the IAS as an overseer of these different programs.

Professor Mamadou Diouf:
Prof. Diouf shared a little bit about his background: He is a Professor of History, West African history in particular focusing on Urban Colleges. He has been at the University of Michigan for 6 years. Has also been the head of the African Research group – CODESTRIA, where his job entailed bringing the discussion of history into the group that was primarily made up of political scientists.

About the job, he had said no twice because he has known about the declining status of the IAS in the past 6 to 7years does not want to lead an almost hopeless case. He will most likely accept to be a professor at Columbia, but has not made a decision about Directing the Institute. He will only take on the directorship if Columbia meets his demands. These are:
1) That the IAS will be an organization with a staff
2) There will be a real institutional support to the IAS, including a financial commitment from the President.
He appreciates that students are interested in seeing a vibrant IAS, as he will need a commitment from the constituency that he will be serving were he to take on the Director position.

It is important that we understand the role of the Institute, if it is going to work. What is its mission? Where does SIPA come in? And what does it mean to the entire Columbia?

He believes that Bollinger is ready to put money into reviving the institute; and thinks that the close down happened because concerned parties were not sure what to do with the IAS. This therefore gives an opportunity for a fresh start and forces people to sit down and negotiate the best terms for the Institute. The IAS should have a clear 3 to 5 year goal.

He would not be prepared to spearhead a fundraising campaign that is not supported by the Institution. Before looking for external funding, the University has to provide a financial commitment of its own, thus creating legitimacy for the request. He believes that one of the main reasons why the Institute fell apart was because of the belief that one could go out and raise money when there was no commitment from the Institution towards the Institute.
Possible Solutions:
Making use of the location of Columbia University – there are many people in the NY area that could supplement economics classes, as well as language courses with seminars, etc.

The creation of different clusters of Africa programs on campus.

View Africa as a member of the global community. Have a sense of the past, but also think ahead about Africa and where it will be best located and incorporated into the global discussion.

Africa Town Hall Meeting (October 4th, 2006)


The SIPA Pan-African Network (SPAN) organized the Africa Town Hall meeting on October 4, 2006. The meeting aimed to address the suspension of the Institute of African Studies (IAS) at Columbia University and to discuss with the University Administration ways forward to re-open the Institute. Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger and Vice President for Arts and Sciences Nicholas Dirks were invited, among other administration, faculty, and heads of academic departments, to join the panel. However, the panel consisted of mainly SIPA administration, although the IAS serves all of Columbia University. Panelists in attendance were SIPA Dean Lisa Anderson, Dean Dan McIntyre and Kenneth Prewitt. Over 80 people consisting of professors, administration officers, and students from across the University were in attendance. SPAN President Christabel E. Dadzie led the discussion.

SPAN President Dadzie announced that Vice President for Arts and Sciences Nicholas Dirks shared information with SPAN that a candidate for the Director of the IAS had provisionally accepted to run the Institute starting in July 2007. He has also asked that students meet with this potential director for the IAS who will be on campus in the coming week.

The following summarizes the dialogue and discussion around two broad themes: Suspension of the IAS and means to re-open it; and the re-invigoration of African Studies at Columbia University.


A. Closure and why

Students left Columbia at the end of the Spring 2006 semester with the impression that the administration would hire an associate director and keep the Institute for African Studies (IAS) open until a permanent director was hired in Spring 2007. Yet during the summer, the institute was instead ‘suspended.’ The Africa Program at SIPA was created as a measure to continue supporting Africa-interested students at SIPA. Concerns were also raised regarding Dean Lisa Anderson, who is also head of the Africa Program at SIPA, stepping down as Dean of SIPA, and the impact this would have on African Studies at SIPA, and beyond.

The panel responded noting the history of the suspension of the IAS. The recruitment effort for a Director of the Institute was slower than the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (GSAS) expected. SIPA also expected the GSAS to match funds for the Institute but when that was not available, a decision was necessary. It became a question of how the IAS can best serve students’ needs with the available funding that SIPA had to support it. Should the IAS continue as a part-time institute, but with no funds? Or would students be best served if the Institute provided more programming (conferences, students, events)? SIPA chose the second option. The IAS is not disappearing entirely and the Administration remains fully confident that an IAS Director will be hired soon.

B. Director

Several questions pivoted around the criteria, demands, and means to recruit an effective and permanent Director for the IAS. These questions included directly addressing the criteria for hiring a Director, their appropriate background, and what students seek in a Director. The question was also asked, of whether the specific issues raised about the decline of the IAS as presented by the last full-time Director, Professor Mahmood Mamdani, had been considered.

The panel clarified the procedures to hire a Regional Institute Director. All directors are senior Columbia faculty. Faculty are recruited by academic departments, not schools or Institutes, and are thus required to foremost meet the needs of specific departments. In an effort to address the question of how to ensure Africa-interested and expert faculty are hired, it would be appropriate to further a dialogue on the broader question of African Studies in the American Academy. The problem is greater than one specifically at Columbia University.

As to date, there have been no solutions to the demands made by Professor Mamdani as he stepped down from the Directorship of the Institute.

The panel also noted that the University, including current students and faculty, is interested in recruiting a Director for the IAS who is both qualified for and interested in pursuing the challenges of running the Institute. The voices of tenured faculty were noted as key, and the distinction between the functions of a Director regarding curriculum and funding was drawn. Additionally, the point was raised that if the Director is to be an individual of significant fund-raising experience, whether (s)he should be an African or Africanist scholar, and possess experience within the United States educational system, would be critical questions.

The panel asked what the criteria for a Director are from a student’s perspective. Students responded that the director should be one willing to undertake fund-raising, mentor students, and demonstrate a passion and commitment to Africa. Students also raised a concern that the history of how Africa is taught in the American Academy is one that focuses on a colonial Africa and one constructed from a Western perspective. Therefore, to move forward with a new Director in the area of African Studies, it would be beneficial to learn Africa from an African perspective, and it would therefore be critical to have an African scholar lead the Institute.

C. Associate Director

The issue of hiring a full-time Associate Director for the IAS who will also be responsible for significant aspects of fund-raising was raised. What would be the procedures, timeline and expectations with regards to the hiring of the Associate Director?
The panel responded that currently Natalie Tevethia, in her capacity with Dean Anderson on the Africa Program, is acting as an Associate Director, but that this is not the solution to the challenge. The panel also noted that it would be critical to have a Director involved in the hiring of the Associate Director as a matter of principle.

D. Funding

The audience inquired into the current funding status of the IAS and the means towards expanding its funding base. Questions included the role of students in supporting fund-raising, as well as alumni. Students have previously made the effort to be involved in seeking funds, but were informed this related primarily to the Director’s function.

The panel noted that currently all Regional Institutes have an endowment except the Institute for African Studies. Additionally, all Institutes except Africa have Title VI grants. The criteria for securing Title VI funding include a critical mass of faculty and resources in Africa, which is the current problem at Columbia. Former Interim Director Linda Beck was successful, regardless of the lack of a critical mass at Columbia, to acquire FLAS [Foreign Language Area Study] funding, which is a part of Title VI grants. A proposal for Title VI needs to be written and it can be tied in with the Capital Campaign. The issue is how to address the upcoming funding year that will take place in 3 years. The Administration is confident that by then the University will have the needed criteria for a successful application. In order to involve students in fund-raising, Dean Anderson will arrange a brainstorming session with students to examine ways forward.

E. Courses

A key element of concern regarding the suspension of the IAS is that of providing courses to meet students’ needs and interests. Questions were raised on the criteria for deciding on offered courses, and on the use of adjunct faculty to fill-in offering gaps.

The panel listed the courses currently scheduled to be offered in the Spring 2007, which would be roughly the same number of courses offered the previous year. A current gap is the search for an instructor for a Development or Economic Development in Africa course, which was unfortunately cancelled for the Fall 2006. Courses are decided from a baseline. The Administration looks into course evaluations as an indication of what courses should be offered. Professors bringing ideas to their respective departments usually lead the course development process. Students within concentrations also suggest course ideas. There are situations in which the Department of International and Public Affairs (DIPA) makes suggestions to professors, but these are rare. Dean McIntyre asked audience members to email him names of practitioners to explore for further course offerings. The panel also made the point that other non-SIPA departments also bear the responsibility for course offerings.


A. Alumni and SIPA in Africa

The audience raised several questions regarding the role of Africa-interested alumni. The limitations of current students, on 2-year degree programs, to effectively further African Studies were noted, and that a call needs to be made for alumni involvement. The university must commit to put in place an administrative framework for this to work.
The audience also questioned why no celebrations were held in Africa over the summer for SIPA’s 60th anniversary, relating the problem to the lack of leadership for the IAS.

The panel clarified that there were no alumni receptions celebrating SIPA’s 60th anniversary in Africa and the Middle East. For Africa, the issue was that many SIPA alumni are spread across the continent, and that there were no significant numbers in one location to make a meeting possible. Panelists agreed that alumni need to be more effectively engaged.

B. Africa and other academic departments at CU

The audience noted that the suspension of the IAS poses a much deeper problem than it appeared on the surface. At Columbia, Africa is the only area of the world that does not have a department that is designated to teach Africa. These departments are available for French, German, Italian, but not for Africa. This is a fundamental problem for the academic prosperity of Africa. Currently, Africa is taught in places where there is an emergency. It is not taught as an intellectual endeavor. There is an under-appreciation of the damage caused by the suspension of the IAS as attracting funds to an Institute in crisis will be difficult. The call was made for a public statement from the President of Columbia University on the University’s commitment to Africa. It was noted that in University politics, SIPA took the blame for the suspension of the Institute. The GSAS said that the Institute is effectively a SIPA problem. The leadership of SIPA in turn responded rightly that it was a broader University problem, when it decided to suspend the Institute due to lack of funding. The point was made that the relations between Africa and all departments require restructuring, not only with SIPA. Students were further called upon to assert pressure on the Administration.

The panel pursued the point that it is necessary for the University to look into revitalizing African Studies by visiting the question of where Africa should be housed in the University. All parts of the world have a language and literatures department. The only part of the world without a comparable department is Africa - African languages have no home. DIPA is the only place that offers African languages, but this poses a constraint on the department.

C. African studies and other CU Schools

The audience posed the question of the poverty of African Studies in other University Schools and Programs, the Mailman School of Public Health being a specific example.

The panel emphasized that the question of African Studies at Columbia University is not exhausted by SIPA. If there are difficulties with other Schools, for example, the Mailman School of Public Health, with regards to course and resource offerings on Africa, is important the Schools seek their own solutions as well. They cannot rely on SIPA alone. Other University Schools need to contribute to the solution of furthering African Studies at Columbia.

D. Courses and curriculum

The audience posed the question of offering courses that can meet students’ needs for specialization in specific topics in Africa.

The panel invited students to engage the Administration in a dialogue on how to provide course offerings and resources for a community of both introductory courses and specialization courses.

E. Partnerships with African University and Institutes

The audience offered the suggestion for Columbia University to build links with African universities and institutes in order to forge stronger ties with African Studies.

F. Faculty and student involvement

The audience and panel emphasized the need to involve faculty in the revitalization of African Studies at Columbia. The panel remarked that many non-Africa focused faculty find the question of African Studies important and are capable of being mobilized as a center of gravity for furthering African Studies at the University.

The audience noted that students have already been a part of the process of acquiring more classes, and questioned to what degree this is expected for every academic year. Students were also encouraged to get in contact with the Senate representatives for their respective schools in order to raise the African Studies curriculum issue through channels already existing in the University. Wendy Carrasco is SIPA’s senator.

The panel noted the frustration involved in SIPA students looking for an education, but then having to involve themselves in the construction of courses and curriculum. The panel further noted that even the most endowed Regional Institute cannot meet every student need. Students are always encouraged to bring ideas. So even if the Institute were working well, a dialogue with students should continue.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

African Studies at Columbia

African Studies at Columbia
Hi Everyone,
The Columbia University Newspaper "The Spectator" wrote an article about the closure of the Institute of African Studies. Please click on the link below to read it: See the CU Spectator article:

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

African Studies at Columbia

African Studies at Columbia
African Studies Town Hall Meeting
Sponsored by SPAN and supported by HAWG; Human Rights Working Group; CIRC; CUPID; AFRICANA Business School; ASWG (TC); Conflict Resolution Working Group; African Law Students Association

April 26, 2006

(note: statements below are summaries, not transcriptions)

Christabel Dadzie, President, SIPA Pan-African Network (SPAN):

What is the status of the search for a Director of the Institute for African Studies (IAS)?

Prof. Nicholas Dirks (Vice President for Arts and Sciences)

Upon Elliot Skinner’s retirement, I worked to hire Mahmood Mamdani in 1999, who directed IAS from 1999 to 2004. Now, a new junior faculty member from Cape Town has been hired in the Anthropology Department, so that it will now have 1.5 full-time faculty members who deal with African studies.

For IAS, the goal is to upgrade it to function like all other regional institutes, i.e. rotating faculty heads. So what is necessary is hiring a whole cadre of Africanist faculty. Many new faculty members must be hired. An effort to do this is currently under way. We are currently bringing back an Africanist faculty member from the Department of Art History and Architecture.

The FLAS has been awarded to Columbia in three African Languages. Middle East and Asian Language Studies will now house African Languages; there is a hire regarding this in the works.

The Dean of SIPA traditionally appoints the IAS Director.

Robert Garris (Associate Dean, SIPA)

Hiring an IAS Director begins by talking to current faculty; because Columbia doesn’t have many Africanist Faculty, hiring a new director is particularly challenging.


Why is Linda Beck [current IAS director] leaving?


Beck is leaving Columbia because her faculty position at Barnard ended; SIPA had nothing to do with it. She did an excellent job as IAS Director.


Why are there so few funds for IAS?


First, Columbia needed to obtain FLAS funding; now that this has been accomplished, a large impediment to getting other grants has been removed.

Columbia has been in dialogue with the Rockefeller Foundation to find African Universities with which Columbia can collaborate.

Columbia is in the opening stages of its Capital Campaign; African Studies is a priority. Money from this campaign would be used for:

Endowments for faculty hires
Student fellowships
Program Support
Endowment for IAS

All other regional institutes have private endowments, notably the Harriman and Weatherhead Institutes. Other regional institutes are not so well endowed, but Africa is worst off.

Lisa Anderson (Dean of SIPA):

The main reason other institutes are in better shape is because they have had Title IV (FLAS) funding. A catch 22 situation has prevented us from getting that funding in recent years; now that we have it, things will get better.


Will there be an Associate Director for IAS this fall?


Africa doesn’t have a full time director like other institutes. In the works is a full time associate director for the future. However, for next year, we will have an acting director next year.


Why have students not been involved in the IAS Director search?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

African Studies at Columbia

For those of you who want to join the letter writing campaign asking Administration to re-open the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University, below is a Factsheet of the series of events that took place prior to the closure of the Institute and gives lots of topics to include in your letter. It was written by two Alum of Columbia. If you have questions, don't hesitate to email me at
Thanks a lot! Christabel


While Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) is holding world-wide celebrations to commemorate its 60th year Dean Lisa Anderson and Vice President Nicholas Dirks suspended the Institute for African Studies (IAS), which is in its 59th year. This should be a year of celebration for the Institute of African studies rather it is a year of termination. As we distribute this fact sheet we understand that the moving of IAS has already begun.

June 2006 Dean Lisa Anderson, SIPA notified the students and faculty that she is essentially dismantling the African Institute: ‘suspending’ its operations, closing its office and reallocating the space to the Center on Energy, Marine Transportation and Public Policy. In its place they are creating a new ‘Program in African Studies’. This decision was made without consultation with a faculty that has been very active in trying to get the university to address the crippling problems confronting the Institute.
Dean Anderson, a Middle Eastern specialist, appointed herself the director of this ‘Program in African Studies’.
Program staff will consist of SIPA’s Assistant Director, Faculty Affairs and Curriculum, Natalie Tevethia and two student program assistants. However, the students will be ‘officially’ attached to the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies.
Dr. Ousman Kane, political scientist of Islam in West Africa, who had an office in IAS will be moved to the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies.
To view Anderson’s letter and other documents see

This announcement comes after the administration of SIPA and GSAS failed to respond to initiatives by faculty and students of African studies to rebuild the Institute for African Studies.

· Spring 2004: SIPA’s failure to give IAS Director Dr. Mahmood Mamdani permission to hire an associate director leads to his resignation. Mamdani calls for a university wide commission to address the fate of African studies at Columbia.
· 2004-2006: confronted with university inaction committed faculty agreed to serve as part time directors of the institute: Dr. Gail Gerhart (2004-2005) and Dr. Linda Beck (2005-2006). Under Beck IAS launched two successful initiatives. They developed a major April 2006 conference on immigrant Africans supported by the Mayor’s Office and Museum of African Art and secured four graduate fellowships [$134,000] from the U.S. Dept. of Education FLAS (Foreign Language and Areas Studies Grants ) program.

· February 2006: a group of prominent Columbia African studies faculty petitioned the Dean of SIPA, Lisa Anderson, VP Vice President, Arts and Sciences, Nicholas Dirks, and President Lee Bollinger and Provost Alan Brinkley, to develop a comprehensive plan/strategy to revitalize the African institute and to give the institution a sufficient period to establish structures for sustainable development. They provided a detailed picture of the resources that would be necessary to create a strong competitive program. Only the Dean of SIPA responded and with a brief note of acknowledgement.

· April 2006: SIPA students call for a town hall meeting to express their concerns about the decline of African studies at Columbia. They highlighted the discrepancies between publicized African curricular offerings and courses actually taught. It had become impossible for them to complete an African focus for their desired specializations.

The meeting was attended by interested faculty and SIPA students, Vice President, Arts and Sciences, Nicholas Dirks, SIPA Dean, Lisa Anderson, and SIPA Associate Dean for Faculty and Curriculum Affairs, Rob Garris. V.P. Dirks noted that GSAS were beginning to address the lack of Africanist faculty and noted several hires. Garris and Anderson asserted that they were trying to identify a part time director or interim director. Additionally, SIPA was reviewing the relationship between regional institutes and academic departments and was exploring the possibility of providing budgetary incentives for departments to hire regionally-focused faculty.

Why the Institute for African Studies needs your support:

Both Deans Anderson and VP Dirks have led students and faculty to believe that the institution would make a ‘good faith’ effort to rebuild African studies
However, the Anderson/Dirks plan does not reflect an effort to rebuild the institute rather to terminate it.
· The Anderson/Dirks plan calls for a period of intensive planning for the future of a strengthened African studies presence at Columbia. However, this unilateral ‘restructuring’ and a past of extensive neglect raises serious questions about the future of African studies at Columbia.
· The absence of IAS even in the interim, threatens the FLAS fellowships that the faculty secured. This creates an irregular fellowship selection process and the absence of an African Language Coordinator and the Institute deprives the FLAS program of adequate supervision. We are concerned that this decision violates the U.S. Department of Education’s Guidelines for the FLAS grants.

The legacy of African Studies at Columbia should not be one of institutional neglect. As alumni we need to express our dissatisfaction and assist in revitalizing African Studies.

Please send your letter to:

(1) President Lee Bollinger
Columbia University in the City of New York
535 W. 116th Street
2002 Low Library
New York, N. Y. 10027

Mail Code: 4309
Phone: 212 854-9970
Fax: 212 854-9973

(2) Provost Alan Brinkley
Low Library, Room 205
Columbia University in the City of New York
2860 Broadway
New York, N. Y. 10027-6902

Mail Code: 4313
Phone: 212-854-2404
Fax: 212 – 932-0418E-mail:

(3) Vice President Nicholas Dirks, Arts and Sciences
208 Low Library
Columbia University in the City of New York
2860 Broadway
New York, NY 10027-6902

Mail Code: 4315
Phone: 212 854-8296
Fax: 212 854-5401

(4) Dean Lisa Anderson, School of International and Public Affairs
1414 International Affairs Building
School of International and Public Affairs
420 W. 118th Street
New York, N. Y. 10027

Mail Code: 3328
Phone: 212- 854-4604
Fax: 212-854-4647

Monday, June 19, 2006

Letter from Dean Anderson about IAS Closure

Students, Faculty and Friends of the Institute of African Studies,

As you know, the Institute for African Studies at Columbia has beenwithout either a permanent faculty director or a full-timeadministrative director for several years. Both Gail Gerhart andLinda Beck served our community well as acting directors-we areespecially grateful to Linda for her hard and successful work towin us FLAS fellowship funding. In the absence of faculty willingand able to assume the responsibilities of the director, however,we have agreed with the Vice President for Arts and Sciences,Nicholas Dirks, to suspend the operations of the Institute for thecomingacademic year.

So as to ensure that students, particularly SIPA students, who cometo Columbia to study Africa are able to do so, SIPA will offer aprogram in African studies. I will serve as program director, andI will be assisted by Natalie Tevethia, assistant director in theSIPA Office of Faculty and Curriculum. We will continue to manage a FLAS committee to award FLAS fellowships to Columbia Universitystudents in African languages, and the program will retain theInstitute's two student Program Assistants, who will continue toassist with Africa-related programming and administration.

In addition to ensuring that we offer several new courses oncontemporary Africa at SIPA next year, Natalie and I will beassembling a small advisory committee of faculty, staff andstudents to assist in recruiting speakers, mounting extracurricularevents (including, I hope, the annual student-sponsored AfricanEconomic Forum), and developing programming for students interestedin Africa. If you would like to be involved in such a committee, orto help in any other way with African studies at Columbia next year,please let me know.

The office suite currently assigned to the Institute is to betemporarily reassigned to SIPA's Center for Energy, MarineTransportation and Public Policy. The several offices in the suitehousing the Middle East Institute that had housed the Center willassigned to the Africa program, and at least one of these will beavailable for visitors, adjuncts, and student program assistants. The Institute's website will direct visitors to a page on the SIPAsite that will be devoted to this Africa program. We expect to havea list of the new courses available on the website by early August.

Although this arrangement is clearly only a temporary expedient forAfrican studies at Columbia, it has the merits of both beingtransparent about the limitations of the program now and creatingthe critical pressure to rectify the situation that our previouspractice of recruiting temporary Institute directors, howeverdedicated, did not.I look forward to working with you next year, as we plan the revivalof what should be one of the most significant and vibrant programsof study at Columbia.

Lisa Anderson
James T. Shotwell Professor of International RelationsDean, School of International and Public AffairsColumbia University420 West 118th StreetNew York, New York 10027tel: 212-854-4604fax: 212-864-4847 END

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Students' Letter - Closure of Institute of African Studies


June 8th, 2006

Dear President Bollinger,

Through a letter from Dean Lisa Anderson (Dean of SIPA) dated Friday June 2nd, 2006 we are aware that a decision was reached to temporarily suspend the operations of the Institute of African Studies (IAS) at Columbia University. We were informed that operations at the IAS was suspended primarily because a ‘search committee’ was unable to find a faculty member to take up the position of director. On behalf of students interested in Africa and African Studies at Columbia, we would like to express our deep disappointment at this tragic decision. The decision forces us to question the commitment of Columbia University to African Studies. By allowing African Studies to wither away without support for the IAS, Columbia University sadly joins the rest of the world in the continued marginalization of Africa. The death of one of the oldest and most prestigious Institute of African Studies in the world is due to a lack of political will and commitment to African Studies by the University administration. We call on you, President Bollinger, to prove to the student and academic community, and the larger world, that Columbia is different, and to lead the charge against the marginalization of Africa.
We commend Dean Anderson for her effort in creating the African Studies Program at SIPA in an attempt to alleviate this problem, and even going further to take leadership of this new program at such a difficult time. Nevertheless, there remains a crisis. Due to the dismantling of the IAS, all Columbia students will lack classes, programming, and access to funding that was previously made available through the Institute. This is an unacceptable state of affairs for African Studies. It also demonstrates a lack of recognition on Columbia University’s behalf of the support needed to sustain and further the commendable works of Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Dr. Mahmood Mamdani, and others who have helped to increase global awareness of the difficulties and opportunities in African development.
Below are the key reasons why students are aggravated by the current situation and feel that this decision is disrespectful and deceitful: We ask you to consider the multitude of students who enrolled in Columbia University hoping to pursue African Studies, and those who will no longer have the opportunity to discover African studies for the first time.
• Continuing lack of commitment to Africa: Over the last five years, the Institute has failed to operate at its maximum capacity, when compared to other regional institutes on the campus, due to a number of problems: a lack of a permanent director, high turnover of interim directors and weak administrative and financial support which meant that it was unable to serve students on a full-time basis. Several campaigns by Africanist faculty and multiple generations of students to resolve the Institute’s problems have fallen on deaf ears. This recent announcement only confirms the low priority Columbia lends to Africa.
• Lack of transparency and candor in the search of a director for the IAS: On April 26th, 2006, a number of students, faculty, and staff gathered for a student-led town hall meeting on Africa to discuss the dying state of the IAS. Vice President Nicolas Dirks indicated at this meeting that a search for a director of the IAS was underway and that the Administration was hopeful of having a director by January. Students were also informed that the Dean of SIPA had been assigned to appoint an associate interim director who would run the day-to-day operations of the Institute until a new director arrived. Students questioned the process of the search and demanded inclusion in and transparency of the procedures, yet these concerns were buffeted by claims that the situation was under control. This left the impression on students that we should be hopeful that the IAS would be functioning in a better state in the coming academic year. • Loss of vital support system: Due to the disbanding of the IAS, students interested in African Studies, and especially African students, have lost a vital support system and access to resources enjoyed from the Institute. Furthermore, funding for such students, already a challenge, now becomes an even graver issue.
• Timing: President Bollinger, the timing of this announcement even further aggravates the situation since the University is well aware that students are away on summer vacation and therefore cannot react to such negativity. We are sure you would agree students joining Columbia for the 2006/07 year in the hope of pursuing African Studies are entitled to feel deceived by the Administration given the timing of this announcement. While we stand ready to understand the cyclical nature of University decisions, we wonder whether the plenitude of students we ourselves greeted at an accepted students reception in April would have still chosen Columbia if they had known the truth about the University’s lack of commitment to African Studies, as demonstrated by closure of the Institute.
It is impossible to devote serious study of international development and the needs of globalization, as your own recent initiatives show, in such a prestigious institution like Columbia University, without attention being given to the African continent. We believe Columbia University is heading in an unfortunate direction with the closure of the IAS, and as President of the University we would like to share with you the fact that students are very disappointed in this institution and its mandate to produce future world leaders.
It is our hope that the school’s administration will take the concerns of students seriously and immediately provide a timeline for the reopening of the IAS and a firm demonstrable commitment to create an Institute that is befitting to the reputation of Columbia University. We call on you, President Bollinger, to lead the efforts to remove this stain from the reputation of Columbia University.

The Executive Board of the SIPA Pan African Network (SPAN)On Behalf of Concerned Students