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?


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