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.


At 11:29 AM, Blogger dbkatz said...

I have spent the last 2 decades reading and thinking about the Africa explored by Livingstone, Speke, Baker, Fynn, Schweinfurth, DuChaillu, Torday, Landor, and many many more. I own a private library of near-extinct and hard-to-find books by these men.Is there a job for me at Columbia?DBK


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