Monday, November 06, 2006

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.


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