Dispute Plagues the Black Studies Program at Ohio State University

For the past three years, Judson L. Jeffries has served as director of The Ohio State University’s African-American and African Studies Community Extension Center in Columbus, Ohio. This responsibility was in addition to his full teaching load as a professor of African-American studies at the university.

The extension center was founded in 1972 as an outreach effort to the black community of the city of Columbus. In 1985 the extension center moved into a new, 7,000-square-foot headquarters on Mount Vernon Avenue in the heart of the city’s historic black neighborhood. The center is about 10 minutes from the Ohio State campus.

The center hosts a number of community activities for children, teens, adults, and seniors. Non-credit courses, health fairs, computer literacy classes, and a host of other activities are offered to inner-city residents. Students, faculty, and staff members at the university all contribute their time to make the center a success.

This past August, Dr. Jeffries received a one-page letter from Anthonia C. Kalu, the chair of the African and African-American studies department, dismissing him as head of the extension center. The letter accused Jeffries of a failure to communicate and work with Dr. Kalu, who, just three months earlier, had come to Ohio State from the University of Northern Colorado. In her letter, Kalu said that Jeffries’ actions resulted in “wasted effort, energy, and time for the department.”

Jeffries replied that Kalu had made “deliberate attempts to degrade and intimidate” him. Supporters of Jeffries at the extension center and in the black community held protests on the Ohio State University campus demanding his reinstatement.

The university provost called on Joseph Steinmetz, executive dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, to investigate the matter and to make a determination about what should be done. Dean Steinmetz ruled that since Kalu had arrived on campus only a short time ago, she acted too hastily in changing the leadership of the center. He reinstated Jeffries as director while he undertakes a six-month assessment of the center’s operations and programs.

Dr. Jeffries is a graduate of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He holds a master’s degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton and a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.