Columbia University on Verge of Creating an African American and Diaspora Studies Department

The Columbia University Senate unanimously voted in favor of establishing a department of African-American and Africa diaspora studies. Pending a final vote of approval from the board of trustees, this new department will be the first independent department established solely for African-American studies at the university.

Currently, classes in the discipline only exist in the department of Middle East, South Asian, and African studies and in the Institute for Research in African-American Studies. In the department, only 20 percent of courses are related to African-American studies. The institute offers some courses to undergraduate students, but it cannot offer professors tenure, which has made it difficult to retain distinguished scholars in the African-American studies field.

Farrah Griffin is the current director of the institute and pending chair of the new department. She believes that the creation of the new department will bring Columbia up to speed with its peers such as Princeton, Yale, Harvard, and Cornell, which have all dedicated resources to independent African and African American studies departments.

“At this time in the university’s history, a strong African-American and diaspora studies department would play a vital role in encouraging students to engage in as global citizens and help foster a greater understanding of the challenges upon us inside and outside Columbia University,” stated Dr. Griffin.

Dr. Griffin is the William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African-American Studies in the Columbia School of the Arts. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a Ph.D. from Yale University.


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