A major that incorporates French-Caribbean literature, Aboriginal culture and a history of the blues may be just around the corner and students won?t have to create it on their own.

This new interdisciplinary major, African and African-American Studies, may be available for students as early as the beginning of next year.

?Why there isn?t a structured program or a support system in place when the courses are there I don?t know,? said graduate student Steven Harrison, who graduated last year with an AAAS major that he created himself. ?If it?s already here, why not put some structure to it??

Research for creating the new major was partially cata-lyzed by the Minority Student Advisory Board protests last year.

?The idea for a major in African and African-American studies has been around for quite a long time,? said John Michael, professor of English and member of the Frederick Douglass Institute?s Curriculum Committee.

?In many ways, the current effort to offer AAAS as a major at Rochester began two years ago when a broad coalition of students protested the suspension of activities by the institute and asked, among other things, that a concentration in AAAS be added to the curriculum,? Michael said.

While the protests contributed to the work done on creating the major, a faculty advisory board had already been established the year before the protest to look into the new major.

?I think it?s all well and good to give students credit where it is due. It was very dynamic and forced the administration?s hand,? said Larry Hudson, head of the Douglass Institute and professor of history.

However, the proposed creation of the AAAS major ?wasn?t about diversity or race, but an academic program, [the Douglass Institute], that had been on campus since 1986 and what kind of interest there was among students and faculty for an African and African-American major,? Hudson said.


The Douglass Institute Curriculum Committee will shortly submit the proposal for the AAAS major to The College Curriculum Committee. From there, the State Board of Regents will review the proposal, which is the typical process to create new majors.

The new AAAS major will consist of many interdisciplinary components. Classes from the history, English, political science, modern languages and cultures, anthropology, music and religion and classics departments will all be used to create the major.

?We?re looking broadly at the world where there is a black presence,? Hudson said. ?We can look at anything from Aboriginals in Australia to black Britons.?

?We have these curricular themes and this leads to interest in other Diasporas ? it becomes comparative. This major is by definition interdisciplinary.?


Current faculty will teach courses for the major from different disciplines that fall within the concentration. Hudson said the Douglass Institute will soon hire an anthropologist who specializes in the AAAS concentration and may soon add one or two more hires for the major.

Because of the variety of areas that the AAAS major will cover, its creation may lay the groundwork for other future majors such as Hispanic or Asian studies as long as there is enough faculty and student interest.

?The African Diaspora frequently involves issues crucial to the English, Hispanic and French cultures of the Caribbean basin and elsewhere so, there is considerable overlap among these topics,? Michael said.

?Though not exclusively a focus of work in African and African-American studies, the issue of racial and gendered identity in the United States and elsewhere is a topic of ongoing concern,? he said.

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