The Afro-American Studies Department received a shot in the arm this week when Nathan I. Huggins, professor of history at Columbia University, accepted the W.E.B. DuBois Professorship of Afro-American Studies and History, the chairmanship of the Afro-Am Department, and the directorship of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute, a center for studying problems facing Afro-Americans.
Earlier in the month, when two other scholars--Lawrence W. Levine, professor of history at University of California-Berkeley, and Franklin W. Knight, professor of history at Johns Hopkins University--rejected appointment offers solely in Afro-Am, members of the executive committee which had recommended the three appointments said Huggins had turned down the same offer also. But when the University agreed to Huggins' request to be appointed in both Afro-Am and History, he reconsidered.
The History Department voted "overwhelmingly" to accept him, Wallace T. MacCaffrey, chairman of the department, said this week. Huggins' courses will be listed as Afro-Am courses but History concentrators will be able to count them as well.
Huggins said Monday he wanted the joint appointment because the original offer depended on at least one of the other two men offered positions accepting one. Huggins said he is a historian and did not want to be isolated from the rest of the University.
Huggins added he sees nothing wrong with joint tenure in Afro-Am and another department as long as the professor is seriously dedicated to the field. Joint tenure will not be a prerequisite for future appointments, both Huggins and Dean Rosovsky said earlier in the week.
Despite past student opposition to joint appointments, concentrators at a rally in support of Afro-Am on Tuesday said they were pleased he was coming, although more needed to be done to strengthen the department.
Aaron A. Estis '80, an Afro-Am concentrator, said the appointment was "one step forward for two steps backward" since Ewart Guinier, the only professor tenured solely in Afro-Am, retired last semester, and K. Onwuka Dike, the only tenured professor specializing in African history, will return to Nigeria next year.
Students said during the week the department needs a tenured Africanist to tie African culture to present Afro-American culture. The executive committee has not discussed whether to look for an Africanist.
Another problem Huggins may have to face is a shortage of faculty within the department. In addition to Guinier's retirement, Chidi Ikonne and Selwyn Cudjoe, assistant professors of Afro-Am. will be taking leaves of absence next year. Both men taught sizeable course loads this year.
Huggins said his first priority is to bring more faculty to the department. He met yesterday with the executive committee to begin discussing candidates for tenured positions. Both he and members of the committee, however, said they do not expect to appoint new faculty members--senior of junior--by next year.