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An assistant professor of the Afro-American Studies Department said yesterday that his department is in a state of "utter disarray and demoralization" and called for additional tenured faculty to be hired immediately to prevent "an imminent collapse in the department."
In a statement released yesterday, Azina Nwafor '64 said that "decisions within the department continue to remain highly arbitrary, in which faculty members are often not even consulted on matters of direct concern to their particular activities."
He added that "the heightened crisis in the department and its awkward relationship with the University is exemplified, for instance, in the discrepancy between the number of people teaching courses and those approved by the University and listed in the official catalogue. The University has actually rejected a number of appointments."
Ewart Guinier '33, chairman of the department, said yesterday Nwafor's contention that the University has rejected departmental appointments is an "absolute lie." Guinier said that Nwafor had little knowledge of how the department operates because Nwafor has attended so few Faculty meetings and has had little contact with his departmental colleagues and the undergraduate concentrators.
"Nwafor has not come to any Faculty meetings this year and last year only came to one of fifteen meetings," Guinier said. Nwafor said yesterday Guinier's statement that he knows nothing about how the department operates is "perposterous."
The department has been deluged with requests from outside the University seeking advice on how to set up an Afro-American Studies program, Guinier added. Guinier said that Nwafor "has his own axe to grind." Nwafor's five year term appointment as an assistant professor runs out next June and he has received notification from Guinier that he will not be reappointed. Guinier said that Nwafor or any other junior member of the department should present himself to the committee seeking additional tenured Afro-American Studies faculty members.
Nwafor said yesterday that he offered similar criticisms of the department to the Afro-American Studies Review Committee two years ago and they were now part of the public record. He said his statement had nothing to do with his position in the department and he does not consider the status of his appointment at Harvard to be finalized. Many recommendations of the Review Committee now "remain no more than empty pious wishes," Nwafor said in his statement. "There is still no General Education course being offered by the department, and the resolution that every student should be encouraged to take at least one course in Afro-American Studies seems now a moribound consideration.
"And as the department vegetates in a limbo, the distance between it and other areas of significant intellectual activities in the University is multiplying at an ever accelerating and alarming rate," Nwafor added.
Guinier again refused to comment specifically on Nwafor's charges. He did say that there has been greater cooperation between the Afro-American Studies Department and other departments this year than in the past. He said that his department has developed working relationships with the East Asian Studies and Economics Departments. Nwafor said in his statement that Geneva Smitherman, lecturer on Afro-American Studies, left the department earlier this year "in sheer disgust at the rapidly deteriorating state of affairs.
"What is really more surprising is that there have not been more resignations so far given the appalling conditions in the department," he added.
Guinier declined to comment on Nwafor's charge, but a source in the department said yesterday that Smitherman left Harvard for personal reasons totally unrelated to conditions within the department or the Universsty.
Smitherman could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Nwafor also said in his statement that the University had moved far too slowly in appointing a search committee to seek additional tenured faculty for the department. "In at least one appointment [to the search committee] and perhaps out of bad faith from some quarters there was a built-in inertia in the composition of the committee," Nwafor said.
Nwafor yesterday refused to disclose which search committee appointment he was referring to. However, it is probable that Nwafor was making reference to former Dean Dunlop's appointment of Guinier to that body. Guinier refused to comment on Nwafor's charge but said that the search committee had only had preliminary meetings which he described as "harmonious." In his statement, Nwafor said, "Nevertheless it remains imperative that the search committee should discharge its duties with resolute vigor, and to make its mandated appointments forthwith to arrest further disintegration and an imminent collapse in the department.
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