Test of Time
departments, and the changing landscape of knowledge at Emory
program does not necessarily become its own field or discipline
or department. The test really is time.
Sanders, Professor of English and African American Studies and Chair
of the Department of African American Studies
its an emergent property of the people who are here, a program
can respond to and provide the most cutting-edge intellectual environment
at that moment.
Lennard, Director of the Program in Neuroscience and Behavioral
ought to be something in Atlanta.
a program became a school
and programs featured in this article
Academic Exchange How
did African American studies initiate the process of becoming a
Mark Sanders In 2001 we articulated the problems of program
status. In particular, we couldnt hire and promote autonomously.
We couldnt host a tenure home. If we saw an area in which
we needed to hire, we had to go to another department, persuade
that department that doing a joint appointment with us was in their
best interest, somehow get at the top of their priority list, go
through the process of getting approval for the search, and do the
search. Then once the person got here, particularly if they were
a junior person, we were always trying to negotiate the relative
input of African American studies at the various stages of evaluation,
particularly at the fourth-year review. So all of these things were
kind of tenuous, and largely the success of those initiatives was
driven by the success of personal relationships. Also in terms of
the curriculum, in our own major, so many of our courses were emanating
from other departments that we felt we couldnt really design
or update the curriculum in ways we thought best realized our instructional
AE What are the particular problems of being in a relatively
MS African American studies came into the academy largely
through student protest. Students really demanded that this intervention
be made in the curriculum and that people be hired and this intellectual
work be done. And so for some there has been a question for African
American studies around legitimacythat this was a way to placate
students. Or, to put it a bit more bluntly, a way for administrators
to get students feet off their desks, which is how Stanley
Crouch describes it. That history and overtly political dimension
continue to raise the issue of legitimacy within the academy for
some. (I can say quite clearly that I have never heard that claim
here at Emory.) So for me its very important to think about
the ways other disciplines have come into being. And I think African
American studies has a similarity with other disciplines in that
at a certain point it became painfully clear that certain areas
of knowledge were not being pursued, and they needed to be pursued.
AE Do you think the university has too many new programs
centers and such cropping up?
MS For those who feel that the strength of the college rests
in departments, the flourishing of programs siphons off resources
and power, so that work isnt going directly into departments.
One of the ways some have addressed the problem is to say we really
dont need all of these programs. But I take issue with that
think its exactly the way in which departments come into being,
through first an identification that a longer-standing discipline
is unable to do all the work that needs to be done to address a
certain set of issues. So people in one longer-standing discipline
begin working with people in other departmentspooling resources,
pooling time, writing things together, and so forth. That might
happen at a number of different universities, and these people begin
to have conversations and conferences, they begin to publish, and
you begin to take on these institutional accouterments. Every program
does not necessarily become its own field or discipline or department.
The test really is time, not an ahistorical allegiance to departments
as such. I think it is blatantly anti-intellectual, to say that
no, we cant pursue that because we want to put all of our
eggs into the departmental basket. I think it denies the history
by which many departments actually came into being.
AE What did you learn from the process of developing your
departments tenure criteria?
MS We thought it was important to put in our report that
at some point the college would need to revisit how it thinks about
evaluation more generally. There are ways to improve the process
for jointly appointed people. Take, for example, venues for publication.
How are they valued in a longer-standing department versus African
American studies? Some longer-standing departments would insist
upon essays appearing in an established and flagship journal for
that discipline. But African American studies as a field has a number
of journals, and certainly someone coming through African American
studies as a junior person would be expected to publish in those
journals. One way to alleviate the problem is going in to advise
junior faculty that they need to publish in both places. Another
way we suggested was there be one review committee with representatives
from both departments. We really do hope the college will better
attend to theoretical and methodological differences.