Statement from Dean Steven Fluharty on the Future of African Studies in the School of Arts and Sciences

The School of Arts and Sciences has decided to consolidate the current activities of the Africa Center, shifting the administration of its programming and non-language teaching activities to the Center for Africana Studies, and the administration of the language teaching programs to the Penn Language Center. These consolidations will take effect July 1, 2015.

Elimination of federal funding on many fronts has forced the School of Arts and Sciences to rethink how we best support our highest priorities. The study of Africa is one of those fronts. The Africa Center's main source of financial support, a federal Title VI grant from the Department of Education, has been discontinued as part of a larger climate in which Title VI funding nationally has been greatly reduced.

But our decision to reposition the activities of the Africa Center should not be read as abandoning our core commitment to the study of Africa. In fact, we are fully maintaining the current levels of support for programming and teaching. And we can anticipate new kinds of attention to Africa across the School in the near future. As part of the "Global Inquiries" initiative of our new strategic plan, SAS identified Africa as a region of emphasis. I will shortly be appointing a faculty planning group to establish a School-wide strategy for our research and teaching agenda on Africa, in order to galvanize our strengths and promote greater focus on Africa.

We understand fully that there are sensitivities around the scholarly use of "Africa" and "Africana Studies." Obviously the study of these entities can focus on very different topics, and mean very different things. But it is also the case that the study of Africa and of the African diaspora can beneficially inform one another. Faculty in the Department of Africana Studies and the Center for Africana Studies already undertake research and teaching on Africa as part of their mission. It is clear that, going forward, Africa-centered programming will continue to be at least as prominently featured in this new administrative arrangement as it currently is.

Finally, I want to confirm that the rethinking of the administrative home for Africa-centered activities will not affect the School's teaching missions around African themes. We will continue to roster the courses formally mounted by the Africa Center, students will still be able to major or minor in African Studies, and they will still be able to study a wide array of African languages.

The study of Africa in its broadest context is a priority for the School of Arts and Sciences. We hope that our engagement with key faculty and student leaders will help us develop an approach that recognizes the relevant entities at Penn and advances our teaching and scholarship about this essential region and its peoples.

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