Stanford Approves Department Of African-American Studies

Stanford Univesity, through its Board of Trustees, has officially approved the creation of a Department of African and African American Studies. The department is set to open in January.

The announcement was made on Oct. 20, as the department will take over the program already in place for the vast subjects within its School of Humanities and Sciences, according to the Stanford Report. Advocated by faculty and students alike for years, the official recognization of African and African American Studies (AAAS) as a department is considered to be a major step in the institution’s diversity.

The latest effort to transform the AAAS program into a department was sparked by the height of the Black Lives Matter movement and murder of George Floyd in 2020. While the AAAS program has been a part of Stanford’s curriculum options for over half a century, its departmentalization was at a standstill before the outcry of social justice nationwide.

R. Lanier Anderson, the J.E. Wallace Sterling Professor of the Humanities, shared that the school needed to make the department a “permanent” fixture in its academia in light of the historical moment.

“Events since 2020 have made it increasingly apparent that the time has come for Stanford to put our work in AAAS on a permanent footing …,” shared the philosophy professor.

A task force initiated by the university in 2021 also recommended the departmentalization of the program. Ato Quayson, a professor of English and interdisciplinary studies at the school, has been unveiled as the department’s inaugural chair.

The university will allow tracks of African, African American, and Global Black Diaspora Studies to be available for interested students. The inclusion of courses associated with Black studies will also be provided, alongside a collaboration with the Institute for Diversity of the Arts, as students within the department will have the opportunity to connect their learning through creative means.

Quayson, an avid reader of Toni Morrison, commenced the vote for the AAAS department with a reading from the author’s acclaimed work Beloved, which was met with much applause before the approval.

The news comes as Stanford makes additional changes to better the experiences of its diverse student body, including an advancement to better accommodate disabled students’ need and expansion within the arts.

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