Dozens of Seton Hall University students and supporters staged a sit-in at Presidents Hall on campus last week to protest the school’s alleged lack of support for its Africana Studies program, NJ.com reported.
Protestors said the program has no tenured professors and that it was impossible to complete majors or minors in it. The students are demanding that the school hire three or four full-time professors; restore the Africana Studies Department by next spring; appoint a full-time tenured program director; and allow students to serve as search committee liaisons with voting power for hiring.
“This isn’t a new fight at Seton Hall,” said sophomore Tawanna Brown, a political science and Africana Studies major. “It’s sad that Black students on Seton Hall’s campus are still organizing to receive fundamental resources that we are entitled to.”
The event was organized by the group Protect African American Studies (AFAM) Movement. Chanting “Protect AFAM” and “No Justice, No Peace,” students occupied the administrative building after walking out of classes at noon. Many even slept there overnight, blocking the stairs and access to some offices.
“We [are] deeply committed to the critical discipline of Africana Studies and underscore how vital it is for all our students, independent of their major field of study, to be able to learn about their (and other) cultures, histories, and identities,” said Seton Hall spokesman Michael Ricciardelli. “The remarkable diversity of our University community is one of our great strengths.”
Previously, school officials forced out the program’s only full-time professor and director; delayed advertising for a new tenured professor; refused students’ verbal feedback on candidates; and required students to sign nondisclosure agreements, the Protect AFAM Movement claimed.
A Change.org petition supporting Africana Studies at Seton Hall had 1,800 signatures as of last week.
“Black students organized and protested in 1978 to establish the Africana Studies Department, and most recently in 2018 with the Concerned 44 movement,” said Zellie Thomas, a Paterson School District math teacher and president of Black Lives Matter Paterson. “These students occupied Presidents Hall, demanding answers and change. While some promises were made [in the past], they have not seen meaningful longevity. We cannot continue to let this history repeat itself.”