Purdue University has walked back on its decision to eliminate 10 of the 16 directors of disciplines at its School of Interdisciplinary Studies, which is home to the university’s African American Studies, Asian American Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies, among others, reports the Journal & Courier.
The school announced it would eliminate the 10 positions on Wednesday
morning in an effort to trim budgets amid financial woes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. In an email sent to the faculty, it clarified that the disciplines and courses would still exist, but that the programs would be overseen by six professors, not 16.
But by late Thursday morning, swift backlash led to an online petition criticizing the school for cutting programs that center on “minoritized and marginalized communities and scholarship.” The petition generated more than 2,000 signatures, with some signatories complaining that the cuts would wither the school at a time when minority scholarship is most needed.
“We’re devastated that at a moment when we’re in this crucible about anti-Black racism that our dean would slash our program rather than lift it up,” said Dr. Marlo David, director of Purdue’s 40-year-old African-American Studies and Research Center, according to the Journal & Courier. “It’s glaring. It’s awful. And I think it sends a really clear message about what the priorities are. … This leadership drain was kind of a nail in the coffin.”
In response, the university administration changed course Thursday afternoon announcing it would provide funds to retain all 16 directors for another year. However, though the decision was much welcomed, others like David still wonder what the future holds for the school beyond this year, said the Journal & Courier.
“This news this week was a shock, but it’s also indicative of a pattern of neglect for what we do,” David said. “… This was a red flag to all of us who are part the Purdue community who want to see diversity, inclusion and equity advanced, who know it is the key to the future of the university.”