It seems apparent that most educational institutions govern their curriculum on the basis of economic priorities in our capitalist society, quite possibly eroding other essential factors like academic necessity and intellectual obligation. This might explain to some extent the reason why certain programs such as business and urban studies are surely supported, and lavished with affection represented by gifts such as new buildings. Yet, there is no infrastructure for majors in ethnic studies. The international studies major at PSU allows students to focus their academic endeavors in a concentration of their choice but, still, does not allow them to major in that concentration. This is based on the decisions of the University Curriculum Committee.
The most recent enrollment statistics indicate that a high prospective student potential exists for a black studies major. Enrollment would be doubled once the students are allowed to have the option of taking further black studies courses throughout their academic careers leading to a degree. As the program currently exists, it faces problems and challenges such as overcrowded classrooms and anxious students with no degree in sight. A black studies major would provide further options for academic specialty in a highly concentrated field of study. Even without the degree the ever-growing enrollment for black studies must be accommodated. According to the head of the black studies department, Kofi Agorsah,”it could take a year or two.” Agorsah hopes that the major could be effective as soon as fall 2003.
The uniqueness of black studies is demonstrated by the program’s multi-disciplinary compatibility with many other related fields of study. This integrative educational process strives as a unifying agent for cultural awareness. The practicality of the program is pertinent to current, pressing international issues and problems.
Even as a minor, black studies has offered special educational programs not offered by many other departments, such as international experience overseas in Africa, Caribbean and South America. These opportunities allow students to exercise their creative, academic and intellectual abilities.
Therefore, the black studies department has already shown versatility, compatibility and practicality within the confines of a minor program. This unequivocally indicates the opportunity that a black studies major could further provide to the Portland community. It also the potential to draw prospective students.
As the variety of departments at Portland State University expands, enrollment increases. When the variety of departments increases, while emphasizing their ability to be multi-disciplinary, more people will be attracted to Portland State University. This will bring more diverse academic and intellectual patrons; bringing resources, funds and prestige to our institution.
A black studies major at Portland State University is crucial to our other programs. It will be a failure of Portland State University if they do not recognize and offer the black studies major. It would be also be a terrible discouragement to the students presently attending, prospective students and the community at large.
Adam R. Carpinelli
liberal studies, African and Caribbean studies