ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – UAlbany students gathered to protest on campus Thursday and spoke out against the merger of some academic departments. Back in April, the university announced the Africana Studies and the Latin American, Caribbean and U.S. Latino Studies (L.A.C.S.) departments would be joining together to share resources.
Students from several student organizations, even those outside of the two merging departments, rallied in solidarity and have a list of demands – including protections for current faculty, added investment to promote their programs’ majors and more communication and transparency.
Graduate teaching assistant, and Latino Studies PhD student, Marina Hernandez said initially there was no transparency from the administration.
“We are students that face disproportionate injustice, both in academia and then society, so when we hear that the areas that we have found safety in, that we have found an academic home in, are starting to make decisions that go against our wishes – or being made without us informing how we want those decisions to be made – That’s a problem,” said Hernandez.
She said the merger sends a message to the students enrolled in those programs.
“That we don’t have a place in academia and that the things that we want to study are not important. They are not worthy of dedicating careers to and that they just don’t have a space here on campus,” said Hernandez.
UAlbany spokesperson Jordan Caeleo-Evangelist said they’re doing it for the long-term sustainability of both departments. He said enrollment in Latino Studies majors went from roughly 34 undergraduate students to 11 over a 5 year span.
“As departments have shrunk over the years, the resources at their disposal in terms of staff time, and others have also been more limited but by administratively combining it’s a force multiplier,” said Caeleo-Evangelist.
However, faculty and students say the data doesn’t fully capture what’s been happening. They said the university has been divesting from their departments for years, citing a lack of willingness to hire new faculty to fill positions when people switch careers or retire.
Associate Professor and Africana Studies Undergraduate Program Advisor Dr. Marcia Sutherland said there’s “no clear academic rationale” in the merger decision and called it “statistical discrimination”.
Caeleo-Evangelist wants to stress that no academic programs, faculty and graduate student positions will be eliminated.