Anthropology on the Ropes at Howard

Some faculty at Howard University write:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

This is a Call for Action regarding the possible closing of the Anthropology Program at Howard University. On September 23, 2010, Howard University President Sidney A. Ribeau announced his intention to cut certain programs as part of an effort to restructure and streamline the curriculum. Among the targeted programs is Anthropology. The President recommends that we become a specialization under Sociology or a part of an as-yet undefined interdisciplinary major.

Howard’s is one of only three B.A. degree-granting programs in anthropology among the 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States. Of the three, our program is unique in offering students a four-field approach to the discipline, as well as courses in applied anthropology. It is also one of the few pipelines for African Americans and other minorities to enter the discipline. According to figures tabulated by the American Anthropological Association (AAA), African Americans represent less than 3% of the membership and minorities altogether make up less than 16%.

All Howard programs went through an evaluation process this past year that rated them in six categories. The only category where Anthropology was rated “weak” was “enrollment.” Due to many reasons, some of our majors were not recognized within the statistics of the final report. We have conducted a recent assessment that shows our number of majors is more than double the originally recorded count, and AAA representatives have told us that the size of our program falls in line with many of the anthropology programs throughout the country. The President cited small enrollment as the main reason to close the program. The second and only other provided reason focused on the financial commitment needed to further advance the program. This position overlooks our potential to raise financial support as demonstrated by our already established strong record of awarded grants.

To increase our numbers even more, we have been working for over three years on a revised curriculum that has been delayed in the approval process. The new courses will attract students, as demonstrated by the success of our latest service learning and summer fieldwork programs that require no prior approval. In the last three years, we have seen our efforts directly translate into a marked increase in students interested in graduate school and careers in anthropology.

We have until Thanksgiving to appeal the President’s decision. Please ask your departments, colleagues and prominent members of your communities to send letters of support. Please send letters to Dr. Sidney A. Ribeau, President of Howard University at the address given below and copies of your letters to us. The main points to stress are: 1) the importance of anthropology to both national and international communities; 2) the critical need for more minorities and people of color to become anthropologists in all of the sub-fields of our discipline – particularly our areas of strength: bioarchaeology, archaeology, and linguistics; 3) the unique benefits of anthropological training for all Howard students – shaping them to be the type of global leaders that understand culture and give back to underserved populations throughout the world; 4) the importance of our particular program remaining at Howard U. to achieve diversity in our profession; and 5) reasons why we should remain a stand alone program rather than carved into segments that service other disciplines.

More information can be found on the AAA blog site.

Thank you for your support!

Eleanor M. King
Flordeliz T. Bugarin Arvilla Payne-Jackson Mark Mack

Please Send Letters to:
Dr. Sidney A. Ribeau
Office of the President
AB Johnson Building
2400 Sixth Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20059

With Copies to:

Drs. Eleanor M. King and Flordeliz T. Bugarin
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Howard University
2441 Sixth Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20059

Please Send Questions to Either:
Eleanor M. King, Ph.D. (202) 806-5255 MWF (301) 942-3713 T/Th

Or to:
Flordeliz T. Bugarin, Ph.D.

Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson is Project Cataloger at The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia, and currently working on a CLIR ‘hidden collections’ grant to describe the museum’s collection of early 20th Century photography. He has a doctorate in anthropology from the University of North Carolina and a Masters in information science from the University of Tennessee.