We don’t want to go
Sociology students launch silent protest against program elimination
Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 13:02
Update: The N.C. Central University Board of Trustees voted today, Feb. 22, to move forward with Chancellor Nelms' proposal recommendations. The recommendations must still be approved by the UNC Board of Governors.
One of the principle insights of sociology is this: Not everything is what it seems.
The Jan. 9 proposal to eliminate the bachelor's program in sociology at N.C. Central University has been amended by Chancellor Nelms – without university-wide notification – to include elimination of the sociology master's program on top of the elimination of the bachelor's program.
Today around 40 students and community members marched in silent demonstration against the proposed eliminations. The protesters were joined by faculty including James Davies, chair of the sociology department, and Robert Wortham, professor of sociology. According to Davies he attended the demonstration to support the students.
"We're here to raise awareness for the importance of the sociology program. We believe sociology changed the world. … This program is vital to the campus and society as a whole," said sociology graduate student Steven Hargrove.
Hargrove said sociology is critical to the understanding and struggle against social injustice and inequality.
The elimination of the sociology master's program is part of the sweeping changes to NCCU programs that administration said will help combat budget woes.
Other changes include the merging of the College of Science and the College of Liberal Arts and, inside the College of Liberal Arts, the merging of the Department of English with the Department of Foreign Languages. These proposals are slated to go before the NCCU Board of Trustees next Wednesday.
Participants at the protest claim that there may be another – and potentially hidden – agenda behind the elimination of the sociology master's program.
Sociology graduate student Aimee Williams said she thinks the changes are not related to budget cuts. Williams has done a statistical review of the department. She says that NCCU will lose $186,000 in tuition because of the changes.
"Why is it [the elimination] being proposed as a budget decision when it isn't?"
In an email to the Echo Williams wrote, "As I figure it, the department has a recent history of netting $456,000 in tuition after paying for salaries of professors, adjunct professors, and one administrative assistant.
If the university were to move forward with the decision, and implement the proposed plan of retaining only tenured professors… and having no administrative assistant, then the department would only net $270 thousand dollars per year after salaries."
In recent listening sessions Provost Debbie Thomas said proposed program changes are designed to make NCCU stronger moving forward.
But some students question how eliminating sociology – a discipline that has given rise to such historic texts as W.E.B. Dubois' "The Souls of Black Folk," Elliot Liebow's "Tally's Corner" and William J. Wilson's "The Truly Disadvantaged: the Inner City, the Underclass and Public Policy" -- makes a historically black college with roots in liberal arts and civil rights activism stronger.
Sociology international graduate student Priyanka Khandelwal said she chose NCCU for her master's degree based on unique course offerings.
"This is one of the core subjects. The courses offered in the graduate program here are not offered everywhere. There is a history of many international students at Central. They have been extremely successful because of the guidance received," said Khandelwal.
Andrew Perrin, associate chair of the sociology department at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill said that eliminating a sociology program at an HBCU is "pretty tragic."
"The roots of sociology are a part of understanding racial inequality," said Perrin. "These students are taught to think broadly. They turn out to gain the most from college education."
Editor's note: The story has been updated to reflect changes as of Feb 22.