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Students push to expand African Studies at University of Calgary

Last Updated Nov 27, 2020 at 8:14 am MST

CALGARY (CityNews)- Students at the University of Calgary are behind a proposal to expand the African Studies program and calling for more Black representation.

Fifth-year student Ebenezer Belayneh said the proposal being submitted to the Students’ Union Friday calls for the program to go from two to 10 classes.

“We want to introduce U of C’s first-class devoted to anti-racism in order to stimulate more conversations on colonial legacy, stereotypes, prejudices, racial bias. These are conversations we really need to be having,” said Belayneh.

Caesar Apentiik is the lone professor teaching the often-waitlisted classes. Despite the popularity, the lack of spaces makes it difficult for students to minor in the program.

“African studies is a necessity for a university. It’s good for everybody. You’re talking about globalizing our students’ education and also talking about decolonizing our curriculum. I think African studies will suddenly play an important part of that direction,” said Apentiik.

The proposal comes on the heels of the Black Lives Matter movement and the University committing to being a leader in anti-racism.

This motion also includes the hiring of another Black faculty member for a three-year term.

“I’ve taken 47 classes here at the University, over two different honours degrees, and I’ve only had one Black professor. And so that is an extreme problem,” said Belayneh.

The proposal, which has financial backing from the Dean and department head at the University, goes to the Student Union Friday.

It will be one of several considered, with the decision being announced in about four months time.