San Cofa brings its concerns
By Geronimo Rodriguez
Daily Cougar Staff
On Thursday, Lynn Eusan Park echoed with
the actions and attitude of the woman for which it was named as students
voiced their opinions of
the need for change and the power of the
This was just the beginning of a gathering
that led to a march to let administrators know they thought a program's
needs were being overlooked
and their voice was being ignored.
Yvonne Feece/The Daily Cougar
Students rally at Lynn Eusan
Park on Thursday to voice their support to make the African American Studies
program an actual department. The
students marched from the park to meet
with Provost Edward P. Sheridan.
Members of San Cofa, an organization within
the African-American Studies program, gathered to address their concerns
about the selection
process regarding the future director
of the AAS program and its goal of being recognized as an official UH department.
Students said they felt the process is
being marred by the political science department's need for a professor.
The two candidates vying for the
position of AAS director, James L. Conyers
and David Haney, are in the final stage of the election process, which
is being overseen by both
Provost Edward P. Sheridan and College
of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Dean Andrew Achenbaum.
The members said they think Conyers, who
has a Ph.D. in African-American studies, is better qualified for the position.
Haney earned his doctorate in political
science. Students said that, since the political science department needs
a professor, Haney could be
favored by Sheridan and Achenbaum, since
he would fill both roles.
But Haney is opposed to helping make the
AAS program into its own department.
In interviews between the candidates and
the students, which are part of the selection process, members of AAS found
that Haney would not
support their ideas.
"He would just hold us back and do nothing
to advance our ideas," sophomore biology major Chioma Akuchie said.
During the interview, Conyers was more
adamant in committing to the idea of making AAS a recognized department.
"We talked to him and we know that he will
work toward the commitment of having a department for us," senior psychology
major Monique White
said. "If we can get (the administration)
to realize that the students are behind him, then maybe they can push toward
the idea of having him as
After the organization's leaders spoke
of the significance of the meeting, they began marching to Sheridan's office,
where they presented him
with 600 signed letters that supported
Conyers for director.
The members were first denied the opportunity
to speak to the provost despite a 3 p.m. appointment. They refused to leave
and minutes later,
the provost appeared and escorted them
to a conference room where he listened to the issues and addressed their
concerns with the selection
"All I can tell you is that (Conyers) is
doing very well right now," Sheridan said. "The decisions you are talking
about are decisions you really need
to bring to the faculty in your college."
Akuchie then cited a few issues some students
say are problems with the current state of AAS that they say have been
"The administration obviously does not
care," Akuchie said. "We don't even have a permanent director, which is
a blatant slap in the face. (The
administration) doesn't give a damn about
someone that looks like my skin tone. There is nothing to show that we
matter on this campus."
The national search is the first step in
finding a director who will best suit the program and its needs, Sheridan
said. He also said the program's
ideas were never officially presented
"I have not seen a single document on my
desk proposing a department for African-American Studies," Sheridan said.
But the students told Sheridan of the responses
they had received.
"They told us that African-American Studies
were not a part of the traditional discipline," Akuchie said. "This is
what we feel we need here at the
University of Houston in order to edify
our education experience."
Sheridan answered by saying the issues
should be taken up with Achenbaum. But the students reminded him Achenbaum
would only pass his
decision to Sheridan.
Sheridan closed by saying he was "amazed
that you have not been paying attention to what's going on. I think that
you have a very important
voice and think that it's foolish when
you say that we're not listening to you."
Sheridan further addressed the issues with
The Daily Cougar after the meeting.
"Most of these are things that I do not
know about," he said. "We'll deal with the issues, but I have no idea if
those claims are true or not."
600 more petitions were dropped off with
Assistant CLASS Dean Kathleen Sheridan because Achenbaum was not available.