Friday, March 22, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 14



San Cofa brings its concerns to provost

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 student body. 

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
our director."

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 overlooked.

"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 to him.

"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.

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