Rally seeks ouster of KSU chairman

Pan-African unit head target of students, faculty

By Justin Boyd
Record-Courier staff writer

November 22, 1997

     A protest staged by Kent State University's Black United Students Friday was the latest indication of an increasingly public controversy surrounding the chairman of KSU's Department of Pan-African Studies.
     About 350 students, staff and faculty gathered outside the Kent Student Center to hear George Garrison defend his three-year record as chairman of Pan-African Studies.
     The protest came on the heels of a letter presented to Garrison Thursday by BUS requesting his resignation as chairman of the department.
     The letter, dated Nov. 19, contained six points. Among them were charges that Garrison has a "blatant disregard of the historical mission of the Department of Pan-African Studies," was "in open opposition to the African-American student body, and that he was unable "to serve as a responsible and professional faculty member."
     Garrison, speaking into a bullhorn r ponded to the allegations by detailing his history in the civil rights movement and his upbrluging in segregated South Carolina. He also emphasized his dediGation to black students.
     "For the last 21 years, I've been in higher education helping black students 'he said. "I came here particularly for black students."
     "I am not guilty of the allegations brought against me and time will bear that out," he said. "Someday, you young people will regret this."
     But some faculty in Pan-African Studies said BUS's action was a reflection of growing dissatisfaction among students and faculty with Garrison's conduct as chairman of the department.
     "This whole situation has exemplified the lack of communication, trust and confidence that are critical in any effective functioning of any organization'' said Jacqueline Rowser, assistant professor [sic] of PanAfrican Studies. "The chair's philosophy and his vision are not in line with the majority's vision and philosophy in Pan-African Studies in terms of where it's been, where it is and where it's going."
     Mwatabu Okantah, a full-time instructor in the department, said BUS's letter resulted partly from Garrison's refusal to establish consensus about the department's mission.
     "This is just a mess", he said. "I really and truly believe this all could have been avoided if Dr. Garrison had taken the time to sit down and talk to his faculty about what it is that we do."
     While Garrison spoke to students at the public rally, he could not be reached for additional comment following it.
     The KSU administration's reaction to a faculty request of an early review of Garrison may have played a role in bringing the departmental controversy to a public boiling point, some at the rally indicated. 
     "The student protest makes public issues that we've been trying to resolve privately, but with no success," Rowser said.
     Kenneth Calkins, chairman of the grievances committee of the KSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said a quick administrative response to the review request might have prevented the present controversy.
     "My big complaint is that, for whatever reason, the administration has not moved along as they should have and, in my view, has made it more difficult to come to a positive conclusion in this situation," he said.
     Under guidelines established in the collective-bargaining agreement between }(SU and the AAUP all department chairs are subject to an administrative review every four years.
     However, if one-third of a department's faculty requests it, the dean must initiate an "extraordinary review" of the department chair. The bargaining agreement requires such a review must be completed in the semester after the request is filed with the dean.
     Fran Dorsey, professor Pan-African Studies and director of the Center of Pan-African Culture, said a request for an early review of Garrison signed by four Pan-African Studies faculty members was acknowledged by loseph Danks, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, in January 1997.
     According to KSU Provost Myron Henry, however, the review committee is only now finalizing its membership.
     "I don't anticipate that the review will be complete this semester but by the end of the academic year," he said.