A Personal Letter:
To Individual Alumni of
the Black United Students, 1968 to 1996
Dear Black United Students Alumnus,
Greetings, I hope this letter reaches you in good health. It is an honor for me to relay these words to you. Through your efforts, as an undergraduate student at Kent State University, you built a tradition that has withstood the test of time. Black United Students, the IAAA (1969), the Center Of Pan-African Culture (1972), and the Department of Pan-African Studies (1977) are all a part of the legacy that you left for future generations to benefit. Since you took the time to think about the future generations education so many years ago, it is out of respect that I send you this letter.
As you may know Dr. Edward W. Crosby, the founder of the Department of Pan-African Studies, has retired. This letter is to inform you, from a student's perspective, about the state of the institutions you helped build, since Dr. Crosby's retirement. The information that I am passing to you has come to me through first-hand experience, the viewing of documentation, and correspondence with members of the Pan-African Community at Kent State University.
The current Chair of the Department of Pan-African Studies is Dr. George Garrison. Dr. Garrison's style of leadership is incompatible with the traditions and relationships in our community. Specifically, Dr. Garrison has failed to respect the role that students played in the development of our co-existing institutions (BUS, IAAA, CPAC, DPAS), and has abandoned the traditional relationship between DPAS and the black students. I think it is safe to say that in the three years that he has been Chair of the Department of Pan-African studies he has destroyed more in this short amount of time than the time it took to build it. Documentation substantiates these charges.
Traditionally the black community at Kent State University has referred to Oscar Ritchie Hall as "the house that BUS built." This tradition exists to acknowledge that if there were no black students on Kent's campus to demand that the institutions exist, Oscar Ritchie Hall would not have being. Dr. Garrison refuses to recognize this relationship. In fact, during the Spring semester of 1996, at a student protest, Dr. Garrison said, in front of administration, faculty, staff and students that Oscar Ritchie Hall is not the house that BUS built (this information has been documented on film thanks to "Family Tree"). Furthermore, he publicly opposed the student sit-in, which was a conflict between BUS and the administration. This kind of incidents have become a pattern affecting student growth and development of undergraduate and graduate students.
Prior to the beginning of the fall 1996 semester, students were told that there was no instructor identified to teach the Black Community Development course — a course integral to the major/minor sequence in DPAS. On the first day of class students were told that Dr. Edward W Crosby, Professor Emeritus (and creator of the course), would be teaching the course until the professor assigned to teach was available. At the beginning of the third week, Dr. Crosby passed out a syllabus and began to teach the course. Dr. Garrison was unrecep- tive of Dr. Crosby's help. As a result, Dr. Crosby was dismissed from teaching the course and excluded from departmental policy sessions (Dr. Garrison even went as far as threatening to call the police on Dr. Crosby). Consequently, Dr. Garrison decided to teach the course himself. What resulted was a headache for the five students who had enrolled in the course. In a grievance to the Executive Board of Black United Students dated October 11, 1996, a student writes:
"First I have developed what I consider to be an 'ill-feeling' toward continuing this class with Dr. Garrison because I feel he has consistently not acted in the best interest of the students. He has been chronically late, not to mention rude and inconsiderate of the students in class. This attitude will no doubt affect my ability to complete this course successfully. Lastly, I feel that he will not be able to conduct the course smoothly without interruption or cancellation because of commitments he has to attend to with his schedule. Having substitutes come in to teach the course as it develops will not help but hinder our learning."During the same semester graduate students working in Oscar Ritchie Hall were having problems with Dr. Garrison. In a letter dated October 14, 1996, these graduate students expressed their outrage towards a decision made by Dr. Garrison to close the Departmental meetings to them. In a response to this decision the graduate students wrote:
"Interaction with the faculty and staff is an integral part of our professional development. Meetings provide us with the opportunity to learn 'how things get done' in a professional organization both when things are running smoothly and when there are opportunities for change. It is our hope that this memorandum will serve as catalyst for the reinstatement of our role as observers and partici- pants in the governance of the department in which we are staff members as well."Due to the gravity of these issues the 1996-97 Executive Board of Black United Students made this public statement to the Elders:
"Black United Students is calling for the Department of Pan-African Studies to align itself with the principles upon which the discipline was founded. We urge the Elders in DPAS to put aside their personal differences for the greater good of the community of both today, and tomorrow. . . . We regret having to get involved in this no-win situation. But since Black students are the backbone of DPAS, we have more to loose than anyone else — pending the outcome of the department's current circumstances."I have written this letter because, like you, I would like future generations to reap the same benefits that I had access to as an undergraduate student at Kent State University. The relationship between the Chair of DPAS and black students on Kent's campus has always been a mentor/mentee relationship. This relationship has been damaged by Dr. Garrison. If this relationship did not exist Oscar Ritchie Hall would not exist. Moreover, because of the current condition of this relationship, Oscar Ritchie Hall is vulnerable and its integrity is at stake. As our Elders we would appreciate any advice you have about this situation. Thank you for your time. Take care.
/s/ Perkins Pringle
Perkins Pringle, President