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AAA Responds to Howard University on the Closing of the Anthropology Department

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February 8, 2011

Below is a letter by President Dominguez in response to the decision of Howard University to close the Anthropology program.

February 8, 2011

Dr. Sidney A. Ribeau
Howard University
2400 6th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20059

Dear Dr. Ribeau:

As President of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), I write to express my extreme disappointment in your decision to close the Anthropology program at Howard University and turn its existing major into a track within sociology. On the behalf of the 11,000 members of the Association (from the U.S. and all over the globe), I urge you to reconsider your decision.

On three previous occasions, I have sent correspondence pointing out the richness of the Howard anthropology program as well as its critical contribution to the discipline at large. Without anthropology (and other humanities-related) programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) a much-needed diversity in science, research, and scholarship is most certainly at risk. As the only HBCU offering a major in anthropology, Howard has played and must continue to play a unique and valuable role in our discipline.

According to the university-sponsored President’s Commission on Academic Renewal, the anthropology program at Howard was not slated to be closed or merged. It was recognized as expanding Howard’s international footprint and its collaborative scholarly networks. It was also seen as cost-effective and as sustaining its programs and facilities through awarded grants.

The final recommendation to close the program rationalizes the decision by stating this action: “Retains instructional capability in a field rich with interdisciplinary potential, but limited faculty capacity. Permits the retention and development of the university’s anthropological projects (i.e., Cobb Collection, African Burial Ground, etc.).”

“Limited faculty capacity” was not previously identified as a reason to discontinue offering an anthropology degree. AAA does not consider Howard's anthropology program as having “limited faculty capacity.” Rather, this is a program that could truly augment the quality of teaching, research and service offered by Howard.

Time still exists to change this decision, and you must do so for the long-term sustainability and integrity of our discipline. I look forward to discussing these matters with you and will contact your secretary shortly to schedule a phone call. In the meantime, please feel free to contact Damon Dozier, AAA Director of Public Affairs at (703) 528-1902 should you have any questions, comments, or concerns.


Virginia R. Dominguez

President, American Anthropological Association


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