In January, the department of history will begin searching for a postdoctoral fellow in African-American History. This announcement, which will impact the 2019-20 academic year, comes more than a month after an open letter surfaced among the campus community calling on the central administration to fill vacant positions in the department for African-American history.
Support was given to the department of history to search for a visiting faculty position in 2018-19, but not for a tenure-track faculty position, which was made vacant in 2017. The University instead approved the department’s request to search for a postdoctoral fellow.
“As the name of the position implies,” said the University in a statement, “these positions are for individuals who recently earned their doctoral degrees and provide an opportunity to continue scholarly work—for example, make final dissertation additions and revisions to have the document ready for publication—and also receive ongoing advising and mentoring from a faculty member in that individual’s field.”
Chair of the department of history Kenneth Ledford emphasized the importance of this position in the academic community.
“The postdoctoral fellow in African-American history remains of paramount importance and significance for the department of history, and we look forward to resuming the regular presence of a great young scholar of African-American history in the department,” said Ledford.
“Heretofore, the postdoctoral fellow position has been for one year,” he explained. “Before we advertise and begin the search in January, we will consider possible reconfigurations that might make the fellow position multiyear, which would increase its attractiveness for candidates and its usefulness for CWRU students.”
Arik Stewart, president of the Undergraduate Diversity Collaborative (UDC), said the organization was “proud to see so many students passionate about ensuring the success of the African-American history position and the newly formed African and African-American Studies minor that accompanies it, in addition to the outrage and conversations that the potential budget change had sparked.
However, the UDC was disappointed on what Stewart considers the “poor incorporation of black students and their voices within this conversation.”
He continued to explain that the open letter was released without consulting black leadership on campus, including the Black Student Union, who “had not been consulted nor incorporated outside of simply being asked to read and sign it themselves.” Stewart credited Vice President of Student Affairs Lou Stark and Provost Ben Vinson III for reaching out to the UDC to address the situation.
“We hope that going forward, this will change,” he said on the lack of communication.
Part of the search’s approval involves Vinson serving as the scholar’s advisor in addition to his role as provost. The University said that Vinson, a tenured professor in the history department, “has authored and edited several books regarding Africans in Mexico.”
According Ledford, also an associate professor of history and law, the history department “would also be pleased to search in early 2019 for a one-year visiting assistant professor of African-American history, who can fill the void of courses in African-American history that will exist in [Academic Year] 2019-20, while we will be searching for a tenure-track appointment if we are so authorized to search.”