The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday October 20th

External review of African studies department to wrap up this semester

“What (UNC is) trying to do is just to make sure that, going forward, in light of everything that’s happened, that the department is strong, that it’s sustainable, that it has the resources that are necessary in order to flourish as a department,” said Jim Dean, executive vice chancellor and provost.

Dean said the review, which began in August, will be completed by the end of the spring semester.

“I would say, in fairness, that based on everything’s that happened in the department in the past, it’s a particularly important time to make sure that we’re clear about where things stand,” he said.

The review policy change came about as a result of a lack discipline and regulation in departmental reviews that became clear with investigations into the department’s academic improprieties.

The overall review process began with a self-study, conducted by the department and led by department chairwoman Eunice Sahle, who declined several requests for comment on the review.

The College of Arts and Sciences then brought in an external review team to evaluate the self-study in combination with a site visit in September.

The review team published a report in October that was largely complimentary of the department’s new administration and curriculum.

“The scope of positive change in these two years has been breathtaking, and the department and its faculty should be congratulated for the enormous progress they have made in all these matters,” the report says.

Dean said it’s common for departments to undergo multi-step reviews like this one, but that earlier policies never required one of the African, African American and Diaspora Studies department.

Jonathan Hartlyn, senior associate dean for social sciences and global programs in the college of arts and sciences, said, prior to 2012, only departments with graduate programs were required to undergo external academic program reviews.

“Most departments in the College of Arts and Sciences have both graduate and undergraduate degrees,” Hartlyn said. “So it was a small number of programs that did not have this type of review prior to the change in policy.”

Five other departments fall under this category, including the departments of Peace, War and Defense and Women’s and Gender Studies, according to Geneva Collins, director of communications for the College of Arts and Sciences.

Collins said, to her knowledge, none of the other undergraduate-only departments are currently undergoing a review like that of the African, African American and Diaspora Studies department.

Hartlyn said academic program reviews entail a self-study followed by an external evaluation with a departmental review every eight to 10 years.

“In this case, I think it was particularly important because there had been so many changes in policy in the department and in the direction of the department over the last few years,” Dean said.

The final step in the process, Dean said, is to review both the self-study and the report by the external review team, and that possible outcomes for the department could include increased funding, hiring potential or program approval.

“This isn’t sort of like a one-time, one-off kind of thing,” Dean said. “You’re really in some sense always in a review phase.”

While this is the first review in several years to look at the future of a department rather than its past actions, Dean said the department is no stranger to evaluation.

“In a way, they’ve been reviewed kind of incessantly over the last few years. But this is, to my knowledge, the first of this kind of review — an external review that’s really focused not so much on the problems of the past, but where’s the department now and where’s the department going.”

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