BSM: Explicit Letter to Provost

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Students congregate on the Student Services Center patio at Bloomsburg University on Friday, May 6 in the pouring rain to protest the decisions regarding the Black Studies Minor. Credit: Aaron Sudia Boivin

*Editor’s note: Three students, Keiana Blanco, Brittany Stephenson and Kharie Wilkins, authored the following letter addressed to Bloomsburg University provost Dr. Rodgers-Adkinson regarding the proposed Black Studies minor. Dr. Saracoglu sent the letter to all faculty and staff at BU on behalf of the students. BUnow is publishing the letter to provide further reach.

Good evening, Dr. Rodgers-Adkinson.

In conclusion of our meeting on Friday, May 6, 2022, we, as student leaders, would like to follow up with a debriefing. We would also like to confirm and set the stipulations for the progression of the Black Studies Minor and the INSTUDY 220 course for the Fall of 2022. As a point of record, this meeting included: Keiana Blanco, Brittany Stephenson and Kharie Wilkins (student leaders) with Provost Diana Rogers-Adkinson and Albert Jones as Bloomsburg University administrators. 

We want to state again, our concerns and position we had coming into Friday’s meeting. We were (and are) expressing very strong concern about your unwillingness to sign the original Black Studies Minor proposals that were given to you for your signature. Those proposals have gone through all of the required steps to get approved, including the Bloomsburg University Curriculum Committee. We do not understand why they cannot be signed as is. We feel very strongly that this is in direct violation of the University’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion position. We feel this is a DIRECT CONFLICT to your commitment to welcome and support students of color at Bloomsburg University. We feel that this decision will disproportionately harm students of color. This is also different than your public comments last week at the luncheon with the First Lady of the State of Pennsylvania about the Basic Needs Shoppe. We see your unwillingness to sign the official proposals as direct disrespect and disregard for all current and future students of color at Bloomsburg University. 

In our meeting, you presented an alternative plan–that is different than the proposals that have already received full approval at every level, including the Bloomsburg University Curriculum Committee. (As we stated in our meeting, Kharie Wilkins and Brittany Stephenson were at the BUCC meeting and Mr. Wilkins spoke at the end of the meeting about the importance of the Black Studies Minor. ) We also personally witnessed the BUCC’s unanimous approval and support of these proposals. These proposals could be signed by you immediately, which would allow students to enroll in the Black Studies Minor and 220 immediately and begin their classes starting this Fall 2022.  

Before proceeding with dialogue we would appreciate it if you could provide accurate answers to the following questions.

  • In the newspaper a Bloomsburg University representative stated that you want to “build on the existing African American Studies Minor at Mansfield University instead of starting from scratch.” Please provide documentation that supports how many students are enrolled in the African American Minor at Mansfield as of May 2022. We ask this because before our meeting on Friday at 9:25 a.m., we called the Mansfield Admissions Office expressing interest in the minor and the representative chuckled and told us that there are currently “No students involved in the minor” and that there are “no faculty to teach their African American Studies course.”
  • Are there any required courses for the minor at Mansfield? If so, are those courses presently being taught? And are there any faculty members qualified to teach any of the required courses? 
  • What if MU and LHU are unable or unwilling to offer the minor?  If they cannot offer the same courses or same minor, will Bloomsburg University students miss their chance to have the strong Black Studies Minor that is currently sitting on your desk?
  • In your email responses to students on Thursday, May 5th at 6:25 p.m., you said that 220 was approved and would be available “soon.” Then, in your BUCC response dated May 5th you stated that you would “activate INSTUDY 220 as an experimental course.” Then in your email to students on Thursday, May 5th 6:25 p.m. and Saturday, May 7th at 5:38 p.m., you did not state the course or the experimental factor at all, so which version is correct? 
  • Also related to 220, what would be the reason to make any changes to the existing 220 proposal (such as making it experimental)? Isn’t the current proposal on your desk complete and ready to just be signed to become a permanent course (including general education approval)?
  • If you did in fact approve course INSTUDY 220 as you stated in the May 5th email you sent to the student body, why is it not showing up in MyHusky? Can you tell us specifically what was the date and time you approved it?
  • In your email on May 7th at 5:39 p.m. to students you stated “I recommended the program request go before the ICC to allow all students in the new Commonwealth University access to the program.” You did not state to students whether or not this will be available to them to discreetly enroll for the Fall 2022 semester. When would this newly formed minor be available for students to actually enroll? What is the earliest time it could be officially declared in MyHusky so that it is reflected on the student’s advising page as a minor? Please provide an exact date.
  • If the proposals are not approved now, won’t Bloomsburg University students of color be penalized by having to wait for it to go through all of the approval steps again? You said in our meeting that the deadline for the curriculum to become integrated is Dec. 16, 2022. That means our Bloomsburg Students would miss a whole academic year to take the classes and make it harder to complete the minor before they graduate.
  • Doesn’t every single degree program have to go through the ICC to get approved anyway? Why can’t the current proposals be signed off on now (so students have immediate access to declare the minor in MyHusky immediately and take 220 Fall of 2022)? Students need to be figuring out their Fall schedule before they leave campus. Every day that you create a delay more students will be going home or filling their schedules with other classes.
  • We, the student body, are aware that you have been seeking outside presidential appointments. If there is a new Provost, will this agreement still stand? What guarantee do we have that the new Provost will agree to our arrangement?
  • What assurance do we have that you will be fully transparent in this process? Who do you report to and how will we know that you are following through on the terms of the agreement? 

In summary, it seems to us that the simplest and clearest way to move forward would be for you to sign the proposals that have already received full approval (except for your signature). That would allow the minor and the 220 course to be available to students immediately. 

One last thing that we have not addressed thus far is the issue of Ralph Godbolt’s reassignment which removes him from the Act 101 directorship at Bloomsburg University. As Dr. Saracoglu said in his email (which he copied us on) sent to faculty and staff on Sunday, May 8th at 9:57 a.m., Mr. Godbolt and the black studies minor are inseparably connected. In addition, he has increased retention rates and inspired students. Without his advocacy and support of students, many students of color would not be here. Which leads to the question of why was he reassigned? Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Albert Jones whom attended our meeting on Friday morning with you later appeared at the student-led protest. When talking to student Kharie Wilkins, Albert Jones stated that Dr. Martha Wygmans “does not want Ralph Godbolt to have a job.”

Therefore, we are making the following requests.

  1. Reinstate Ralph Godbolt to the Director of Access and Success.
  2.  Immediately approve the Black Studies Minor AS IS.
  3. Immediately approve the 220 and 320 courses AS IS.

We hope that you noticed on Friday how important the Black Studies Minor and RALPH GODBOLT’S Act 101 directorship is to Bloomsburg University students (especially students of color). We urgently appeal to you to meet our above-stated requests. First, reinstate Ralph Godbolt to the Director of Access and Success. In addition, approve the Black Studies Minor 220 and 320 courses for Bloomsburg University students immediately. 

We submit this to you on behalf of all marginalized students at Bloomsburg University.

Keiana Blanco
Brittany Stephenson
Kharie Wilkins

Sincerely, 

Keiana Blanco

President of The Makeup Society
President of Bloomsburg University Gospel Choir
Elwell Hall Community Assistant
Business Management Major Entrepreneurship Minor
Bloomsburg University Class of 2022
Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

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