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New interdisciplinary program in ethnic studies proposed

STANFORD -- Stanford University has proposed a new interdisciplinary program in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Dean of Humanities and Sciences John Shoven announced Thursday, Feb. 23.

The degree-granting program would include two new "tracks," in Asian American Studies and Chicano Studies, as well as the existing major in African and Afro-American Studies. Undergraduates could major or minor in any of the three, and would share a common core curriculum, Shoven told the Faculty Senate in announcing the proposal.

At the same time, Shoven proposed founding a new research institute to complement the new curricula. The existing Center for Chicano Research would remain an identifiable research center within the new structure, he said.

"In order to have an innovative and exciting undergraduate curricular program," he said, "it is necessary to have a companion research center for graduate students and faculty." However, he noted, such a center would be heavily reliant on "soft," or outside, funding, and thus may take longer to become a reality.

The proposals were based on reports to Shoven from two committees established last year, to explore whether Stanford should - and could - offer degrees in Asian American and Chicano studies. The idea of combining those programs into one with African and Afro-American Studies, in which all students would take two or three core or "gateway" courses, was given broad conceptual support at the Senate meeting.

The two committees were formed in the wake of student protests that included a four-day hunger strike by Chicana students last May and the disruption of a Faculty Senate meeting a week later by Asian American students.

(In addition to the two formal committees, Shoven sought input from groups of black faculty, including those affiliated with the African and Afro-American Studies program.)

The comparative nature of the program, and its focus on the social sciences as well as humanities, was lauded by most of those who commented on the proposal at the senate meeting.

Details of implementation - such as deployment of faculty resources - are likely to be issues of serious discussion and debate for the remainder of the academic year and into 1995-96. Regardless, Shoven said that students could begin taking new classes toward a major or minor in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity as early as next winter, and that some classes being taught now would qualify as having satisfied track requirements.

The program's authority to grant degrees requires approval first from the senate's Committee on Undergraduate Studies, and then from the full senate, said Robert Simoni, chairman of the senate and professor of biological sciences.

"There are going to be many questions regarding resources that need to be addressed," Simoni said.

Shoven noted that both of the ethnic studies committees, as well the group of black faculty members he consulted with, sought additional faculty positions for each of the three tracks.

"We can and will direct some hiring towards faculty whose interests are compatible with these issues," Shoven said. "However, I feel that in this budgetary climate, I am unable to make promises as to where we're going."

He did make it clear that there would be no new billets, or faculty positions, created within the program itself; as with other interdisciplinary programs, teaching will be done by faculty from established departments, including sociology, anthropology, political science, economics, the humanities and others. Shoven has committed to providing at least one visiting professorship apiece to the new tracks, and said several current searches are being conducted with the new enterprise in mind.

Also, Shoven said he hopes to include scholars from beyond Humanities and Sciences, specifically mentioning the Hoover Institution and the graduate schools of business and law.

"I will be very disappointed if we have talent at Stanford that we don't bring to bear on these issues," Shoven said, adding that all political affiliations and perspectives would be welcome to explore the tough policy issues.

Based on current enrollment in African and Afro-American Studies, Shoven predicted that each track probably would have 10 majors and as many as 50 minors.

Ramón Saldívar, professor of English and chairman of the committee on Chicano studies, and Daniel Okimoto, professor of political science and chairman of the committee on Asian American studies, said both panels came to the same conclusion independently - that Stanford should establish a "cutting edge" program based on comparative analysis, involving social sciences and with an international component.

Saldívar, who served on both committees, said in looking at programs at other universities, "We found that the really innovative and (academically) rigorous programs are moving toward this model." At Stanford, he said, "We can offer detailed and in-depth study in Chicano Studies, Asian American Studies and African American Studies, but we also would allow for the opportunity of cross-ethnic comparison" and studies based on the international aspects of race and ethnicity.

Okimoto said his committee found that, even though other schools have had Asian American Studies programs in place for as long as 25 years, Stanford could benefit by being in the role of "latecomer."

"We can avoid some of the pitfalls that programs at (other universities) have encountered," Okimoto said. "We can design a program that is really at the cutting edge of ethnic studies."

Shoven said being on the cutting edge meant Stanford would place a much greater emphasis on involvement from the social sciences faculty.

"At Stanford and elsewhere, there has been a lack of emphasis on the study of contemporary social and economic problems and how they affect members of ethnic and racial minorities disproportionately," Shoven said. "In other words, the policy analysts among the social science departments do not participate, by and large, in ethnic studies programs."

Since the new program would focus on public policy issues such as immigration, discrimination and education, he said, a much greater commitment from social science departments would be sought, as well as continued support from the departments that traditionally support ethnic studies programs -- the humanities and history, for instance.

Shoven plans on naming committees to begin developing the curricula for each track and to develop the core courses within a few weeks. He also scheduled a meeting for 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27, to discuss the new program with students and other members of the community.



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