From our Late to the Pity Party desk
Former US ambassador to Tanzania and current director of Boston University’s African Presidential Center Charles Stith has a beef with BU.
(Full disclosure: The hardreading staff is a non-tenured professor at BU so we – seriously – have no dog in this fight.)
Saturday’s Boston Herald featured this opening salvo:
Envoy slams closure of BU African center
Former U.N. Ambassador to Tanzania Charles R. Stith is slamming Boston University for shuttering a school center dedicated to promoting democracy and market reform in Africa, calling the June 30 closure a “great loss for the city of Boston.”
“The president of Boston University has made the decision to defund the African Presidential Center,” Stith, the center’s founder and director, told the Herald, referring to BU president Dr. Robert A. Brown.
“We are obviously disappointed. … But I’m not surprised because it is consistent with the university’s marginalization of African-Americans in the BU community. Quite frankly,” Stith said, “I think it is a great loss for Boston University and a great loss for the city of Boston.”
The Boston Globe has been a day late and a dolor short on the BU dustup, but Adrian Walker inserts the stately local broadsheet into the mix in his Metro column today.
Fight over African center heats up at BU
There’s nothing diplomatic about the battle being waged between Boston University and the Rev. Charles R. Stith, the former US ambassador to Tanzania and longtime civil rights activist.
BU has decided to pull the plug on the African Presidential Center, which Stith founded in 2001, when he returned to Boston from his diplomatic posting. The center’s stated purpose is to further understanding of Africa, particularly its political and economic trends. It hosts former African presidents as visiting dignitaries, participates in conferences, and sponsors research.
Barring something unforeseen, the center will close at the end of this academic year, and the dispute over its closing is being waged in unusually blunt terms. Stith describes it as a part of a pattern of marginalizing blacks on campus. BU says Stith simply hasn’t honored his obligation to raise enough money to keep the center’s doors open; it is no more complicated than that.
Walker’s bottom line:
The issue of racial insensitivity is not new for BU. In December, Brown’s refusal to appear at a City Council hearing exploring campus diversity irritated councilors. He relented only under the imminent threat of a subpoena from the council.
And in a 2012 report, BU’s Faculty Senate did the math on the school’s diversity, and the results were terrible. Of roughly 2,000 faculty members, a total of 73 identified as black or Latino. The student body was 3 percent black.
“While there are aspects of the city of Boston that make this particularly challenging, no other Boston-area university has ratios as low as ours,” its authors wrote of the faculty breakdown.
BU spokesman Colin Riley said in a statement that “Boston University did not ‘defund’ the center” and that “We met with Ambassador Stith to discuss the fact that the APC would not have sufficient funds to operate through the end of the fiscal year that ends June 30, 2015, and that in the absence of the center acquiring those funds, it would have to close. … APC assured us on several occasions that funding to continue was forthcoming, yet it was not.”
Funding might not be forthcoming, but fireworks most assuredly are, now that both local dailies are in the mix.
We will, as always, keep you posted.