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UNC students rally in support of African studies department

UNC-CH students cheer speakers in front of UNC's South Building at Polk Place defending the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies  during a student rally Wednesday in response to the Wainstein report on the academic and athletic scandal at UNC-CH. A crowd of over 150 gathered at Polk Place at midday to hear members of The Real Silent Sam Coalition, UNC faculty and staff and students address the crowd in support of the program.
UNC-CH students cheer speakers in front of UNC's South Building at Polk Place defending the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies during a student rally Wednesday in response to the Wainstein report on the academic and athletic scandal at UNC-CH. A crowd of over 150 gathered at Polk Place at midday to hear members of The Real Silent Sam Coalition, UNC faculty and staff and students address the crowd in support of the program. hlynch@newsobserver.com

About 150 UNC-Chapel Hill students and faculty rallied Wednesday to support the African, African American, and Diaspora Studies department, in light of the Wainstein report revealing an 18-year fake paper-class scheme helping student-athletes get better grades and maintain eligibility.

Many students expressed disappointment in the criticism of the department, formerly called African and Afro-American studies (AFAM). Some said critics were discrediting the major, as well as blaming the department and targeting black students.

“When you’re talking about the discipline of African or black studies, it’s not just something that you read. It’s people’s lives and things that people fought for,” said Omololu Babatunde, a senior and one of the rally’s organizers. “When you’re discrediting this subject, you’re discrediting a people’s experience.”

Altha Cravey, a geography professor speaking for the Progressive Faculty Network at UNC, a group of faculty members supporting economic and social justice, said the report exposes complicity outside Deborah Crowder and Julius Nyang’oro’s scheme.

“It’s important to note as faculty that most members of the department were not part of this network, and we want to affirm our support and appreciation of our colleagues and their important contributions to the research and teaching of this university,” Cravey said.

James Dean, the executive vice chancellor and provost, told students the university supports the AAAD department. “No university could ignore the study of African culture and be a legitimate university,” he said.

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