Dwanna Robertson: Oklahoma university cancels Native classes

Dwanna Robertson questions the cancellation of indigenous studies classes at Northeastern State University:
During the Spring 2013 semester, Oklahoma’s Northeastern State University (NSU) cancelled three 1-hour-credit college courses based on Indigenous culture: Stickball, Maskmaking, and Storytelling. According to internal sources, the Department of Languages and Literature Chair, Dr. Audell Shelburne stated these classes do not have the educational merit necessary for college credit. The Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Dr. Phillip Bridgmon apparently agreed with Shelburne.

Yet, Billiards, Ballroom and Western Dancing, and Ceramics have enough educational merit to remain in NSU’s curriculum schedule.

I questioned Director of the Center for Tribal Studies, Dr. Phyllis Fife, about the cancellations. Fife couldn’t speak specifics, but said, “Overall, if classes are canceled, they are generally cancelled on low enrollment. We are a small state, regional college suffering like everyone else across the nation with the economics of the time.” Yet, according to two professors, one college adviser, and three students, at the time of the cancellation, Stickball, Maskmaking, and Storytelling all had full enrollments. Financially, Indigenous culture classes are more sound than the not-cancelled Euro-American culture classes with non-capacity enrollments like Walking for Fitness (10 out of 25 spots filled) or Sculpture I (7 out of 15). Guest lecturers and Elders who teach the classes usually do so for free, even though students pay college tuition and fees to take the classes.

Get the Story:
Dwanna L. Robertson: Institutional Discrimination Against Indigenous Culture (Indian Country Today 3/13)

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