University Advancement should seek a scholarship that pays for the black studies minor and name it for Tafari Robertson.
As of now, the projected start of Texas State’s black studies minor is fall of 2019. The minor is the first step in fostering a field of study that is overdue to be not only a major but an academic department at Texas State.
It’s worth noting that our university is playing catch up as most, if not all of our peer institutions already have a minor or more dedicated to the field of black studies. The only reason Texas State is behind is due to a conscious choice not to embrace African-American studies.
Texas State has about 13,000 students fewer than The University of Texas, but twice as many African-American students. UT not only has a major, but an interdisciplinary academic department dedicated to African-American studies which began in the 70s.
The initial concern of Texas State decision-makers was a baseless one—a demand for black studies. However, as with any area of interest for African-Americans, the standards of demand are much more fickle than other academic endeavors. This is not to suggest that all African-Americans are monolithically interested in black studies, but that the probability threshold is well met at Texas State.
Not to mention that San Marcos was a freedman’s town where the population was 90 percent black until the Ku Klux Klan made the town uninhabitable. Embracing environmental research is a no-brainer when you have a river flowing through your campus. San Marcos’ history gives Texas State more authority and opportunity to research and educate around black studies in the same regard.
Although no student is obligated to prove the academic merit of their interests to a proactive university, Tafari Robertson made it his mission to see black studies manifested.
The Pan-African Action Committee works as a social club, community service organization as well as an activist organization. The accomplishments of founding members include the removal of a Jefferson Davis monument from campus and the creation of a multicultural lounge complete with a black students’ resource library.
However, none of these agendas are in the mission statement of PAAC. Before PAAC would be the conscience of Student Government during 2018s LBJ sit-in, Robertson founded PAAC on the premise of bringing African-American studies to Texas State.
Tafari graduated in the spring of 2018, and with his mission nigh complete it becomes apparent that his labor was one of which he will never be able to enjoy the fruits. That indicates the selfless nature of his work and establishes the merit for a scholarship named for him.
Furthermore, a lack of acknowledgment spreads to areas other than academics like the retention of black faculty and campus climate. Texas State underprioritizing African-American studies is to underprioritize African-American Bobcats. Any ethnic group can benefit from black studies, but for black students, the courses say that your university is just as interested in your development as anyone else. And that means your unique needs as well—’you’re a priority too’.
That is why the scholarship should be named for Tafari. Not only because he did the work, but because he represents black students before him and some that will come after him who felt like a guest at Texas State as opposed to a valid resident.
Tafari is one of my most respected colleagues and I know that he would never claim black studies as a sole accomplishment. Several people made the black studies minor possible and their contributions are not trivial. However, Tafari’s spirit as a student motivated the cause from start to finish.
Finding an endowment for the scholarship and a donor willing to forego their own name may be difficult, but I think doing so is not a steep price for the services rendered by Robertson. It’s time we commemorated his work in history by creating a scholarship and naming it for Tafari Robertson.
– Carrington J. Tatum is a journalism junior