Campus, News

BU students speak out against African Presidential Center closure

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Boston University students gathered Monday night at a town hall meeting hosted by the People of Color Coalition to address the closure of the African Presidential Archives and Research Center.

The APARC, which serves as a place for African leaders to explore issues about the continent, will close on June 30 as a result of a lack of funds to sustain the center, The Daily Free Press reported on Wednesday.

“It’s clearly a very important issue that’s going on right now that students have to make, so it’s imperative that we act swiftly,” said Noor Toraif, an organizer with POCC and a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, during the town hall.

About 40 students attended the meeting at the Photonics Center to brainstorm ways to advocate to keep the center open and show the university that they do not agree with the decision to close the center.

Kimberly Barzola, also a coordinator in POCC, said the center’s closure will be a “devastating blow” to African scholarship at BU.

“The closure of the center will halt the great strides made to establish Boston University as a international leader in teaching and conducting research on Africa,” said Barzola, a sophomore in CAS, at the town hall. “It is undeniable that the center belongs at BU, and its termination will only decrease the availability of primary resources available to the Boston University community.”

Linda Heywood, a professor of African American studies in CAS and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said the university has played a leadership role in African studies and she is sad to see the center close.

“I didn’t know that it was going to close until I heard this from the ambassador,” she said during the meeting. I’m just shocked. I’m still in shock because I’m thinking about what plans I have to work with him [APARC director Charles Stith] … If this wasn’t serious, you wouldn’t see me. I am serious.”

Heywood said students must swiftly show their support of the center to make a difference at the university.

“This is your game now,” she said. “This is what students do. They get engaged. If you’re passionate about this, this is your struggle. Every generation had their own time to shape the university. This is your time to shape the university.”

Following Heywood’s speech, members of the POCC shared ideas with the audience about taking action, and they asked for their feedback. Students spoke about starting dialogue with university officials, reaching out to groups on campus and rallying against APARC’s closure.

Several students said they are disappointed by APARC’s close and hope to play a role in keeping the center open.

Nancy Vegas, a 2013 BU graduate, said she wants to be involved with efforts to keep the center open because one of her close friends learned the leaders there.

“I’ve seen the university enforce terrible policies for students, and they get away with it until students do something about it, get active and go to President [Robert] Brown’s office,” she said.

Vegas said she was part of a sit-in for gender-neutral housing in 2013 that took place at Brown’s office. She was faced with the possibility of arrest or academic repercussion for her participation.

“I felt very vulnerable,” she said. “I am worried this will happen again with other students.”

Salma Yehia, a senior in CAS, said she appreciates the seminars and talks the APARC hosts because of the opportunity they present to learn more.

“I have been going since I was a freshman, and I have met more new people and made a lot of connections,” she said. “It’s really a loss.”

Yehia said she hopes that more students will join together and take a stand for the center.

“I realize that students aren’t really as different. We have to come together,” she said. “Different people are affected by this issue, and people can band together.”

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