New Black Studies Faculty Discuss Dept. Expansion

Photo (left) courtesy of Photo (right) by Holly Lipka.

After months of instability and speculation within department, Black Studies has two new professors for the 2016 spring semester.

Anthony Winn, a New Paltz class of ‘92 graduate, was hired as a Special Assistant to the Black Studies Department. Meanwhile, Cruz Bueno, Ph. D, took an 18-month academic absence from her position as a tenure track economics professor at Siena College to work as a visiting professor to the department.

Commenting on their recent appointments, both professors complimented the intellectually thriving environment at New Paltz and were encouraged that their roles could positively impact the campus community.

“I’ve never been disconnected from New Paltz, at most I’ve been away for three years since I graduated,” Winn said. “There’s something special about New Paltz that attracts active minds.”

In the past few months, the Black Studies department dealt with the departures of four faculty members. As a result, the department was understaffed and actively seeking replacements. Winn said he was contacted by Department Chair Major Coleman in August of 2015. Before he was even hired, Winn approached President Donald P. Christian in his role as president of the Alumni Council to impart to him the importance of the department to New Paltz’ history.

“I told him that we have to create and grow interest on campus in the Black Studies Department,” Winn said. “The black experience cannot be separated from American culture. We need to have an integrated conversation and bring all voices to the table.”

Winn has been actively involved in working with African-American youths through his role in Nos Quedamos, a South Bronx-based nonprofit social services provider. Winn said that while he doesn’t seek to provide guidance to activists on campus, he wants them to know that their actions can “move institutions.”

Both professors spoke highly of New Paltz’ student activism, Winn with nostalgic remembrance and Bueno with an outsider’s admiration.

“I was really impressed with New Paltz’ activist history and how students here act as thoughtful and engaged citizens,” Bueno said. “My goal as a teacher is for students to recognize that the degree is important but what you do with it is the most important part.”

Winn commented that Christian’s tenure has seen the administration be more proactive in their handlings of instances of racism or intolerance on campus.

“The black experience is not a limited, isolated one,” Winn said. “Our role should be to meet, teach, mentor and support all of our students.

Bueno said that the hiring process was made far easier with the assistance she received from SUNY New Paltz to renegotiate her contract with Siena.

“Black Studies is about several things,” Bueno said. “It’s about engagement, community, challenging power structure, promoting diversity and promoting equality for black people and for all people.”

“I’m excited to teach where my research fields are, which deals with inequality, discrimination and wellbeing,” Bueno said. “I bring in an economist’s expertise when I walk into the classroom. I try to stress the importance of empirical evidence to show how people are impacted around the world, regardless of race.”

According to Winn, there were an excess of 80 applicants for the vacant position he filled. In his opinion, that shows a sign of considerable interest in the legacy and direction of the department. However, Winn was open in discussing the stagnant percentage of African-Americans on campus in recent years.

“The data regarding the black population on campus, especially the black male population, is extremely troubling,” Winn said. “But it is our responsibility to our students and to our academics to always be available. This goes beyond our role as Black Studies professors, this applies to all students on campus.”