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Moorland-Spingarn May Be Forced to Close

Staff Writer

Published: Friday, November 6, 2009

Updated: Friday, November 6, 2009 08:11

Due to financial and structural setbacks, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center (MSRC) may be forced to close its doors after 95 years of existence, according to MRSC Interim Director Thomas C. Battle, Ph.D.

"The loss of 60 percent of its resources and the abolishment of some critical positions due to the Voluntary Separation Incentive Retirement Program (VSIRP) resulted in many problems," Battle said.

MSRC is recognized as one of the world's largest and most comprehensive repositories for the documentation of the cultural history of people in the African Diaspora, according to Howard.edu. The center that holds the Black Caucus repository, information of TransAfrica, documents pertinent to the formation of the Black Greek Lettered Organizations and Howard University administrative records is facing a cut back in hours of operation and loss of staff.

According to Battle, MSRC formerly had a staff of 50 or more people but now only 12 staff members remain in the library division. Battle said critical positions that are vacant are director, chief librarian, chief administrator and prints and photography librarian. 

 "This should be a greater outcry," Battle said. "This is the premier place to research black history and culture."

Battle, who had been the director of MSRC for 20 years, retired as part of VSIRP along with Jean Church, chief librarian.  Battle said they were asked to come back to the university to assist in running the research center.

By the end of this semester, no staff will be present in the Moorland-Spingarn Research Room resulting in its potential closure, Battle said. In addition, he said Moorland-Spingarn's budget was not increased and no plans have been drafted to direct or manage the facility or fill the vacant positions.

"I don't think many students even know this room exists," said Ciera Briscoe, a freshman business management major.

There is limited space for the manuscript division of Moorland-Spingarn for faculty to store inventory as well, Battle said. He added that much of the property that the research center owns is in storage.

 "There is a lot of information in this one room that not a lot of students utilize," said Aaron Gordon, a freshman undecided major. "I come here for independent research and get to know black history." 

Gordon said he utilizes Moorland-Spingarn to research past Hilltop articles, such as past protests on Howard's campus. But many times Gordon has come to the research center to find it closed for the day.

According to Battle, the research center will remain under staffed and hours will remain shorter than usual. He described the research center as a "magnificent treasure of Howard University."

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27 comments

Yaw Adu-Otu (formerly Adu-Asare)
Fri Dec 25 2009 08:55
I find this story quite amusing because I am trying hard not to believe that Moorland-Spingarn could be under the threat of closure. Is this a true story?

Well, between my undergraduate days through graduate school, I can say that I spent more valuable time at Moorland-Spingarn than any other unit in the library system. I was a journalism major and political science grad school and I am surprised some freshman students today claim not knowing about the existence of Moorland-Spingarn. Times change, indeed. Is liberal education not part of the Howard program anymore?

I am wondering how any African-American could go through Howard U and not be attracted to Moorland-Spingarn. I am convinced most universities in the United States and around the world would jump at anything close to Moorland-Spingarn.

Executors of the estate of Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana, donated all his documents to Moorland-Spingarn sometime in the early 1980s. Rather than put those documents in storage I suggest they are transferred to the Afro-American Resource Center or transported to the University of Ghana. I can personally arrange to have the Nkrumah documents moved to Ghana.

What a shame!

The Black Cynic
Thu Nov 12 2009 18:11
Just think for a moment. The "so-called" Howard University Administrator's were going to significantly modify the overall operational and functionality of the Moorland Spingarn Research Center until their "skirts were lifted(no pun intended)". In other words, their little dirty dastardly deeds were revealed from the public mass to voice their respective concerns and interests accordingly. For those who are uniquely concerned about the state of the MSRC, I would recommend that you share your sentiments with the following personnel:
1)President Sidney A. Ribeau (via: andrew.rivers@howard.edu(Ribeau’s Chief of Staff); 2) Interim Provost and Chief Academic Officer Alvin Thornton, Ph.D.athornton@howard.edu; 3) Senior Vice President Strategic Planning- Hassan Minor, Ph.D.,(svp@howard.edu); 4) Senior Vice President &Secretary of the Board of Trustees Artis Hampshire-Cowan, J.D. (ahampshire-cowan@howard.edu; 5) Interim Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Nesta Bernard(nbernard@howard.edu); and 6) Vice President of Research & ComplianceFlorence Bonner, Ph.D. (fbonner@howard.edu) respectively.

Keep in mind, within the context of your inquiry, ask demand from to have some sort of transparency regarding the MSRC as compared to the standard anecdotal response from them.

David
Thu Nov 12 2009 16:43
One thing is for sure; accurate information is needed to fully understand the problem. Adora Curry: Why do you feel a Title III program could help? David, J.D., Class of 1985
T. Saunders
Wed Nov 11 2009 20:22
What is needed to keep this division open? Please respond to Terraines@aol.com.
Your name
Wed Nov 11 2009 09:31
What world are people living in that they believe that HU is financially flush and that any budget shortfalls are the result of mismanagement? The entire country is in fiscal crisis and that includes educational institutions. Funding for HBCUs has been declining steadily for years just as it has for state institutions in areas like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. In order to educate a student, HU (which is a private institution) must rely on tuition and government subsidies. Raise tuition too high, and you lose students. The school loan credit market has dried up just like it has for the regular credit markets. Here's my thing: if everyone "proud" HU alumnus who finds the money to return for Homecoming could find a way to make a donation to alma mater, perhaps HU would find itself a) with enough money to operate and b) no longer needing to rely on government handouts. Just a thought.
Your name
Wed Nov 11 2009 09:30
What world are people living in that they believe that HU is financially flush and that any budget shortfalls are the result of mismanagement? The entire country is in fiscal crisis and that includes educational institutions. Funding for HBCUs has been declining steadily for years just as it has for state institutions in areas like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. In order to educate a student, HU (which is a private institution) must rely on tuition and government subsidies. Raise tuition too high, and you lose students. The school loan credit market has dried up just like it has for the regular credit markets. Here's my thing: if everyone "proud" HU alumnus who finds the money to return for Homecoming could find a way to make a donation to alma mater, perhaps HU would find itself a) with enough money to operate and b) no longer needing to rely on government handouts. Just a thought.
Your name
Tue Nov 10 2009 09:04
If this conversation was about the white HU (Harvard) it would already be fixed. Howard is undoubtedly the Harvard of HBUCs and should be treated that way or we are devaluing the rich and awesome history of Howard. When Howard is not held to esteem it affects other HBUCs, do not be fooled. Everyone that cares about HBUCs should be concerned about the possibilities of MSRC closing. We can't afford to loose this national treasure.
C Oppel University of Muenster Germany
Tue Nov 10 2009 07:28
As a researcher who has used the fantastic and expansive collection available at Moreland Spingarn I would like to suggest that argumentation whether undergraduate students use the center leaves out the center's fundamental international importance in scholarly work on the African and African American Diaspora.
The MSRC is of enormous importance to present and future research in Black Culture and is one of the primary pillars of Howard's importance in academia. Howard would risk losing much more than the economic savings a closure might bring. It would lose its reputation as one of the most important research institutions in Black Culture - a scandal that would make Alain Locke, Ralph Bunche, Ernest Evert Just, E. Franklin Frazier and Sterling A Brown, among others, turn in their graves.
I would suggest, an international appeal by scholars at African American Studies Departments should generate a more powerful response and possibly lead to solutions and financially fruitful cooperations.
Howard University Watch
Mon Nov 9 2009 00:29
I would greatly appreciate someone from the Business and Fiscal Affairs to immediately explain to the entire Howard University community(i.e., students, faculty, alumni, etc.) under the purview of transparency how is it possible to have a Revenue Budget (FY 2009)of $877.3 million(see:www.howard.edu/businessfiscalaffairs/
documents/financial_fy_2009.pdf) to even think about closing or significantly modifying the overall operations of the Moorland Spingarn Research Center.
The Black Cynic
Sun Nov 8 2009 18:01
Re:Jack White: If the neo-liberal and status quo Dr.Thornton has the capacity to send you a flimsy e-mail indicating that the Moorland Spingarn Research Center (MSRC)will not be closing, I think should at least have sense of obligation and professionalism to hold a public meeting (i.e., with students and faculty alike) to provide the most accurate infomation regarding the status of the MSRC. Not to mention that he along with Dr. Ribeau and the other negligent University Administrator's(i.e., degree holding or not). Finally, its very indicative for the "so-called Howard University Adminstrator's to only respond to an issue when "skirt of her corruption and continued negligence" have been exposed and then "they" want make amends and calm the students, facutly, and staff by making these incremental changes.

That being said, Mr. White why don't you have one of your students write a story about how Howard University forced(not physically of course) its most senior library staff(i.e., those with 10,15, or 20 plus years) to retire even though the library is always "Understaffed[especially on weekends], or how those who were force to retire were native born Black men who provided services above and beyond the call of duty continously while somehow still retaining those who are not even from this country, let alone the Washington, DC metro area. Until these degree holding (but, still miseducated on many fronts)Blacks in the Administration Building began making decisions in the "real and true" best interest of Howard University, it will continued to be viewed as a institution of inferior quality by others and then you wonder why Howard University have difficulty securing employment.

Jack White
Sun Nov 8 2009 15:26
I am the faculty adviser to the Hilltop. We have received a message from Dr. Thornton, Howard's chief academic officer, assuring that the University has no intention of closing the Moorlan Spingarn center. The Hilltop will be doing follow up stories on this issue.
Maverick
Sun Nov 8 2009 13:30
The continued dowward slope of another integral part of Black people's history and "we" have no one else to blame but "ourselves" for dereliction of duty and obligation.
A Black Cynic
Sun Nov 8 2009 10:11
If the Moorland Spingarn Research Center if forced to close at Howard University for Administrative and budgetary reasons, I would recommend that Howard University be audited by the IRS considering that it receives millions of dollars of funds from the US government.
Your name
Sun Nov 8 2009 01:38
We must reverse this situation! I worked at Moorland-Spingarn as an undergraduate, and also did research there. The richness of its collection, including the Black Press collection, papers of Toussaint L'Ouverture around the time of the Haitian revolution, papers of Marian Anderson, the works of Alexander Pushkin (father of Russian literature, of African descent) and much much more are priceless. I agree that alumni should be widely contacted, and that WHUR and WHUT should get involved and drum up support -- as they did with sending students to post-Katrina New Orleans. Let's start at home!
Leonard Edloe '70"
Sat Nov 7 2009 16:44
We must find the money somewhere. If Howard does not keep our history, who will?
Steve McCall
Sat Nov 7 2009 07:55
This would be an excellent opportunity to the film and broadcast communications major(i.e., undergraduate and graduate alike) alongside with the "status quo" people from WHUR and WHUT(I emphasize this point based upon continued history of not providing survival information for the community) to utilize its skillsets and resources to inform the larger Howard University community about the status of the Moorland Spingarn Research Center. I would even recommend that Howard University in being audited by an outside entity (i.e., not affiliated or related to anyone from the Howard University Administrator's)to determine how this fiscal explosion occurred.
Concerned Alumni C/O 94
Sat Nov 7 2009 02:30
Has the school attempted to contact the Alumni regarding this? This is the first I have heard about it. I sure HU alum would do what we could to save a part of our history. We really need to do better with the use of our budgets and resources. This should have never happened and why are we (students, alumni) just now hearing about it at the 9th hour?
HU/GA Mom
Fri Nov 6 2009 22:48
Is this is another example lack/misuse of funds? The mentioned library/media staff stay on the job for 20 or more years without training anyone to succeed them? Was there a lack of qualified persons? The old establishment needs to know when to let go and take a back seat so the younger, technological generation can step in. Don't have the ole' southern Baptist mentality and keep the same pastor in the pulpit for 20 - 30 years. Look at the NAACP is today; struggling to make a comeback thru increasing membership and fund drives.
Steve McCall
Fri Nov 6 2009 15:07
The professor's at Howard University who profess about the importance of the Moorland Spingarn Center(MSRC) should be on the "front line"(i.e., the Administration Building) explicitily demanding to the "budgetary ignorance" of the University Administrator's with this decision. Thereby, the students will follow their example and join in with such efforts to the point that the "so-called" decision makers can not ignore or continue being dismissive about the cumulative importance of the MSRC. As a result, the "so-called" decision makers will find a way redirect the appropriate funds for the MSRC to continue its colective mission. Finally, I'm most certain such funds can be easily secured from the numerous "so-called" high level social activities that take place on/off campus. In which this comprise the comsumption of expensive spirits, food and other epicural like activities.
Shantrelle P. Lewis
Fri Nov 6 2009 14:42
What can Alumni do to prevent this from happening?




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