Chairman George Garrison contends his critics want his predecessor, Edward Crosby to run the department.
"The situation in DPAS, plain and simple is about who is in charge," Garrison wrote in a letter published last week in the Daily Kent Stater, the student newspaper. "Shall the department be run by a man who retired five years ago, or will it be run by the current chair? That is the question."
Crosby, for his part, said he is not the problem.
Crosby, who was chairman of Pan-African Studies since its creation in 1977, retired in 1994. He came to KSU in 1969 and helped that year to found the Institute of African-American Affairs, which is now a part of the Department of Pan-African Studies. Garrison was hired as chairman when Crosby retired.
Garrison is the subject of an early administrative review called for by four members of the eight-person Pan-African Studies Department. BUS, the largest black student organization at KSU, presented him with a letter Nov. 20 asking for his resignation as chairman.
Garrison defended his three-year record to about 350 students, faculty and staff at a BUS rally Nov. 21.
"I am not guilty of the allegations brought against me and time will bear that out," he said.
In an interview Wednesday, Crosby said he was not the cause of problems in the Pan-African Studies Department.
"It surprises me that in Tuesday's Kent Stater the first sentence in his letter says I'm the problem," he said. "I say to myself 'My God, I don't have to be around and I am the dog.' "
One faculty member in Pan-African Studies, however, said Crosby is deeply involved in problems in the department.
"He's masterminding everything," said Kwame Nantambu, a faculty member since 1990.
The call for an early review of Garrison's chairmanship was a "coup attempt" to unseat Garrison by people loyal to Crosby, he said.
"It's a power play to protect the tradition of Dr. Crosby, and that's all it is," Nantambu said.
Pan-African Studies faculty members also are applying a double-standard in their criticisms of Garrison's conduct as chairman, he said.
"What they're accusing George Garrison of is exactly what they let Dr. Crosby get away with for 25 years," he said.
Crosby said Nantambu's criticisms of him stem from personal problems between them.
"He blames me because he didn't get promoted to full professor," he said. "I wasn't even on the committee."
Crosby said accusations that he prompted faculty and student actions against Garrison were misguided. They were designed to distract people's attention from real problems in the department, he said.
"It's always been me for the last 25 years," he said. " 'Crosby's the one. He does everything. Even when he's not around.' I'm the hobgoblin at Kent State University only because the students respect me."
Crosby said Garrison was not an effective administrator.
"He's not taking care of departmental business," he said. "You can't be a chair and not lead your faculty. You can't be an effective chair when your students are against you."
Mwatabu Okantah, a critic of Garrison's chairmanship and a former student of Crosby's in the early 1970s, said Garrison is attempting to move the department away from the principles on which it was founded under Crosby. It is Garrison's apparent resistance to this historical mission that caused BUS to draft the letter asking for Garrison's resignation, he said.
"I told him 'If you make these students choose between you and Dr. Crosby, there is no choice'" he said.
In Tuesday's letter, Garrison said he understood the department's mission and implied students were not thinking for themselves.
"It is a day of shame for those young people who allowed themselves to be manipulated by individuals who have abused their position of trust and renounced all pretense to elderhood," he wrote.
"If we were really influencing them they would have done this a long time ago," Okantah said. "I think the students understand what's going on here on a level that people don't give them credit for."
The membership of the committee charged to conduct the early review of Garrison was finalized late last week, said Joseph Danks, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. It may be able to finish its review by the end of the fall semester, he said.
The 11-member committee includes all eight full-time, tenure-track faculty members in the department and three members from outside the department, he said.
John Gargan, professor of political science, will chair the committee.
After the committee makes its report, Danks said he will poll the Pan-African Studies faculty and make a final decision about whether to retain Garrison as chairman of the department.
Garrison could not be reached for comment about the review.