Controversial professor begins her last semester at UAlbany
“You’re not supposed to agree with me,” said Amanishakete Ani, assistant professor of Africana Studies at UAlbany. “This is politics and this is what’s not supposed to happen.”
Ani’s professional conduct, teaching style, and controversial research have cultivated a student following but also lead to conflict with faculty and administration. In November, Africana Studies faculty voted to not renew her contract.
“Faculty expressed concern about [Ani’s] disregard for department leadership, faculty, and staff,” as recorded by minutes from February’s term renewal meeting.
Faculty cited an exchange between Africana Studies Chair Oscar Williams and Ani in which she accused the Chair of not being committed to Africana Studies.
Ani’s 2017 article “To The Mothers of White Men” was another concern. The article argues that white women have not lived up to their responsibilities as mothers and that feminism misplaces blame on men.
Faculty took issue with the opening sentence, which reads, “I, being an African American womban and mother, have a special intolerance for White women.” ‘Womban’ is a term coined by Ani to refer to ‘wombed ones.’
A catalyst for department tension came in the spring of 2016, soon after the Jan. 30 bus incident involving three UAlbany students charged with falsely reporting an attack. Ani was a vocal defender of the three students, publishing an op-ed in the Times Union and writing letters to the university provost.
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Ani had, since fall 2015, been coordinating an event to be held in March 2016 called ‘State of Black SUNY Albany Town Hall.’ Faculty meeting minutes said Ani did not consult with the department about the event and that it “turned it into a rally of activism for the female students involved in the ‘bus incident.’”
Ekow King, director of Intercultural Student Engagement (which co-sponsored the event), gave a different description in an interview Friday.
“We talked about enrollment, and about the Africana budget and whether it was lower than other departments,” said King, who attended the event. “The things they were talking about went well beyond the bus incident.”
The chair of Africana Studies and the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences both declined to respond to questions for this story.
Ani’s former students paint a picture of an instructor who set herself apart from other professors.
“She was unorthodox,” said Ammed Kouakou, a junior who took Ani’s Life in the Third World course in the fall of 2016.
“I was shocked when she was fired,” said Kouakou. “She probably might have been my favorite professor that I’ve had.”
Princess Good, who took Ani’s ‘Afro/African-American Family’ course last spring, said that one class exercise reenacted historical segregation of African-Americans.
“We had brown paper bags, and if you were lighter than the bag, you were a ‘passer,’” said Good. “All the passers had to sit on one side of the class.”
“I saw [Ani] one time, unfortunately at a funeral, after the semester was over. When I saw her we just embraced each other as if we’d known each other for ten years.”