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Centenary College of Louisiana, Louisiana’s oldest college, has offered tenure to a Black professor for the first time in its almost 200 year history.
Dr. Andia Augustin-Billy was offered a tenured position of associate professor. Augustin-Billy teaches African and Caribbean literature and postcolonial, women, gender and sexuality studies.
The current racial makeup of the student body is described as being 18% Black or Black and another race. Centenary is one of the last colleges in the state to desegregate its students, first admitting Black students in 1966.
Speaking to TIME magazine, Augustin-Billy shared a recent encounter with a 71-year-old woman who said she and other relatives had all gone to HBCU Grambling State University — two hours away. “Centenary was not for us. … We never felt like it was our space, our place,” the woman told her.
“I’m hoping this story will spark very needed dialogue about having Black scholars in academia,” Augustin-Billy said. “There has to be. There has to be.”
While questions are already being raised as to why it has taken so long for the institution to make an offer of tenure to a Black educator, school archivist Chris Brown says he knows the answer. “Structural and institutional and systemic racism has been present ever since the college was founded, largely by enslavers,” he said.
Centenary currently employs two full-time and one part-time faculty members who identify as Black or African American, college spokeswoman Kate Pedrotty said.
Centenary President Christopher Holoman says the institution is committed to change.
“Any institution that is as old as Centenary, particularly one in the South, must take account of the role that racism played in its history,” Holoman said. “As we move forward, Centenary is committed to full inclusion of all members of our community and working towards a just society.”