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Rutgers adjunct says school tried to kill Beyoncé course

A Rutgers University course studying black feminism through the singer Beyoncé was effectively canceled by the department of women's and gender studies, the course’s instructor and creator says.

A Rutgers University course studying black feminism through the singer Beyoncé was effectively canceled by the department of women's and gender studies, the course's instructor and creator says.

The university denied Thursday that the class was ever canceled, saying it was moved to the American studies program.

But Kevin Allred, an adjunct at the New Brunswick campus who teaches the course, said he had to ask American studies to offer it after the women's studies department would not schedule it.

Allred was finishing teaching two sections of Politicizing Beyoncé this semester, the 10th and 11th times he has taught the class, when he learned it was not listed for the spring semester.

He attributed the decision to internal politics. He is still scheduled to teach an introductory departmental course in the spring.

"There's been a changeover in the leadership of the department, and the new undergraduate director doesn't want to offer the course anymore. There's not really been an official reason given to me," he said Thursday. "But, of course, I have speculation on different reasons why they don't want to offer it."

A Rutgers spokesman, in the statement Thursday, denied that the class was ever canceled.

"This course is now part of the curriculum of American Studies. It was not canceled," the statement said. "Course offerings are determined based on a number of factors, including but not limited to departmental needs and program requirements."

Allred said it seemed to him that the department was "wanting to be very traditionally academic - it's an old-school, old-guard kind of thing, it feels to me, like Beyoncé shouldn't be used to get people in the seats, Beyoncé's not worthy of academic study, that kind of thing."

The course uses Beyoncé as an entry point to study black feminism in the United States.

In November, when Allred emailed the new undergraduate director about whether the course could be offered for the summer, she said courses for the term had already been selected.

"The summer courses were selected primarily in terms of requirements for the major and various minors. Teaching assignments were made giving priority to international students, and then relatively recent grad students, before considering others," she wrote.

"I will forward any information I receive about adjunct positions at other universities or in other departments for the summer and alert you to any current summer courses in WGS that open up which you are eligible to teach."

After that, Allred said, he reached out to American studies, where he received his bachelor's and master's degrees. There, he said, his course was welcomed.

So in the fall of 2016, about 300 students and 11 course sections later, Politicizing Beyoncé will live on, in a different department.

"It's essentially the same class," Allred said. "The history of black feminism that I was looking at was a U.S. version of black feminism for the most part, so there will just be slight tweaks to some of the writing assignments to focus more on the American experience."

"They're more excited than I've seen" from the women's and gender studies department, he said.

The university statement included a quote from Louis Masur, acting chair of American studies: "Politicizing Beyoncé fits beautifully with the current American studies curriculum, where we also offer courses in the History of Hip-Hop, Bruce Springsteen's American Vision, and Spike Lee."

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