In 2009, university officials decided to cut the only two Native American courses offered on campus under the context of budget cuts due to the national economic recession. While it may have been prudent for university officials to cut certain classes that did not fill up every semester, there was no justification for cutting the Native American courses. Not only was each Native American course fully enrolled each semester, there were generally waiting lists of twenty plus students each semester. Sensing the injustice of the situation, the President of the American Indian Student Union of the time, Dustin Richardson, sprang into action.
Dustin raised to the attention of the university a few of the grievances that the AISU and the larger student body had about cutting these courses. For one, the University of Maryland is one of the few large public universities that does not offer any programs for Native American Studies. Secondly, even though the amount of Native American students in the university was and is small, it is unfair to take away what little they have. It would be ignoring the history and culture of the peoples who were here and had a very big influence on American history. Third, not only were students against the cuts, but they were upset that there weren’t more classes about Native American topics.
Dustin and the AISU created a petition calling for the classes to be reinstated, more classes created, and the eventual founding of a Native Studies minor. That same semester the SGA passed a resolution in support of the demands of the AISU. Following the success of the petition and a rally and demonstration, the university reinstated the classes for the next semester.
At the beginning of the 2010-2011 academic year, the major push for Native American studies was restarted under the leadership of Natalia. Due to Natalia’s persistence and dedication, the working group picked up steam and gained more support. The provost gave his support to the committee, and pledged to help create more Native American classes, and start the process of creating a new minor for Native American Studies. Currently a small task force headed by the Chair of American Studies, Nancy Struna, is working on a proposal for a minor.