On March 19, criminal justice majors met with the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Peter Shoemaker, and Christopher Kaiser, the associate dean for Undergraduate Student Services and Enrollment Management, to discuss a plethora of issues within the criminal justice department.
According to Christina Pepe, a senior criminal justice major who attended the meeting, many concerned students voiced numerous issues about the department. The meeting included 11 criminal justice majors, dean Shoemaker and dean Kaiser.
Students expressed concerns regarding miscommunication between faculty and students, the chairperson’s operation, perceived ethical issues between student and faculty, particularly regarding the questionable selling of a course textbook and rumored curriculum changes.
Students articulated frustration with the criminal justice chairperson, Dr. Lonnie Athens, for his nontransparent relationship with students.
Particularly, the rumored curriculum adjustment and the questionable selling of Athens’ course textbook in which students would have been required to directly pay him $20. The Homicide Case Book, which is written by Athens, is required for the Homicide class Athens teaches.
Furthermore, students conveyed fears about the potential adjustments to the curriculum.
It is rumored that the curriculum is changing from one that studies the theory of criminal justice to a vocational-style major. The curriculum now is geared toward academia and many students who are interested in law prefer this. A new vocational-style curriculum would allegedly only benefit students interested in law enforcement, such as a police officer.
Athens, in an email denied the rumors claiming the criminal justice major would not change to police studies.
“The recent rumor spreading around the college that our criminal justice major will be changed to police studies is false,” Athens wrote, “Please rest assured that there are now no plans, nor are any plans anticipated to change our major from criminal justice to police studies and change our curriculum accordingly.”
Athens did not respond to further requests for comment.
Moreover, the University’s Faculty Guide provides a check on departmental governance. In Article 10 of the Faculty Guide, it lists the responsibilities and duties of the chairperson. The chairperson, alongside full-time faculty members of the respective department, can make “recommendations to the dean and the college Educational Policy Committee for new courses and for modifications in the department program(s).” Hence, a chairperson cannot unilaterally change the curriculum, but he or she may recommend alterations.
“All departments in the College of Arts and Sciences are governed by the Faculty Guide, which specifies the rights and responsibilities of faculty members, as well as the responsibilities of departmental chairs,” Shoemaker said via email. “Many decisions regarding staffing, curriculum, and other academic matters are entrusted to senior faculty, who possess academic expertise, under the oversight of the dean.”
Currently, in the criminal justice department, the faculty is comprised of one tenured professor, Athens, and two visiting assistant professors, R.J. Maratea and Dana Greene.
Sophomore criminal justice major, Kiara Ross, decided on her major because of her family’s involvement in law enforcement. Ross wrote in an email about her frustration about the lack of communication within the department.
“The criminal justice department offers a variety of classes to expand my horizon on the field,” Ross said. “I am frustrated at the fact that there is no open communication to the students on what is going on in regards to altering its curriculum.”
Francesca Bielar, a sophomore criminal justice and psychology major, also attended the meeting in Fahy Hall, where all the students sat around the table in the Dean’s suite. She expected a solution at the meeting, but she did not feel as though one occurred.
Although Athens has denied the rumors regarding the curriculum’s adjustment, students remain uneasy about the department’s future.
According to Alyza Roman, a senior criminal justice major, there will be a forum for criminal justice majors on April 12 in room 109 in Arts and Sciences Hall. Athens, Shoemaker and Kaiser will attend the forum. Dr. Jeffrey Togman, professor of Political Science and Film, will serve as a moderator at the event.
“As Dean, I am committed to listening to the voices of Criminal Justice and addressing their concerns,” Shoemaker said, “We’re all here to serve the students.”
Thomas Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.