Letter to the editor

In Thomas Schwartz’s article “’Rumored’ Criminal Justice Curriculum Changes Worry Students” (4/11/2018), he reported that I had engaged in a “questionable” practice of selling a textbook that required students to pay me $20., but he failed to report that I did not require students to buy this casebook, but only to read the legal cases in it. I informed them that they could obtain these cases, listed in my course syllabus, free online. Schwartz also reported that my sale of the casebook raised “ethical issues,” although he never elaborated on what the issues were? Moreover, he failed to report that requiring students to read books written or edited by faculty members is widely engaged-in practiced at universities. Since the price for a legal casebook sold at bookstore can easily exceed $100., the students who elected to buy my case book got a bargain. Finally, Schwartz reported that the students were concerned that our department would be changed into “a vocational style major,” but that I had sent an email sent to the stating that “they are now no plans, nor are any plans anticipated to change our major from criminal justice to police studies.” So, how could my relationship with our majors not be “transparent”?

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In Isabel Soisson’s article, “Criminal Justice Forum Draws Mixed Reviews” (4/19/2018), she provided still more reportage on my sale of the Homicide Case Book. “Athens provided The Setonian with a receipt for these books, which totaled $400.00. Athens did not, however, remember exactly how much he sold the textbook for or mention how many books were sold were sold.” But what she failed to report is that I also had provided her with a copy of a personal check that I used to pay for the casebooks. Soisson also failed to report that faculty members are not obligated to supply students with free text books. Over the couple of decades or so that I have sold these booklets, I never received a serious complaint before about my sale of them. Finally, Soisson also recited a quote from a student complaining about my “inappropriate, volatile, and disrespectful” behavior. This student appeared unaware that speaking with your hands, changing the pitch of your voice, walking up and down while you talk is characteristic of people, whose origin is Southern European. Professors are not the only ones capable of expressing prejudice and disrespect, students sometimes can too, especially against elderly faculty. Conversely, Soisson failed to report the student who extended his hand to me as a gesture of good will, the student who profusely apologized for thinking ill of me, and the one who reassured me that the student quoted did not speak for all our majors. To make matters worse, Soisson reported that our two term appointments, Professors Maratea and Greene were not renewed, but failed to add that the complaints from students did not begin until after our students were made aware by these professors that they would not be returning next fall. Soisson also failed to report on their participation, or lack thereof in fomenting these complaints.

Schwartz and Soisson both failed to report that only a small fraction of our majors attended the gatherings that they reported on – at most two dozen from a total of around 160. Thus, the vast majority of our students did not feel compelled to attend these gatherings on the basis of the complaints voiced about me by only a sub-set of the small group of students who attended them. Unfortunately, this small subset of students turned attention away from real story– the university’s administration refusal to grant our department ongoing faculty appointments and full-time secretarial position, although we have the highest profit /cost ratio in our college. As a chair, I do not wield the power to create new departmental positions or unilaterally fire or hire departmental personnel.

In light of all the information that Soisson and Schwartz failed to reveal to readers, it should now be obvious that their reporting was biased. So, in my opinion, they did not provide “a fair and balanced” account of the controversies that arose in my department this spring, especially who created them. It is a grave matter when you cast aspersions on a professor who has taught at Seton Hall for almost 30 years and never received a serious complaint without first bothering to uncover all the relevant facts.

Sincerely,

Professor Lonnie Athens, Chair
Department of Criminal Justice

Author: Letters to the Editor

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