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Criminal justice forum draws mixed reviews

On April 12, a forum was held for criminal justice majors to voice their concerns about the department and the rumored changes with its curriculum. Some issues that were addressed were concerns about the rigor of the curriculum, lack of stability within the faculty and lack of adequate funding for the department. [caption id="attachment_22851" align="aligncenter" width="838"] Lonnie Athens (right) listens as Professor Jeffrey Togman moderates questions from students on April 12. Kiera Alexander/Asst. Photography Editor [/caption] The forum was moderated by political science and film professor Jeffrey Togman. He began by asking the students in attendance to voice their concerns before asking what questions they had about the department in general. Other administrators in attendance included Dr. Peter Shoemaker, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Dr. Lonnie Athens, the chair of the criminal justice department. Michael Dooney, assistant dean for graduate programs, was also in attendance taking notes. One concern that was brought up by many students was the issue of who will make up the faculty of the Criminal Justice department for the 2018-2019 school year since the contracts of both professors R.J. Maratea and Dana Greene have not been renewed. The faculty for the department for next year has not been finalized, according to Athens. Shoemaker said that while he cannot comment on personnel matters, he “expects to have three full-time faculty in the fall.” Another concern that was addressed by Athens was the issue of the “questionable selling of Athens’ course textbook” that The Setonian previously reported on. Athens provided The Setonian with a receipt for these books, which totaled $400. Athens did not, however, remember exactly how much he sold each textbook for or mention how many he sold. In regards to the rumored curriculum changes, Athens said that he did not submit a formal proposal to change the curriculum and there are no plans at this time to do so. Thomas Rukaj, a junior criminal justice major, was pleased with the forum. “I thought the forum was very productive. Having everyone in the same room was beneficial to hear all of the issues in a more fluent manner,” he said. “Professor Togman acted very ethically and funneled the discussion in a productive matter. Professor Athens and Dean Shoemaker did an honest job at attempting to explain the issues in the department.” Rukaj then said what he hopes happens going forward. “The main thing I am hoping for the department is stability,” he said. “I would like the department to get more funding for our professors. The issue of having tenured professors or professors on tenure track is where the heart of the issue is.” Gabrielle Acquaviva, a junior criminal justice major did not think the forum was productive. “Our complaints were heard, for sure, but nothing at that forum indicated to me that anything concrete was going to be done about those complaints,” she said. She then said that she felt Dr. Lonnie Athens, the chair of the Criminal Justice department, did not behave appropriately. “When I left, I felt even more angry than I did when I entered,” she said. “In particular, the behavior of Dr. Athens was inappropriate, volatile, and disrespectful.” [caption id="attachment_22919" align="aligncenter" width="838"] Kiera Alexander/Asst. Photography Editor[/caption] It is very clear that his goal is self-oriented—as students expressed valid concerns, his responses revolved strictly around defending his name.” Francesca Bielar, a sophomore criminal justice major, said she thought the forum was productive overall, but that parts of it were concerning. “I thought the forum was the first of many steps towards creating a stable and expanding Criminal Justice department for Seton Hall,” she said. “I believe there were some productive aspects in which students were able to voice their concerns, however, there were some issues I felt were instead avoided or only touched on briefly.” Bielar said that she is still unclear about the future of the department. She said that she hopes the administration has another forum like this one in order for students to work with them to help the department grow. Alyza Roman, a senior criminal justice major, said she had mixed feelings about the forum. “I feel it was productive because students got to express, face-to-face, and in-person, the faculty and deans that are, to a high degree, responsible for our major and program,” she said. “But I do not believe it was productive in achieving student satisfaction and getting student questions answered. Many answers given, I feel, were ‘bandage answers’ and answers given to just appease the students at the time, or partial answers.” Shoemaker said that he felt the forum was productive. “Students were able to express concerns about the continuing uncertainty within the program, and Dr. Athens and I were able to address some of those concerns,” he said. “Some of the student concerns, about the rigor of the program and students’ preparation for employment after college, were new to me: I now feel like I have a better idea where the students are coming from.” Isabel Soisson can be reached at


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