Master’s of Criminal Justice dismissed by divided faculty

by Nicole CleveringaStaff Writer

The controversy surrounding the Master’s of Criminal Justice proposal came to a head as the program was voted on at a faculty meeting Nov.7.

After much debate, the program was rejected by faculty in a close 44-43 decision.

The proposed master’s program was first mentioned in the 1980s as an opportunity to address the needs of area law enforcement. The proposal consisted of 36 credit hours and would have been taught largely at the West Des Moines campus.

The proposal was first voted on and accepted by the Educational Policy and Curriculum Committee on Sept. 26.

The EPCC is a committee made up of 10 professors, two from each area in campus. The committee votes on proposals presented to them about changes or additions of programs to the academic catalogue. Students also attend the EPCC meetings and are given voting power.

The proposal was then placed in the faculty’s hands. After a 28-day waiting period and a great deal of debate, the program was voted on and rejected.

The divided faculty members voiced their opinions and arguments openly at the faculty meeting in hopes to sway the undecided staff members.

The debate began with Professor of History Owen Duncan citing a list of all of the Master’s of Criminal Justice programs in the United States.

“I don’t like the company this degree puts us in,” Duncan said. “There are 145 Criminal Justice Master’s Degree programs. Out of 145 [schools] listed, five are colleges-the rest are universities. I could list 11 that may be private institutions. It seems to me that we are competing with colleges that have a great deal more resources and a really different mission than ours.”

Professor of Economics Frank Colella had a different view of the proposed program.

“It seems to me that Simpson College is a place that is evolving,” Colella said. “I simply see this as the same sort of growth of the college in terms of its mission that we’ve experienced before.”

“We are being asked to support a major proposal that can only be done with overloads,” Epperson said. “This goes against recommendations of the NCAA and goes against the welfare of individual faculty members-this goes against what we are about, and if we do this, in spite of all the good work of these people, we will be a lesser institution.”

Professor of Music Ron Albrecht thought very differently about the staffing situation.

“The staffing issue we could leave largely to the administration,” Albrecht said. “Our role is to determine if we want this program in our curriculum. I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon-I want to be driving the bandwagon.”

Professor of English Nancy St. Clair offered another differing view of the proposal.

“The argument that ‘because we could do this, we should do this’ or ‘because there is a market for it, is a reason for doing it,’ is one that I think we should be very wary of,” St. Clair said. “The market is not value driven-I hope our education is value driven.”

Members of the social science and criminal justice faculty, such as Carolyn Dallinger, assistant professor of social work and criminal justice, disagreed with objections and voiced their support for the program.

“I think it would be a very advantageous program for our college,” Dallinger said. “I think it is very unique, but I think it would fit well here.”

The defeat of the program in a secret ballot, 44-43 vote, shocked many.

“I think the people involved in developing this proposal are incredibly dedicated, competent people who deserve a lot of credit from the college and I’m very disappointed in the outcome,” Associate Academic Dean Walter Pearson said.

It would be possible for the proposal to be reworked and resubmitted to the EPCC for another evaluation. According to Lora Friedrich, associate professor of sociology, the idea is unlikely to happen in the near future.

“This is an issue that had the potential to split the campus in many, many ways,” Friedrich said. “For lots of reasons, it is unfortunate that this program didn’t go through. I’m looking forward to having a really good thorough vetting of what it means to have masters programs here. Maybe that was the purpose of this-to open the door to force that discussion.”