Pain in the ASS?

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FASS insist consultation took place – Photo by Jay Theis

Changes to the Applied Social Science department (ASS) have been announced by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS). The plans, outlined in an email to students from Dr Paul Iganski – head of the department – will see the Criminology programmes moved from their current position in ASS to the Law School. The changes are expected to come into effect on August 1st, in time for the next academic year.

The plans are expected to open up a wider choice of modules for Criminology students. However, academic staff have raised concerns over the levels of consultation from senior management, which one academic described as “non-existent.”

Professor Tony McEnery, Dean of FASS, told SCAN that changing demographics of students have led to the fields of Criminology and Social Work drifting apart. He said: “We had this great wheeze in the 1970s of saying actually these things get very similar student cohorts – put them together and they will cohere together. Now, that’s no longer true. What you do find, however, is many law schools across the country have criminology in it – and they benefit profoundly from having criminology in it.”

Iganski told SCAN of the benefits to students, saying: “I’ve had nothing but positive feedback from the students, and in terms of student choice, the potential that we can open up for student choice is considerable, for the criminology students. We’ve really had nothing but positive soundings from the students, and for me that’s what’s driving it.”

McEnery suggested that he had not been in direct consultation with the Social Work staff, but that the Deputy Dean, Emma Rose, would be talking to them this term. However, he stated that consultation had been ongoing with Criminologists: “I said to the Criminologists: come and see me. We can talk about this. I’m going to try and persuade you to move department, but you don’t have to. I’m going to give you the whole of this term to think about it, and come back and see me as often as you want. They then went away, talked to people, and it looks like they are largely agreeing with me. Now I would say that is adequate consultation with the staff concerned.”

He continued: “Nobody has been forced to do anything. Nobody has been dragooned against their will in to some new organisation. But what we did do is what the staff asked for, give them the very clear steer on what we thought was the right way, and that’s having the effect now of allowing a lot of staff to say yes we agree.”

Iganski elaborated on consultation with academic staff, saying: “I look back in my diary over the Autumn Term, [there was a] whole series of extraordinary meetings of consultation where these matters were raised and minuted – there were two circulars from me about them.”

However, other academic staff have claimed that no such consultation on the changes have taken place.

Bob Sapey, a Senior Lecturer in the ASS department, said: “Nobody in this department was consulted. For many months we have realised that something was happening and have questioned [Dr Iganski]. We have been continuously reassured that nothing was being discussed. As you might imagine, there is a great deal of anger about the way we have been treated by our Head of Department and the FASS management. It is as if we are irrelevant.”

Sapey disputed that the separation was mentioned in the Autumn Term, stating that the first anyone in his department heard about the changes was on January 14th in an email from McEnery. Instead, Sapey said, the discussion last term was for Social Work to be moved to the Faculty of Health and Medicine (FHM). This is an idea that McEnery told SCAN was being discussed now, primarily due to what he described as the Government’s reconception of social work as part of the health sphere.

When asked whether Social Work will be moved outside of FASS in the near future, McEnery said: “I view nothing magical about faculty structures. If somebody asked me what is good for FASS, I say the question should be what’s good for the University. So in terms of determining the future of social work, the question would be what is good for the University, not what’s good for FASS.”

One specific allegation raised in subtext – an email newsletter produced by academics – was that some academic staff only heard about the changes when an email to students was forwarded on to them. This was denied by Iganski and McEnery, who said: “That’s untrue and as far as I know, absolutely; and if it is true I would be having a conversation, but I know it’s not true.”

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