Were students consulted in the ASS move?

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The Department of Applied Social Sciences (ASS) is to undergo changes by the start of the next academic year, meaning that the Criminology department will no longer be part of ASS, but instead be a part of the Law school. The movement of the department has caused anger amongst academic staff, due to the issue of whether they were properly consulted or not. Students were not consulted as to whether they agreed with the changes. But is this really such a big deal?

It seems that the staff involved cannot agree on the truth concerning how academic staff within the Criminology department were consulted about the proposed changes. The Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), Professor Tony McEnery, argues that “nobody has been forced to do anything,” openly stating in the previous edition of SCAN that he made himself transparently available for consultation to the Criminology department. McEnery has been backed up by the Head of ASS, Dr Paul Iganski, who said: “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.” So what’s all the fuss about? But some academic staff have stated that they have had little, if any, consultation, and were only made aware of the changes in mid-January. At first glance, it’s difficult to know who to believe – which is rather ironic when the subject concerns Criminology.

What the staff involved seem to have forgotten amidst the ‘whether I was notified or not’ debate is the people who these changes will primarily affect: students. The impact that these changes will have is far from negative. A quick Google search reveals that many of the top universities, including Oxford, Manchester and Sheffield, already have their Criminology department within the Law school. Even the university league table on the Guardian website groups together Criminology and Law, so much so that you cannot search for Criminology on its own. Lancaster is in the minority to have Criminology as part of FASS and the decision to move Criminology can only be a case of bringing Lancaster in line with other universities, and thus improving the student experience by consequently allowing more module choices.

Staff cannot argue over the fact that students were sent an email outlining the proposed changes. Although students may not have had a say in whether the changes should actually occur or not, surely if students were so opposed there would have been far more of an outcry than what there has been so far. The reality is that the changes are far more positive than negative, and the dispute concerning the amount of consultation has detracted from what should be something very positive.

Students will only complain about things that they feel should be properly democratically decided, issues that have split opinions. The ASS issue follows the heated debates over the changes to the college bar system earlier in the year, where a lack of consultation was again brought to the fore. Concerning the ASS, though, the benefits that will result from the changes mean that any argument debating the process of consultation is, I feel, refuted. Yes, maybe the academic staff should have had more input and consultation, and yes, maybe students should have been consulted. But, when changes are implemented for the good of students, what does it matter whether every member of the Criminology department was informed at every single step of the way? Nobody is disputing the fact that students will benefit, and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.

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