April 2008 Issue • Volume 36 • Issue 4

Task Force on Sociology and Criminology Programs

Dennis MacDonald, St. Anselm College, and Steven E. Barkan, University of Maine

Almost a year and a half after formation and after much outreach activity, the ASA Task Force on Sociology and Criminology Programs is in need of greater input from Sociology chairs and faculty in programs involving some relation to Criminology or Criminal Justice. The ASA Task Force on Sociology and Criminology Programs was formed in fall 2006 at the initiative of then-Deputy Executive Officer Carla Howery. During her years of service, Howery had several inquiries from members of sociology departments and other academic units regarding the interface of sociology and criminology and/or criminal justice (CCJ) programs and courses. Deciding that this interface poses challenges similar to and perhaps greater than those facing other sorts of structural arrangements (e.g., sociology and anthropology programs), Howery recommended the formation of the task force to ASA Council, which gave its endorsement. The task force was charged with considering the various structural arrangements (e.g., joint departments, separate departments) of sociology and CCJ, examining the potential benefits and challenges that these various arrangements pose, and developing a list of recommendations to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of these arrangements. The final report of the task force will be presented to ASA Council in early 2009.

The Learning Process

The task force has engaged in several planning and information-gathering activities since its formation, with other activities underway or planned for the near future. These activities include:

At its luncheon session at the 2007 ASA Annual Meeting, the task force formed several subcommittees that are preparing drafts sections of the eventual final report for consideration and revision at a task force meeting at the new ASA headquarters in Washington, DC, this month. These subcommittees include: structural arrangements for sociology and CCJ programs (resource, accreditation, and graduate issues); curricular and student issues (core courses, elective courses, advising); and faculty issues (hiring, promotion and tenure, post-tenure review, workload).

In its earliest deliberations, the task force recognized a variety of structural arrangements involving sociology and CCJ programs. Task force members collectively represent these arrangements at their universities or colleges, which include but are not necessarily limited to: (1) a department offering both a sociology major and a CCJ major; (2) a sociology department offering a CCJ certificate/minor/concentration; (3) a sociology department offering only a few CCJ courses; or (4) a sociology department at a campus that houses a separate CCJ program/department. From the conference calls about a year ago through the meeting with American Society of Criminology representatives in November 2007, task force members have heard testimony about the various challenges posed by each of these arrangements. In particular, they learned that these challenges often lead to problems even if individuals act in good faith and with the best intentions. A recurrent theme has been that CCJ programs typically have more majors than sociology programs yet fewer faculty; indeed, a common comment has been that in joint departments offering both a sociology major and CCJ major, the CCJ program has about two-thirds of the majors but only one-third of the faculty. Not surprisingly, these disparities create various tensions. The testimony heard by the task force underscores Howery’s original rationale for its effort and reinforces the need to develop workable recommendations for the mixture of issues arising out of the several kinds of sociology and CCJ structural arrangements.

Call for Insights

The task force would like to hear from ASA members with concerns and insights relevant to the task force’s charge. What kinds of challenges and opportunities have characterized your department or program? What solutions have worked well and what solutions have not worked so well? What suggestions might you have for the task force to consider?

Please send any communication and/or materials to the task force chair, Dennis MacDonald, at dmacdona@anselm.edu. green_small


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