The college’s legal studies major will be moving from its current designation in the School of Business to the School of Humanities and Sciences in Fall 2018.
The move was first discussed in the fall of 2017 as part of the School of Business’ multi-year strategic plan, Vincent Wang, dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, said. Administrators from both schools believe the move would be beneficial because legal studies majors receive a Bachelor of Arts degree, which is not typically obtained in the School of Business, and most of the major requirement courses are in the School of Humanities and Sciences, Dawn Kline, assistant dean of the School of Business, said.
“The decision had as much to do with the school affiliations of the faculty as it did academic fit,” Kline said. “Academically and culturally, this move makes sense.”
Wang said this move will help strengthen the legal studies program because it already relies heavily on the School of Humanities and Sciences.
“The legal studies’ current home in the School of Business is not a great fit and limits its growth,” Wang said. “It is the only business school program not accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, and its survival depends heavily on the other schools, such as the School of Humanities and Sciences and Park.”
The legal studies program currently has 48 undergraduate students, according to the college’s Office of Analytics and Institutional Research. The students currently enrolled will only be minimally affected by the change in schools, but it will affect students entering the major starting Fall 2018, Kline said.
Currently, legal studies students are advised by Veronica Fox, instructor in the Department of Legal Studies, but they will now be advised by a faculty member of the Department of Politics, Kline said. Thomas Shevory, professor in the Department of Politics, will be the new legal studies adviser, Wang said.
The students currently in the major will still have the same major requirements and will receive a Bachelor of Arts degree from the School of Business, Kline said. She said students enrolled in the major will have the option to be advised by the School of Humanities and Sciences.
Legal studies was originally a minor, housed within the Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies within the School of Humanities and Sciences. The program moved to the School of Business when DIIS was disbanded in 2011, Gwen Seaquist, professor and program coordinator in the Department of Legal Studies, said.
As a result, the School of Business took in the minor and created the legal studies major after DIIS was dissolved, Seaquist said. Even though legal studies was housed in the School of Business, it remained an interdisciplinary program because of the other schools and departments that offered courses for the major, Seaquist said. Seaquist also said the minor became a major because of an increased number of students interested in the program.
The legal studies program has always been ran by Seaquist and Marlene Barken, associate professor in the Department of Legal Studies. They are both attorneys who helped create the major by offering courses they wish they took before going to law school, Seaquist said. The legal studies major was originally taken in by the business school because both Seaquist and Barken were tenured faculty in the School of Business, Seaquist said.
Seaquist said one of the main reasons for the move is that the program would not have had a director. Barken plans to retire in a year and Seaquist said she no longer wants to be director.
“I just wanted to teach without having the administrative responsibilities,” Seaquist said.
Seaquist said she believes housing legal studies in the politics program will add a new perspective to the major. However, she said she is not sure if the School of Humanities and Sciences is the best fit.
“I thought DIIS was the best place for the legal studies major,” Seaquist said. “Since that no longer exists, I believe there are some advantages to both the School of Business, as well as it being advised under politics.”
Over 80 percent of courses in the legal studies major are already within the School of Humanities and Sciences curriculum, Wang said. The major requirements total 120 credit hours, with required courses in law electives, liberal arts electives, social and political electives and several required courses in other programs. The move will allow students in the major to take more diverse courses in the departments of communication studies, politics and writing.
Current legal studies majors have mixed reactions to the news that their major will be switching schools.
There was no communication between students and administrators about the switch, which is frustrating to some legal studies students, Kelsey Shaffer, a sophomore legal studies major, said.
“When I came to Ithaca, they really emphasized the business school and the connections we could make through networking,” Shaffer said. “I’m hoping that won’t be hurt because of the switch.”
She said legal studies students were informed a few days before the official announcement released on Intercom.
Luke Miller, a sophomore legal studies major, said he is frustrated that the move was prioritized over other issues that the major has, including the lack of faculty for the program.
“I don’t see how this will have a positive impact on the program or the students,” Miller said. “I haven’t heard of any additional changes being made to the program, like the hiring of new faculty members.”
There are only three faculty members in the major: Fox, Seaquist and Barken. Additionally, Seaquist will be on sabbatical in Fall 2018, and Barken plans to retire in a year.
Wang said he wants to hire more faculty for the program.
“I plan to advocate for additional lines in the future,” Wang said.
Current members of the legal studies staff are unaware of any plans to hire more faculty, Seaquist said.
The legal studies program should benefit from being a part of the larger faculty advising committee in the School of Humanities and Sciences, Wang said. The decision to move the major was unanimous from both schools because they believe it will be beneficial to legal studies majors, Wang said.
“Both schools are committed to students’ academic success and a smooth transition,” Wang said.