Date: August 19, 2009 To:

August 19, 2009
Tracy Pellett
Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Studies
Kirk Johnson
Interim Dean, College of the Sciences
2008-2009 Program Review, Law and Justice Department
You have asked me to provide commendations and recommendations as part of the
program review process for the Law and Justice Department. These observations
consider the self- study, the external evaluator’s report, as well as on the context and
resource issues with the college.
The department prepared a self-study and hosted the campus visit of the external
reviewer. Dr. Phyllis B. Gerstenfeld provided a focused set of recommendations in her
report. My commendations and recommendations reflect some of the same points she
addressed. The department’s strengths are instructional performance, diversity within
both student and faculty ranks, an increasingly sound assessment program, faculty and
student service to the community, and growth in faculty scholarship. The challenges the
department faces includes high advising loads for some faculty members, a need for
enhanced communication within the department, continued efforts in curriculum planning
and integrity, and possibly stabilization of enrollment.
Law and Justice Science faculty members have embraced a department culture
that is student-centered. The engagement of students in the discipline is one of its
major strengths. The value department members place on instructional
performance and student/faculty interaction is evident in the consistently high
performance in SEOI scores, an active student organization, student survey results
for the department, and in the quality of internships secured by many of its
The department is making progress in the development of a collegial and
collaborative working environment. With the assistance of the college the
department has initiated at least one face-to-face department meeting per quarter.
The increased interaction and collegiality has improved department decision
making processes and collaboration on curricular reform. It warrants mentioning
that the past schism within the department cited by the external reviewer did not
appear obvious to students, nor did it have a negative impact on their learning
Department philosophy and practice reflects the teacher/scholar model. The
department’s SEOI scores attest to the quality of instruction provided by the
department, and the faculty are actively engaged in scholarship as evidenced by
the department’s overall rate of publications and conference presentations.
Similarly, the majority of faculty evidence high rate of undergraduate student
research supervision and cooperative field placement sponsorship.
The department has made great strides toward the implementation of a credible
programmatic assessment plan and is beginning to consider assessment results in
curricular planning.
Law and Justice faculty members and students support and participate in a broad
array of service activities in the community and in university governance. Its
faculty members are to be commended for the active role they have taken in social
and legal rights programs.
Undergraduate Curriculum Planning: Both the external reviewer’s findings and
the self-study document suggest attention is needed in the areas of advisement and
curricular planning. At a minimum that the department should strive to equalize
advising loads among the faculty and to provide students with an inventory of
cooperative learning placement opportunities. The department should also
consider instituting a long-term plan for course offerings. This would require the
development of a consistent cycle for all courses (on the main campus in
Ellensburg as well as at each center). Information regarding whether a class is
offered each quarter, only once a year, or only on an every other year basis ought
to be readily available to students. If students are able to predict the year and
quarter a class is most likely to be offered it would ease the burden of advisement,
thereby making the work lives of all faculty members somewhat less stressful.
Integrity of Program: The curricular reforms instituted this year should further
reduce the number of course substitutions which plagued the department in the
past. Widespread substitution of requirements called into question the validity or
necessity of core courses associated with the specializations. A similar review of
the practice of waiving course entrance requirements during summer session
should be undertaken. This practice raises serious integrity concerns for the
department. If course prerequisites and entrance requirements are considered
essential to admitting students into courses during the academic year they should
similarly be essential during the summer session. Standards should be constants.
They shouldn’t vary as a matter of convenience in order to increase department
revenues and individual incomes.
Recruitment and Public Relations: Update the department webpage to include the
current degree program and sections emphasizing student research and
cooperative field placement opportunities and successes. The latter might be
incorporated into a student handbook together with suggested courses for students
with specific career goals (as noted by the external reviewer). I concur with the
reviewer’s comments on enrollment declines these aren’t necessarily negative.
The department was clearly overburdened in the past and it may be that the
department is finding its point of equilibrium between student demand and its
resource base. Increased competition from other programs also means that
students who may have majored in Law and Justice in the past because it was the
only option they had are now enrolled in a program that better suits their career
and personal needs. Again not necessarily a bad thing because remaining students
are more dedicated to the program’s goals and objectives. That said, clearly the
university’s more robust advertising campaign has not benefited the department.
It would seem that the best strategy for enhancing the visibility of the center
programs is for the department to reach out to community college students,
faculty and advisors (and possibly employers) to explain the value of the degree
In summary, the Law and Justice Department has a strong student-centered identity with
a well defined disciplinary focus when it comes to its undergraduate mission. The
department faculty maintains a strong record of instructional performance and
scholarship. However, there is work to be done when it comes to curricular planning and