Criminology major moves to CSUN

Cal. State Northridge is currently waiting for chancellor approval to create a criminology major for spring 2017.

Until now, students who wanted to apply for the Criminology and Criminal Justice program at CSUN could only do so by choosing the sociology major and then selecting the criminal justice option. If classes get approved by the chancellor, students would be able to apply directly for the criminology major.

Vickie Bensen, chair of the new criminology department at CSUN, brought up the issue to the dean and started talking to faculty to develop the curriculum. The curriculum was passed earlier this year.

One of Bensen’s biggest concerns with sociology being the major and criminology being the option is that they don’t have an ethics course in the option.

“Every student that gets a degree that says criminal justice on it, or justice studies or anything close to that, needs to cover ethics,” Bensen said. “The other problem that I’ve had is that they haven’t had criminal law and there’s an option which remains here to take a course in criminal procedures.”

According to Bensen, they’re expected to have classes that teach students about the system and focus closely on criminal law. Bensen said the content currently deals with the accused instead of providing students with a fundamental understanding of the foundations of criminal law and how the criminal justice system works.

Students who declare a BA in sociology with an option of criminology and criminal justice will have both titles show up on their record, according to Bensen, and this creates confusion for students.

“It’s interesting when I pull up a student’s record and their major shows up as criminology and criminal justice,” Bensen said. “And a lot of students call themselves criminology and criminal justice majors, but we don’t have a criminal justice major; you’re a sociology major, but a lot of students don’t see themselves that way.”

Bensen said students have the opportunity to get a fairly broad and deep understanding of criminology with the current option, but they have to select the right electives.

“If students selected particular electives that were [not relevant], they may find holes in their understanding. The core of the new criminology major ensures that our students would not have holes in those areas,” Bensen said.

The new criminology major’s core would include classes such as ethics in law, juvenile justice, criminal justice systems, criminological theory, and criminology and justice methods.

“The big difference is in the core,” Bensen said. “They’re not doing sociological theory, they’re not doing sociology methods. The core is all connected to criminology, criminal justice, and things relevant to that.”

According to Sunday Salter, Pierce’s transfer center director, if the chancellor approves the new criminology major, then CSUN would be able to add it to the CSU mentor website and students would be able to apply directly to it for fall.

“If it’s not approved until spring [2017] then students who apply now will have to apply under sociology and then switch after they’ve implemented the new degree,” Salter said. “Then spring applicants will be able to apply directly as long as they’re finishing that associate degree for transfer the fall before spring.”

The deadline for the CSU application has always been November 30 for the following fall cycle, and the spring application cycle starts August 1 and continues through the end of the month, according to Salter.

“So students can apply August 1 through the 30, 2017 for spring 2018 and [CSUN] told us for sure that that degree will be available by then,” Salter said. “But they are limited to only admitting students who will have that associate degree of transfer (AAT) for spring. CSUN only admits students who will complete that degree.”

Diego Molina, a criminal justice student, considered applying for the criminology major at CSUN.

“My professor, Kathy Oborn, told us that CSUN’s getting a criminology program in spring next year,” Molina said. “I talked to my counselor and also to a transfer counselor, and the transfer counselor said I couldn’t apply for that major for fall 2017. She said it was going to be only for fall 2018. I’m applying for transfer now and so I was going to apply for Cal State LA, but I’m not sure if CSUN is going to have the major in 2017.”

Currently the criminology major has been approved by the office, but they made some changes and are waiting for the chancellor’s final approval.

“It’s sort of been approved by the office that reviews it,” Bensen said. “They told us to go ahead and write an approval letter that will probably go to the vice chancellor, then to the chancellor and to the board of trustees. They all have to sign off on that, so if the chancellor’s out of town for a week then the chancellor can’t sign it.”

Currently CSUN is planning enrollment for the new major and will have information sessions to guide students on what to take for the new major this year that will substitute or transfer for the new major.

“We’re excited, the campus is excited, we’re all just waiting for that approval,” Bensen said. “And as soon as we get the approval then we can start creating some materials to pass out, like nice glossier posters or whatever it is. We can start doing the PR effort, we can start making more of an aggressive outreach effort. We should have our approval, so we’re waiting for it.”