Graduate programs for criminology, sociology set to be cut through CAPE

A student walks in front of Cherry Hall on Feb. 22.

Jack Dobbs

Editor’s note: This story stated that an undergraduate criminology major was frustrated over the elimination of the criminology graduate program. The Herald wants to clarify that WKU is not eliminating the undergraduate criminology program, just the graduate program. The Herald also wants to clarify that the elimination of the programs mentioned in the story is due only in part to CAPE recommendations. There have also been longstanding enrollment issues in those programs. 

Hailey Parks, a junior from Tennessee, switched her major from nursing to criminology. Now, following program cuts, she likely will not be able to pursue graduate work at WKU.

“It kind of sucks, because, like, you work so hard for the program, and you’re hearing it’s disappearing,” Parks said. “I switched my major from nursing to criminology, and now it’s gone.”

As part of a recommendation from the Comprehensive Academic Program Evaluation, the WKU’s Department of Sociology and Criminology will soon cut three graduate programs, department head Holli Drummond said.

The programs set to be cut are the master’s in criminology, master’s in sociology and master’s in social responsibility and sustainable communities.

“All three of those programs will be suspended,” Drummond said. “We are in the process of suspending those three.”

Drummond said the master’s in criminology has been around since 2009, and the master’s in SRSC was carried over from the department of diversity and community studies when the department dissolved last year.

Currently, six students are enrolled in the sociology graduate program, 16 in the criminology graduate program and 26 in the SRSC graduate program, Drummond said.

Drummond said that since the master’s in criminology was created, it initially saw strong enrollment. In recent years, however, enrollment has begun to slow.

“In 2014 it had 17, in 2015 it had 15, 2016 it had 19, so we’re pretty much circling around the mid-teens to 20,” Drummond said. 

Drummond said sociology has generally enrolled less than 10 students. It peaked in 2017 with 13 students. SRSC enrolled 31 students in 2017, she said.

Though these graduate programs are being terminated, Drummond said students will still be able to pursue undergraduate work in criminology and sociology. While students cannot major or minor in SRSC, students can pursue undergraduate work in diversity and community studies, Drummond said.

The diversity and community studies undergraduate program is not yet slated for termination, Drummond said. Drummond said these programs will be “taught out,” which will allow students currently enrolled in the programs to finish their studies. These courses will be terminated following the Summer or Fall 2021 semesters.

In the meantime, Drummond said the department of sociology and criminology is working with WKU Information Technology Services to create a list of names of students who enrolled in the courses but never finished.

“They will be actively encouraged to come on back, enroll in the classes needed to graduate and finish the program within the timeline of the next couple of years,” Drummond said.

Because these programs are being cut, Drummond said she believes this will save the university from having to hire new faculty members to operate the courses.

Additionally, Drummond said the suspension of these programs will allow criminology and sociology to offer more undergraduate programs. Currently, there are 469 undergraduate majors enrolled in the department of criminology and sociology.

“We’ve held back on offering some diversity in our undergraduate curriculums, because we were trying to manage a lot of things not always with the right amount of faculty resources,” Drummond said.

Drummond said CAPE assigned these three programs a “transform” status.

In the CAPE study, every program offered at WKU was ranked from “maintain” to “suspend.” All the programs offered in the department of diversity and community studies were assigned a “transform” status with the exception of the certificate programs in citizen- ship and social responsibility and global pathways to sustainability. These pro- grams were recommended for suspension, according to the CAPE report.

“There needed to be a process where-by we evaluate what is feasible going forward in terms of continuing to offer those programs,” Drummond said.

By Oct. 31, an update is expected for all the programs given a “transform” status, Drummond said. There is “promise” a second, more comprehensive CAPE update will be requested at the end of March, she said.

Reporter Jack Dobbs can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @jackrdobbs.