Criminology professors still seek answers

Top officials in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice in the College of Arts and Sciences remain silent about whether two professors will be allowed to continue teaching criminology courses at the university.

Allegations began to surface in October that Narayan Persaud and Phyllis Gray-Ray would be removed from teaching criminology courses at Florida A&M University because of failure to comply with a review by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

As it stands, the two professors have not received any formal notice from Ralph Turner, dean of arts and sciences, about whether they have been allowed to continue teaching criminology.

On Nov. 7, Persuad e-mailed a letter to Turner asking why Jeffrey Jacques, chairman of the sociology and criminal justice department, had removed him from teaching criminology and assigned him to teach sociology courses.

“The dean has not replied to my e-mail nor has he told me who he is speaking to,” Persaud said.

Turner pointed out that any decision made would be based on “facts and interpretation,” and he would not be solely responsible for making a decision in this matter.

“I have not spoken with Persaud nor have I indicated in one way or another what will be done,” Turner said.

Jacques and Persaud have spoken since the onset of the allegations.

“I have talked with Persaud about his classes for the spring,” Jacques said. “Information that was communicated is still under review, and (Persaud) will be teaching sociology courses and an interdisciplinary course.”

In his e-mail, Persaud said Vivian L. Hobbs, director of SACS reaffirmation, informed him that no decision would be made to remove anyone from their current area of teaching.

Hobbs said her statement to Persaud said that “as far as she knew,” no definitive decision had been made.

“I have not been informed of the status of faculty members who appeared to be problematic (for SACS compliance),” Hobbs said. “That decision would be made between (FAMU Provost) Deborah Austin and the deans in the schools and colleges.”

A status check performed on the OurFamu Web site revealed that Persaud had indeed been removed from teaching courses in criminology for the spring 2007 semester. The search also showed that Gray-Ray would be teaching Theory in Criminal Behavior, an undergraduate criminology course.

If SACS compliance is the reason behind the confusion, the problem could rest with one specific clause.

Section 3.7.1 of the SACS guidelines states that faculty members teaching general education courses at the undergraduate level are required to have “a minimum of 18 graduate hours in the teaching discipline.”

The same rule is required for an instructor teaching associate degree courses designed for transfer to baccalaureate degrees and baccalaureate level courses.

In Persaud’s case, his transcript showed he had obtained 21 credit hours in sociological theory and more than 20 credit hours in research methods and statistics, but no credit hours in criminology.

“I have taught at FAMU for 10 years, and this is the first time that I have been told that I may not be able to teach criminology,” Persaud said. To date, he is teaching five criminology courses at the university.

In order to resolve the situation, Hobbs said, “Dr. Persaud should schedule a meeting with Turner, Jacques and the vice chair of the university Standing Committee for SACS Reaffirmation.”

Attempts to reach Professor Gray-Ray were unsuccessful.