By CRAIG FREILICH
CANTON – An unhappy SUNY Canton criminal justice professor has written an open letter to an accreditation committee complaining about the use of what he believes are unqualified faculty at the school.
Professor of Criminal Justice Robert Edwards has written to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which will begin work on the school’s re-accreditation on Monday, to say that people with little or no education in criminal justice are teaching upper-level courses for the department, putting the credibility of a degree from the college at risk.
“For more than two years (when I found out) I have objected to the use of adjunct instructors who do not have the appropriate academic credentials to instruct in a baccalaureate college. My objections have been sharply rejected and, because of those objections, courses that I am the most qualified to instruct have been assigned to others with no background in those subjects. I continue to be subject to unofficial discipline for my vocal concerns about this practice,” Edwards wrote.
Edwards said in the letter that he was the first program director of the criminal investigation program at the school, the first bachelor’s degree program at SUNY Canton.
“Academic credentials are the ‘coin of the realm’ and go to the ultimate value of the degree from the institution,” Edwards wrote. “I value field experience as a necessary component to quality instruction but it is ONLY in support of appropriate academic preparation. The Criminal Justice Department at SUNY Canton has ignored the academic component and continues to do so by the assignments that are posted for the fall term. The degree program is an academic pursuit not an apprentice system.”
Among the people he singles out – none by name – as “among those who should not be teaching at SUNY Canton” is the chair of Criminal Justice Department, whom Edwards says “has field experience with the State Police but has neither undergraduate nor any graduate study in any Criminal Justice discipline. She teaches some 400 level courses.”
Among the classes taught by Sue Buckley, the department chair, is Investigations of Death.
Speaking for herself and not the college, Buckley said she was unhappy that such accusations were being made against her department, and while she has no criminal justice degree, she was with the New York State Police for “nearly 22 years, 17 as a BCI Investigator.” She retired with the rank of senior investigator in 2005.
She said she was overseeing 1,500 investigations a year as supervisor of the Bureau of Criminal Investigations unit based in Canton, and had extensive practical and professional training throughout her career.
She attended a weeklong Colonel Henry F. Williams Homicide Seminar with investigators and detectives from around the world chosen by their departments for the training.
While with the state police, she taught at the State Police Academy basic school, and led child abuse conferences in the North Country for professionals.
She was the first woman in the state police ever to run a field BCI unit.
Before her job as a police officer, she taught mathematics at Potsdam Central School for five years, and has a master’s degree in education.
She said that some of the classes in her department have “a strong, hands-on lab component,” and she entrusts the running of those labs to some people with lesser qualifications.
Edwards said he is also aiming his ire at adjunct professors who teach online courses.
“I understand that, from time to time, it is necessary to hire someone with minimal credentials to teach a course on campus because there are so few folks in the Canton region with both the graduate study in the discipline and an interest in teaching. That is an unfortunate reality for campus based courses but should not be the rule for on-line courses,” Edwards wrote.
SUNY Canton has been asked to provide comment, but officials have not yet replied.