Program History

The Law, Societies, & Justice program originated in the early 1970s as the Society & Justice program, a title that it carried for nearly thirty years. The program was created and directed for nearly two decades by Professor Ezra Stotland. Professor Stotland imagined a broad interdisciplinary program that integrated analysis of social behavior, legal administration, and critical thinking about justice, with an emphasis on criminal justice. He brought together a wide array of committed faculty across campus and from the community to teach and inspire students about the substantive issues at the heart of the program. Under his tireless, dedicated leadership, the SoJu program became a model of innovative pedagogy and outreach to the broader community.

Following Professor Stotland’s retirement, the 1990s proved to be a difficult, uncertain time for the SoJu program. Key faculty traditionally involved in the program retired or assumed new responsibilities and the program budget was significantly cut in the early part of the decade; the program was on the verge of elimination. Nevertheless, the program continued through this period to deliver quality education to a reduced number of majors due to the hard work of the staff in the Political Science Department, a small but committed faculty group on and off campus, and several directors committed to sustaining the popular undergraduate major.

After a decade of struggling for survival, the program was provided new resources that facilitated reconstruction and revitalization beginning in the year 2000. Through a combination of temporary funding from a university Tools for Transformation grant and new permanent financial support from a University Initiatives Fund award, the College of Arts and Sciences, and several departments, the program was reborn with a new name, a new faculty core and staff, and a reconstructed curriculum. Today, the program has six appointed faculty members, five adjunct faculty, and one lecturer, plus teaching assistants from across the social sciences. It is widely recognized for its challenging course offerings, strong faculty, and intellectually-engaged students.