Criminology & Criminal Justice
Criminology and Criminal Justice Department History
Is it the Department of Law Enforcement at Southern Oregon College, the Department of Criminology at Southern Oregon State College, or the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Southern Oregon University? It depends on when and who you are asking.
The Early Years: Years of Development, Change, and Growth
The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice traces its roots back to winter or spring term1966 when former university dean, Vaughn Bornet wrote a justification and proposal for a Law Enforcement Program. This program was presented and accepted a few days later in Salem, Oregon. That fall term when a former FBI agent taught the first classes in the program, Southern Oregon College (SOC) was one of only 40 universities across the nation offering courses in specifically related to criminal justice. Thus, the department’s existence predates the explosion of criminal justice type programs across the United States in the late sixties and early seventies. In 1967 the “Law Enforcement Program” became the “Department of Law Enforcement.” From 1966 through 1970 the faculty reflected a rich blend of professional expertise including a former corrections officer, a local lawyer who later became a judge, a former San Jose Police Sergeant, a Medford police officer, and a former probation and parole officer.
1970-1994: Years of Expansion and Stability. (AKA: Six degrees of Berkeley)
In 1970, the Department hired Ivan Polk. Dr. Polk graduated with a B.A. in Criminology from UC Berkeley, earned his law degree from Lewis and Clark University in Portland, and served as a Multnomah County Sheriff’s deputy and sergeant. Dr. Polk taught many of the law classes, the investigations class, and chaired the department for 17 of his 24 year tenure.
In 1972 Joel (“Jay”) Summerhays, a former Berkeley police officer (who later earned his D. Crim. at UC Berkeley) was hired to teach the policing classes. Alumni of that era remember Dr. Summerhays’ seminars on Classic Crimes and Jack the Ripper as well as his proclivity from teaching from the back of the room.
In 1973, James Brady joined the faculty. Dr, Brady, a former San Francisco area probation officer who completed his D. Crim. at UC Berkeley in 1974, was hired to teach corrections classes.
Dr. James Brady
With so many Berkeley criminologists on staff, it is no wonder that the department changed its name from the Department of Law Enforcement to the Department of Criminology in 1974. In 1975 the college followed suit, changing its name from Southern Oregon College to Southern Oregon State College (although President Natalie Sicuro began calling it “Southern” during his first academic year, 1980).
In 1976 the final member of the “Berkeley four” joined the department. Dr. Vernon Hubka, a former teaching fellow at Miles College and assistant professor at Florida State University was hired as the generalist--teaching theory and law. Dr. Hubka had earned his law degree from the University of Colorado in 1967 and his D. Crim. at UC Berkeley in 1975 and thus, was often referred to by students as “Dr. Dr.”
While other faculty members came and left during this time (Agnes McCarty and Dave Griswold, for example) SOSC criminology students in the seventies, eighties, and early nineties most remember the Department of Criminology as “Polk, Summerhays, Brady and Hubka.”
Dr. Vernon Hubka, Agnes McCartney, Dr. Jay Summerhays, Dr. Ivan Polk
Although the number of majors in the seventies and eighties was not recorded, the yearbook for 1979 reported that there were approximately 220 criminology majors enrolled at SOSC and “criminology graduates from SOSC have superior chances in getting job placements anywhere in Oregon.” Indeed, SOSC criminology grads from that time are currently employed as police chiefs, judges, corrections officers, lawyers, heads of departments of corrections, juvenile probation and parole officers, and even SOU professors of criminology and criminal justice and chemistry. Click here to go to the Alumni page.
1994-Present: Many Changes and New Endeavors
In 1994, a former Berkeley, California peace officer, Dr. Vic Sims, was hired to fill the position vacated by the retirement of Dr. Polk. The following year, former Josephine County deputy district attorney and 1982 SOSC criminology graduate, Dr. Lore Rutz-Burri, was hired to fill the position vacated by Dr. Summerhays’ retirement. (Jay continued to teach part-time until 1998). In 1998 Lee Ayers, a former San Diego peace officer and Texas school teacher, was hired in a joint position in criminology and Extended Campus Programs. She completed her Ph.D. and became a full faculty member in the department in 2001. In 1999 Dr. Brady fully retired. In 2001, Marny Rivera was hired to fill the vacancy which would be created by Vern Hubka’s retirement in Fall, 2001. She received her Ph.D. Crim. from Indiana University of Pennsylvania that year and had a joint appointment with the department and Extended Campus Programs serving as the distance learning coordinator.
Drs. Sims, Rutz-Burri, Ayers, and Rivera comprised the core faculty in the department from 2000 through 2007. Indeed, all four have served as chair of the department at various times from 1996-2007. In 2005, Dr. Thomas Owens (Ph.D, Organizational Development, University of Oregon) joined the Department of Criminal Justice (name changed in 2004) at Southern Oregon University (name changed in 2000) after a career in private industry and an investigator with the United States Investigative Services. In Fall 2006 Eric Mellgren, a 35 year police veteran and member of both the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Police Futurists International, joined our faculty and brought with him a wealth of expertise not only in leadership and law enforcement, but also in comparative criminal justice.
Importantly, the department has been aided by several full time, temporary faculty including a SOSC graduate and former Ashland Police Officer and deputy district attorney, a former legal aid attorney, and another former deputy district attorney who, in addition to teaching, was a news anchor for television channel ten, KTVL, a CBS affiliate. Additionally, the department has been enhanced by an outstanding group of adjunct faculty from many criminal justice professions, including an Oregon State Police criminal investigator, many police officers, many deputy district attorneys, a defense attorney, private attorneys, several probation and parole officers, corrections officers, and highly esteemed former Medford police chief (Ray Shipley) and Ashland police chiefs (Brown and Fleuter).
In his earlier history of the department, Dr. Sims identified the final phase from 1994 through the present as a period of maturity in which the “number of majors has increased each year without exception,” the faculty and criminology majors “have become increasingly visible at the annual Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and American Society of Criminology conferences,” the department has established a chapter of the Alpha Phi Sigma national criminal justice honor society, and the department has “staged an elaborate distance education program
In addition to the distance education program which started as EdNet in 1997-1998 and has developed a full-blown online degree completion program, the department has sponsored various simulation exercises. For example, since 2001 the department has worked with criminal justice agencies to put on a yearly “Lock-In” designed to simulate various enforcement skills, Lock In, a Mock Assessment Center designed to simulate hiring in criminal justice agencies (Spring 2005 and 2006), a CT: CSI Day in Fall, 2006 simulating communications response to terrorism attacks in the Rogue Valley, and finally “CSI Day: Ashland” designed to simulate collection and processing of forensic evidence (Spring 2006 and 2007). Students have also had the opportunity to tour correctional facilities. In 1997 and 1998, for example, students in the Woman and Crime Seminar toured the Oregon Women’s Prison, and since 2000, students have toured Pelican Bay State Prison each year. Finally, continuing to involve an increasing number of students in the ACJS conference, starting Fall 2006, faculty have also brought students to the Economic Crime Institute in Washington D.C.
On a less academic note, on May 20, 2006 the department hosted a 1930s gangster themed Murder Mystery fundraising event for alumni and the wider campus community. The deparmtent raised money toward the refurbishing of the “designated crim rooms” Taylor 28/31 and Taylor 29/30. In fall 2006 the department received a 10,000 dollar grant from the Swigert Foundation for the room remodels which are expected to be completed in Summer 2007.
Although the department has been housed in Taylor Hall for its entire existence, in 1998 the faculty moved their offices from their longstanding location in the basement of Taylor Hall to its second floor. Curriculum changes include a movement away from requiring courses outside the major (such as psychology, political science, sociology and economics as was seen in the 1970s and 1980s), the establishment of a required practicum internship (sometime in the 1980s), the transition from three credit classes to four credit classes in 2000, and the abandonment in 2005 of the three elective tracks (law enforcement, corrections, law) to a system of electives which include any non-required criminology and criminal justice classes and select communications, political science, business, and psychology classes.
In 2005, Dr. Sims wrote in A Brief History. “This brief history found that during the first 39 years of its existence the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice employed about 17 fulltime professors and graduated more than 1,000 majors. During the 2004-2005 school year the Department recorded 316 majors, a record high for the Department. The Department’s brief history and all other evidence point to a bright, healthy, and successful future for the Department of criminology and Criminal Justice at Southern Oregon University.”
Drs. Polk, Brady, and Hubka have been enjoying their retirements from the department and university, but it is with sadness that this author reports the death of Dr. Summerhays in 1998 and the very recent and sudden passing of Dr. Sims in April 2007.
Dr. Lore Rutz-Burri
Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Southern Oregon University