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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Number 19, 1976.]

Politics of the Pol Sci Dept — Pol Sci

page 7

Politics of the Pol Sci Dept

Pol Sci

The response to last week's Salient mostly verbal so far, augurs well for a more meaningful teacher-student discussion on why the department is failing to satisfy the demands of its students.

The reaction from the staff, though at present restrained, is a start, which hopefully will be followed by a more positive and open contact.

On the student side, comment has led to some concrete criticism and proposals.

1. Marxism and Pol Sci - By far the most talked about issue has been the department's ridiculous position on Marx. How can anyone who openly admits to disliking Marxism and its concepts, teach or even fully understand its theoretical complexities and limitations?

This comment is not directed solely at Professor Murphy, although he is the main culprit. Last year a considerable amount of discussion centered around his course, and course assessment showed the majority of students deeply dissatisfied by his approach. Yet this year the course bumbles on, and no doubt will still be in existence in 1977.

Both Pols 213 and 214, which set out to cover Marx in depth, fail to come to grips with what should be main issue, its relevance today. Prof Murphy's arbitrary distinction between Marxian theory and Marxian economics is totally unrealistic

One cannot possibly consider Marxist thought unless his notion of Capital is considered a live rather than a dead issue. Consideration of Marx in other Pols courses leaves a lot to be desired - I refer especially to stage one, where it is all but forgotten.

The teaching of Marx in the department is aptly summed up by a comment in Prof. Murphy's course outline: "It is not a study of Marxism and its various political manifestations". I wonder; how can you remove politics from politics?

Two interesting suggestions to remedy the 'Marx dillemma' have come to the surface.

a)Re-advertisement of the open lectureship position for a person whose special interests - and sympathies lie with relating Marxist thought to modern society
b)Organisation of a course of seminars, at stage two level, given by Marxists from off campus, and from other diciplines. It has the makings of a very rewarding 6 credits. Anyway the students have nothing to lose by a new departmental attitude to Marx.

Escher-type image of someone running down stairs

2. In Class Course Criticism - Many students have interests in particular fields which are simply not covered by the course structure, often simply because the lecturer fails to take account of student preferences until after his structured sessions have begun. The fault may lie partly with the student for not voicing opinions clearly, or at an early enough stage. Some chance to reorganise the course at its inception, to cater for student perspectives is thus important. Perhaps this could be best achieved by intense dialogue by the teacher and students individually and reduction of set texts, assignments and the like.

3. Assessment: While the majority of students were far from happy about extending, assessment into other areas, they were far from happy with the status quo. Why is there such rigorous assessment anyway? The department must make up its mind whether it simply exists to fulfil degree requirements - or whether they have, somewhere, a deep interest in developing an understanding of the phenomenon, 'polities'. The students deserve a more responsible attitude from their teachers as to the reasons behind their participation in the course.

Which brings us to;

4. Student Participation: in departmental affairs and course organisation is a must, and soon! There are the necessary channels already in existence which allow students to attend and vote at departmental meetings What is needed is an open relationship between staff and students in all levels of deparmtental interaction. One criticism is that students are too fragmented to be reliable and coherent.

However the student body: the Political Science Society was formed to cater for just this. While it has for the main lain dormant this year, its first social gathering will be held on Thursday the 5th of August in the Smoking room, Union building. The affair will be in the form of a Wine and Cheese, to which all departmental (staff and students), and their friends are invited. The evening will have two purposes, to eat. drink and be merry, and to recruit ideas for a complete Pol Sci course assessment programme, hopefully from both sides (any enquiries tel 759-893). So bring your gripes, boquets and unquenched thirsts along at 7.30.

p.s. Vocal Public Admin, members welcome too.