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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 21, September 6, 1976.

The direction of the Department

The direction of the Department

Starting with the initial letter to Salient several contributors have remarked on a lack of direction or orientation within the Department. Though some break this up into a radical vs conservative ideology, other argue that this division itself misses the point. The general argument seems to be that if the Department would formalise a policy for development, an orientation, then problems would locate themselves, gaps would appear in the reasoning and courses could be fitted into a pattern. At the present no such direction exists (or it it is the students certainly don't know about it and cannot discern it). Therefore the real problems and gaps affecting the performance of the Department do not surface.

Several suggestions are made as to what this direction, or orientation, should be. The majority tend to argue for a sociology which provides a critical assessment of sociology, explanatory sociology, not descriptive. Further to that the society analysed should, where-ever possible, be New Zealand. All societies differ and many contributors expressed the view that they were fed up with American and British sociology or examples for sociological phenomena and wanted to look at New Zealand.

The key factors, then, become critical assessment and New Zealand society. It then becomes a discipline which the students can identify with. In some small way this becomes a mixing of theory and practice.

In terms of courses several demands arise out of such an approach.

(a) An overall critique of New Zealand society. It is here that one could utilise the 'grand theorists' as they are called. Rather than being given a 'shopping list' of theorists as at present, one could expect an analysis of New Zealand society as these theorists would have approached it. In order to do this one would take a model of New Zealand society or a relevant theme within the society. The questions then become —

How would Weber view New Zealand society? How would Simmel, Durkheim, Marx etc view it? In this way the primary purpose served is an analysis of New Zealand society using theories as the tool - which after all is their purpose. It is also an approach which would allow a greater understanding of the theories, their strengths and deficiencies.

A problem arises, however, indicative of a lack of direction —

There is a distinct lack of personnel who could approach the subject in such a manner because:
(i)There is a lack of New Zealanders on the staff;
(ii)According to students taking the theory courses there is a lack of personnel competent of such an analysis even if they were New Zealanders.

(b) More sub-units of the society will emerge for more detailed analysis and will give rise to courses.

Up for study come the traditional names - community studies, race relations, deviance, population, religion, organisation etc. But now they have an orientation related both to each other and to the overriding direction and concern of the Department.

Secondly, such an approach would give rise to new courses, e.g, the role of the state in New Zealand, the role of ideology in New Zealand, a possible course in political sociology, possibly one one the development of knowledge in New Zealand, inequality in New Zealand.

It is up to the Department, obviously with student consultation, to sort out its courses as those which will best give results, given the directions of the Department.

We have a united approach to sociology.

It is this basic fault which gives rise to constant criticism on the following points —
(i)Staff - who have been called incompetent in certain areas they are delegated to teach, and lacking enthusiasm in their courses. In turn this leads to a high staff turnover. The source of this could probably be laid, according to the contribution, at the staff appointments. Without a coherent policy or orientation for the Department true problems and gaps do not isolate themselves, therefore staffing appointments are made in a vacuum.
(ii)The lack of any debate of major sociological issues. Given this schema, it is hoped that the Department can give people the opportunity to engage themselves in a knowledge of these areas.
(iii)SOSC 208 — a topic already covered in a previous staff meeting.
(iv)SOSC 301 — covered both by intensive discussion in class and the first part of this paper.

It is hoped that this paper will receive full, free and honest discussion.

— SOSC Class Reps.