St. Thomas University has introduced a new interdisciplinary program exploring the relationship between law, politics and society — and students are already looking forward to taking the first-year course for the program next semester.
Criminology and criminal justice major Brandon Case was excited to find out about the new program offered at STU.
Case said a lot of the courses he’s already taken are incorporated in the new program.
“It was nice to know that all the courses I was interested in taking were all coming together and being incorporated as one major,” said Case, who’s president of STU’s pre-law society.
Case said the other executives and members of the pre-law society are hoping to end up with a major in the new program too.
The new program, Law, Politics and Society, was approved at a senate meeting in April. The new first-year course for the program, LAPS-1003: Intro to Law, Politics and Society, is set to run in January, and will be taught by the co-ordinator of the program, Tom Bateman.
Bateman said the class, which is capped at 60 students, is already full for next semester.
“When it was put on WebAdvisor, students filled it up in about a week,” Bateman said.
“I’ve had many inquiries about senior students who want to try to complete the requirement, though they are already one or two years into their program.”
“It has really hit some kind of a demand among students,” he said.
Bateman said he was part of a meeting with the university three years ago when they were discussing designing the Law, Politics and Society program.
“The question [then] was whether St. Thomas should attempt a program that has an explicit pre-law kind of character or something a bit broader,” he said.
“There was a consensus that students are very interested in law and legal phenomena and that STU should do something to meet that interest,” said Bateman, who has been teaching in the political science department at STU since 2003.
“It turns out that this is right in my wheelhouse, because I did my dissertation research on an aspect of the Canadian Charter of Rights jurisprudence and I have taught elsewhere courses on law, politics, and judicial concepts. I teach constitutional law courses here at STU and so this is all natural to me.”
Not a pre-law program
Bateman said the law, politics and society major isn’t a pre-law program, but it could help prepare students for law school.
“It certainly can be a program one can take before applying to law school and it would be a great preparation for that, but it’s not a pre-law program.”
The first-year course for Law, Politics and Society is required for a major or minor in the program. Students interested in majoring are required to take 33 additional credits in other departments.
“Because it’s interdisciplinary studies, the program draws on extant courses from many other disciplines — sociology, criminology, history, psychology, political science, human rights, great books — and so we are sort of leveraging the great stuff that’s already being done here at STU,” Bateman said.
Case said he thinks exploring the different perspectives other areas of studies provide is important for people interested in pursuing law.
“It’s nice that someone coming into first year [and] they’re like, ‘Oh, I might be interested in law school, let’s see if that’s for me.’ The Law, Politics and Society major definitely has courses that are going to expose them to the law and if that’s something they’re interested in, then that’s awesome,” Case said.
“But if it’s not [for them], I still think it’s super relevant and super necessary for any liberal arts student to know about and could be super important going into any field.”
Bateman said the first year course may include discussions and readings about the Dennis Oland murder trial, the acquittal of Gerald Stanley in the shooting death of Colten Boushie and decriminalizing cannabis.
Bateman said the program is suitable to anyone interested in a career in journalism, law enforcement, or public policy — and anyone who just wants to deepen their understanding of Canada.
“Education is all about understanding and if you want to understand how Canada operates as a liberal democracy, then this is a great way to do it.”