Ohio University recently proposed a decrease in funding for the Center for Law, Justice and Culture, or CLJC, prompting pushback from students and faculty alike.
The CLJC focuses on an interdisciplinary approach to law and justice, incorporating anthropology, criminology, political science, sociology and other social sciences and humanities in its curriculum, according to OU’s website. It currently offers a certificate and master’s degree program.
“The College of Arts and Sciences will avoid, as much as possible, decisions that impact availability of classes or pre-law advising and has no plans to change degree or certificate programs offered by the CLJC,” university spokesperson Carly Leatherwood said.
However, many students have expressed concern over the proposed budget cuts’ impact on the availability of extracurricular and experiential learning activities sponsored by the CLJC. The reduction would cause the elimination or restructuring of several CLJC events, including OHIO Pre-Law day — an annual alumni and student networking event — in addition to public lectures, panels and campus visits from legal scholars, according to an email sent by faculty of the CLJC.
Criticism of the budget cuts also spurs from students and faculty advocating for the social and diverse educational value of the center. CLJC curriculum focuses on teaching students to think critically about subjects such as law and inequality, mass incarceration, policing, human rights and international justice, according to that same faculty email.
“It's a hub for diversity and inclusion, and I think that Ohio University has a lot more work in those regards,” Micaela Beatham-Garcia, a junior studying political science pre-law who is heavily involved with the CLJC, said. “I think it would be a massive loss to those efforts on campus.”
J. Bennett Guess, executive director of the ACLU of Ohio, wrote a letter to Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Sayrs and College of Arts and Sciences Dean Florenz Plassman on March 24, expressing similar concerns over the loss of CLJC programming and urging OU to reconsider.
“The potential loss of this substantive university offering, at a time of great partisan divide, political incivility, and legislative gridlock would have serious confounding consequences for our society, state, and nation,” Guess said in the letter. “This is a profoundly wrong move at exactly the wrong time in the life of Ohio University and our democratic republic.”
Proposed changes also include altering the position of Larry Hayman, pre-law specialist and adviser, to a more general College of Arts and Sciences advising position.
“Larry ... is absolutely the reason that I have had opportunities that have grown (me) to be the student that I am today,” Beatham-Garcia said. “He will be there for you 24/7, not only as an adviser but as a human being.”
Hayman also guides the mock trial team and advises the ACLU of Ohio University. Hayman’s relocation would result in the elimination or restructuring of several programs that he has developed, including the 3+3 BA/JD pathway, mock trial team, the Ohio Innocence Project-u and Southeastern Ohio Legal Services Access to Justice internship program, according to the email sent by faculty of the CLJC.
Guess addressed Hayman’s role at the CLJC and expressed the ACLU-OU’s concerns about his potential removal in the letter to Provost Sayrs and Dean Plassman.
“Under Mr. Hayman’s leadership, CLJC has flourished, playing a crucial role in the development of curious legal minds and setting up students for success,” the letter reads.
Hayman did not respond to The Post’s request for comment.
OU students did not hesitate to take action following the announcement, organizing to protest the proposed changes. Beatham-Garcia began a petition, which has garnered over 660 signatures as of March 30.
Students also protested alongside OU faculty Saturday on College Green, holding signs advocating for the retention of funding and Hayman’s position. Several demonstrators spoke out about their thoughts and experiences with the CLJC. The protest culminated with the delivery of a petition to Cutler Hall.
Student Senate also passed a bill March 24 showing opposition to the proposed budget cuts.
“The decision to make budget cuts to the CLJC is one that would have detrimental effects to an ever-growing program,” Sydney Sears said in a statement read by Senate Treasurer Eliza Ivan on March 24. “The program is more than just a program: it’s a family, and I am urging you to keep a support system that hundreds of students in the College of Arts and Sciences utilize every single day.”