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Complaint against SSPC

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We wish to initiate a formal complaint against the Department of Sociology, Social Policy, and Criminology, more specifically the staff accountable who convene and direct module CRIM3001 - Penology, following the failure to maintain transparency, communication, and agreement between the department its staff and their students.

For your information, this email has been sent to the Student Office for Sociology, Social Policy, and Criminology - it has also been cc'd to department heads and senior members of the department, as well as Southampton University Student's Union academic reps.

Consistently this department has failed to meet its outlined 4 week return period policy for written formative and summative feedback for our essay coursework. As per Faculty policy coursework should be returned to students within 4 weeks of submission. We do not believe there has been one CRIM module in any of our 3 years of being at this University within the SSPC department that this policy has been satisfied.

We do not understand how it is feasible for you [the department] to ask students to submit their work on time fulfilling their commitment to their course and degree, whilst then allowing lecturers and markers flexibility in chopping and changing release dates to feedback on essay coursework. Perhaps there should be an addition to the module handbooks and department policy called 'Our Commitment' where those convening and directing modules within the Faculty are held to account when feedback is not released within the 4-week policy.

After discussion with colleagues on my course and within the Faculty, there is no longer any trust seen in this department. This trust has been systematically broken down, time and time again, when lecturers fail to reply to emails (resulting in having to get heads of departments involved in trivial issues), when lecturers/dissertation supervisors do not attend their own office hours or reply to emails, and when the department cannot even keep to its own 4-week return policy.

We can appreciate some staff may have made the decision to take part in the UCU strikes between the 25th November and 4th December. However, this is no excuse as to why there was no clear communication from module conveners or directors as to why our essay coursework feedback date has now been pushed back to the 8th of January, making the return period for this piece of essay coursework 7 weeks. Prior to this, if the markers had stuck to their forecast release date it would have been 2 days shy of the 4-week return period, however, we reiterate never in our 3 years of being at this University has this department returned essay coursework where this deadline is satisfied.

It would have been clear to convenors and markers of this module that their forecast release date was not attainable, after resuming normal working hours following the ending of the UCU strikes on the 4th December. We do not accept that it could not have been foreseeable, to academics, of an internationally recognized institution who are experts in their respective fields, to not have known they could not meet the forecast return date.

We would like to add, again, this not an issue about just one module, this is about the department consistently missing return dates across various modules within SSPC namely CRIM modules, as well as, not communicating with students during crucial periods of their academic progression. We hope that the module feedback surveys released recently will be reviewed seriously and the feedback given acted upon with immediate effect, many of these survey responses will express a shared feeling among our colleagues about this department, its lecturers, modules and module content.

Aforementioned, there is no longer any trust in this department by its students, with many calling this department "a laughing stock" and "joke", which we're sure you can agree doesn't fare well when trying to entice prospective students to study at the University of Southampton, especially if these feelings are currently being expressed on social media and forums.

Recently there has been an amendment made to the release date for the feedback for essay coursework to module CRIM3001, as seen above, we have mentioned this has now been pushed back until the 8th of January, this date change was made via a Blackboard notification. This notification, however, did not include any context, any understanding of what has changed, or, explanation of why it has been changed. We have still not received any email communications from the module lead or director to explain why this change has been made, showing a complete lack of communication and transparency between Faculty staff and their students.

Additionally, colleagues have raised a concern about the quality of the feedback being left by the markers of this department. Feedback has been described as contradictory and ‘unhelpful’. When colleagues have then initiated conversation with the respective marker, the replies have, again, been unhelpful and generally come to no resolution, with the perceived attitude of the marker as being uninterested or not caring. Only recently a colleague of ours contacted the module lead to request the rubric to an essay coursework mark we had released as it was not provided on the TurnItIn or Blackboard site, the response to this started with “I’m sorry you’re unhappy with your mark”, within the initial they had not mentioned they were dissatisfied with their mark, just they would like the rubric uploaded so as they can see how my marker came to their decision, this was so they can see how to improve on my future essays. This displays a clear lack of interest in the staff’s attention to their students requests.

The now adjusted release date has been received with much disappointment, frustration, and anger by colleagues. This release date will be during a period of the academic calendar when most students will be studying for exams. As this essay coursework is weighted at 100% it has caused much undue anxiety and stress for many of my colleagues, the addition of this set back during a period of high tension does not help to reduce this when these marks are released, only to exacerbate and again cause more undue stress and anxiety during a critical period for many students.

We feel like it has come to a breaking point between students' dissatisfaction and the running of the department resulting in this email. We do not believe it is fair nor appropriate for successive students of the Faculty to face the same issues which we have.

Therefore, we would like to know what action the Faculty and its staff are going to take regarding the above issues? Apologies regarding delays in feedback releases only go so far.

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