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By Michael Keegan
Eric Reiter was hired as an assistant professor by Concordia’s History department in 2007 to develop an interdisciplinary minor program in Law and Society. Now, his program is nearing the final stages of approval just as Congress 2010, the annual multidisciplinary conference of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, comes to Concordia.
“We get an opportunity to get the word out on what we’re doing,” says a pleased Reiter. “It’s fortuitous, really.”
Reiter sees the program as “basically law for non-lawyers, law for the rest of us. We want to look at law as a vital, important force, rather than as a practice; to understand law rather than to do law.”
As proposed, the Law and Society Minor would be a 24-credit program consisting of the Introduction to Law and Society course Reiter has taught since his arrival in 2008, as well as law-related courses drawn from across the Humanities and Social Sciences but outside a student’s core discipline.
Professors James Kelly of the Department of Political Science and David Howes of sociology and anthropology worked closely with Reiter in the development of the program. He also had the support of various chairs including Peter Stoett of political science, Frances Shaver of sociology and anthropology, Shannon McSheffrey of history, as well as Principal Eric Shragge of the School of Community and Public Affairs.
While there are other non-professional law programs across Canada, Reiter believes Concordia’s program, in the Quebec context, “will be able to bring the different law traditions – civil, common and international – together in new ways. We hope this will make it an appealing, more interesting and compelling experience for students.”
At Congress, Reiter will be the Local Arrangement Co-ordinator for the Canadian Law and Society Association, handling “nitty-gritty” logistics like booking spaces and equipment for discussions and workshops, and ensuring things go smoothly when members of the association arrive.
“For myself,” Reiter says of Congress, “this is a great opportunity to get involved in the organization, to see what others do outside. It’s good to get new ideas, new perspectives.”
The interdisciplinary nature of the Law and Society program is well-matched to the theme of Congress 2010, Connected Understanding/Le savoir branché.
“The program will give students a chance to think about law in an interdisciplinary way, from different perspectives,” says Reiter. “And there are themes that come up that they can explore through the range of courses.”
As for Congress, “It’s a great opportunity for Concordia students,” adds Reiter. “Many former students have asked about the event. They’re interested in going to some of the talks, to see what sorts of questions are being asked in this field.”
“We expect a lot of participation,” says Reiter, “as this is a research but also a teaching field.”
Associate Dean Joanne Locke confirms that Reiter’s proposal for the Law and Society Minor program goes before the Arts & Science Faculty Council on April 23, one of several steps on its way to a final approval vote by Senate on May 21. Locke is hopeful the program will be in place by September 2010.