By Beth Koughan
Exciting news for a small percentage of UPEI students: our Political Studies department is getting a facelift! The long-awaited name change from Political Studies to Political Science is finally coming to fruition. Officially approved by senate this month, the UPEI Registrar’s Office has confirmed that the change will be effective as of January 2012. This means 2012 graduates from the program will have the change reflected on their diplomas.
It is likely this change will be met with indifference from the majority of students, but for some the change is meaningful and long overdue. Fourth-year Political Studies major Ashton Arsenault explains the confusion he has encountered when applying to grad programs. He says that frankly, the schools have been “weirded out” by the “studies” distinction. What it comes down to, he says, is about getting with the times; the name change “is reflective of the majority of institutions in Atlantic Canada.” The change also addresses the issue of continuity with secondary schools. The term “political studies” has reportedly (somehow) been a source of confusion for some post-highschoolers familiar with the term “political science.” Thankfully, new students will now be able to enroll in the program with confidence.
UPEI political science professor Henry Srebrnik commented that most North American departments dealing with politics are now called departments of political science.
“Since we are one of the social sciences (though in reality none are really “sciences” in the sense of the physical sciences) it makes it easier for people if we call ourselves ‘political science,’” he added.
There are those opposed to the change who would argue that Political Science is a misnomer, since the study of politics does not really constitute a science, but those people have been overruled by the senate decision. As a matter of fact, when it was originally established at UPEI, the department was called Political Science; now the faculty’s title has come full-circle. Whether the change is progression or regression depends on who you talk to. In reality, it comes down to petty semantics.
As a political-whatever major myself, I’m on the fence. There’s something about the coupling (politics+science) that reeks of unnecessary modernization, and to me, politics is not a science per se. I suppose if it simplifies post-grad application it can’t be bad, but how about an alternate option? I’d like to see the department name changed to “International Relations.” Sounds nice, right? Much more appealing to potential students. I have yet to table this motion, but you heard it here first. In the meantime, UPEI is soon to (once again) have a Political Science program.