A New Name for the Government Department
50 years ago, Henry Gallant created the Skidmore Government Department. Gallant had a Ph. D. in Government from Harvard University. He “considered [it] appropriate to adopt that name[Government department] as it reflected his background and the type of courses that were offered at the time” said Aldo Vacs, Professor and Chair of the Skidmore Government Department.
Recently, a number of current members of the Government department had the idea to switch the name of the department from Government to Political Science. They“considered that Political Science was a more accurate designation because all of us are now held doctoral titles in Political Science (not Government) from different universities and because Political Science reflects better the breadth of topics covered in our courses” said Vacs.
The traditional distinction between government and political science is that “Government studies have been focused on state-related structures, functions and policies while Political Science tends to cover these issues plus others related to political behavior, theory, methodology, international and transnational affairs, etc.” said Vacs. Vacs also said that what is covered in professor’s own research and classes are more similar to Political Science opposed to Government.
Skidmore is joining the majority of colleges and universities in changing their Government department’s name. The American Political Science Association (APSA), which is the professional association of Political Science students and scholars in the United States, currently has 574 member departments. “Skidmore’s government department is not currently a member of APSA, but has been a member off and on since 1999,” said Julia Schwarz, APSA Program Coordinator. Of the 574 members 47 are named Government, 38 are named “Politics” and the remainder are named Political Science. Within the 47 that use Government, and the 38 that use Politics there are some variations. For example, “10 departments are called “Government & Politics or “Politics & Government,” 2 are “Government and International Affairs,” and there are a few other combinations with law, legal studies, public management and political affairs,” said Schwarz.
In order for a department at Skidmore to change its name, it needs to be authorized by a number of committees. These committees include the Committee on Educational Policy and Planning, and the Curriculum Committee. The college administration also needs to authorize this change. “We have completed these steps, and the name change has been approved,” said Vacs. The formal change of name will take place this coming Fall 2016.
With the change of the name comes a change in gradation degrees for some students. “Beginning in May 2017, students majoring or minoring in our Department will graduate with a degree in Political Science,” said Vacs.