There is a serious crisis at the University of Virginia after Rolling Stone published an article that, unsurprisingly, argued that the administration failed to punish sexual offenders on campus. Soon, the University president, Teresa Sullivan, announced a suspension of fraternity activities until Jan. 9 but otherwise defended the school.
This is very disappointing. It has become increasingly common knowledge that universities are unable to handle rape allegations, they have almost no control over fraternities, and national fraternity organizations have set themselves up so that they are not liable for student violence. President Sullivan’s punishment is especially disappointing because the suspension only applies, essentially, when VA is out of session. Literally, the suspension applies now (Thanksgiving break), final exams, and the winter break. UVA is out of session until Jan. 12. Some “punishment.”
Here is the difficult discussion that universities have to have if this horrid situation is ever to end:
- Rape is a felony. It’s something you go to prison for. Thus, colleges are not in a position to investigate or handle these claims. Student/faculty juries for felonies are a joke. All rape allegations should be immediately transferred to the police.
- Develop new procedures for victims. Instead of going to the dean (who should be supportive in any case), all victims should go to the health clinic or local hospital *immediately* for medical attention and collection of physical evidence. This is especially important as research shows that violence is committed mainly by a small group of serial offenders who exploit the party scene. Even charges are never filed, physical evidence and documentation is needed to expel people suspected of violence.
- Universities should divest themselves from fraternities because they are extremely dangerous and unaccountable. How bad? Essentially, insurance companies in America won’t ever cover claims related to fraternities any more. It’s that bad.
Sadly, we will always be faced with the challenge of sexual violence. However, universities have allowed a hot house environment for violence to grow on their campuses. Allowing large groups of unsupervised young men to throw alcohol drenched parties with no liability is a recipe for disaster. This has to end.
About a week ago, Jeremy stopped by ye olde alma mater to give a talk on some new work. I was at SocInfo 2014, but my spies told me he made a quip about me. He mentioned that I thought that computer simulations were on the decline, even though his talk was about simulations. Of course, haters being haters,* the whole thing got blown out of proportion. Maybe, but it almost came to fisticuffs.**
Still, there remained a basic point – was I wrong? First, it helps to clarify. I never said that simulations were declining overall. In fact, simulations are a core technique in engineering, biology, physics, and computer science. Simulations also have a long history in *some* social science areas. Demographers, for example, have used them for population projections for decades. So, I fully admit (and have always admitted) that outside sociology, simulations are alive and well.
My point is specific to sociology. Simulations are honestly quite rare. Sure, a few folks do them. James Kitts, Kathleen Carley, and Peter Bearman are card carrying sociologists who have routinely used simulations. But how frequent is this? Not very, I’d hazard that less than 5% of papers in our main soc journals (top 4 + regionals). And yes, a few famous papers have been simulations (the 72 Cohen, March, and Olson comes to mind), but that generally doesn’t trigger a wave of simulations *IN SOCIOLOGY.* For example, how many authors in the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation have been tenure track faculty in sociology programs? Some, but not that many. How many readers of this blog have ever read JASSS?
I’d love to be wrong. I would love for their to be a large and growing contingent of social simulation in sociology programs.But right now, it’s niche area. Why? My guess is that there is a lot of inertia and there is a selection effect. I hope that changes.
* Hater = Fabio looking for twitter action on a Sunday night.
** How old people fight.
I’m on a plane right now, flying from Sacramento back to Albany. And sitting here I’m reminded of how air travel itself reflects the growing inequality of society in a trivial, but suggestive, way.
Planes have always had first-class and passenger cabins, at least as far as I know. If the Titanic had this distinction, I’m guessing it was in place from the beginning of commercial aviation.
But for most of my adult life, planes—at least the ones I usually fly on, from one U.S. city to another—looked something like this:
Just roughing it out here, this means that 7% of the passengers used about 15% of the room, with the other 93% using 85% of the cabin space. Such a plane would have a Gini index of about 8. (For reference, the U.S. Gini is about 48, and the global one is around 65.)
Domestic airlines have pretty much moved to a three-tier system now, in which the traditional first-class seating is supplemented by “Economy Plus,” in which you get an extra three or four inches of legroom over the standard “Economy” seats. I, as usual, am crammed into what should really be called “Sardine Class”—where seats now commonly provide a pitch of 31”, a few inches down from what most planes had a decade ago.
(The only time I’ve ever sprung for Economy Plus was on the way back from ASA Vegas, when for some reason I had to fly to San Francisco in order to take a red-eye back to Albany. It cost about $60 for me to actually be able to sleep most of the 5 ½ hours, and in that case it was totally worth it.)
Anyway, in today’s standard U.S. domestic configuration, the 12% of people in first class use about 25% of the passenger space, the 51 people in Economy Plus use another 30%, leaving the sardines—the other 157 people—with 45%. That gives us a Gini index of about 16.
Transatlantic flights, however, are increasingly taking this in-the-air distinction to new heights (ha ha). Take, for example, the below United configuration of the Boeing 777. It boasts seats that turn into beds on which one can lie fully horizontal. (Makes Economy Plus look like it’s for chumps!) United calls this new section of bed-seats “BusinessFirst.”
Unsurprisingly, though, these air-beds take up even more space than a nice comfy first class seat. So if we look again at how the space is distributed, we now have 21% of the people using about 40% of the plane, 27% using another 20%, and the final 52% using the last 40%. The Gini index has now increased, to 25.
Of course, I’m fully aware that a very small proportion of the Earth’s population can afford airline tickets in the first place, so we’re really seeing growing inequality between the 10%, the 1%, and the 0.1%. (I assume the 0.01% have jet shares?)
Nevertheless, it’s not often you see such a clear visual representation of our collective acceptance of the right of a small fraction of people to consume a very disproportionate percentage of resources. I wonder how much of the shift is actually driven by increased inequality, as opposed to improved capacity for price discrimination?
And it’s also worth noting that the plane above, while unequal relative to the old-fashioned three-rows-of-first-class-and-the-rest-economy layout, is still nowhere near the inequality of the U.S., or the world.
(No vouching for the accuracy of the calculations above — very back-of-the-envelope, and I’m tired!)
The December ASR has a number of articles by IU related folks, including Brea Perry, who just joined us. Notable is an article by three IU BGS* called “Formal Rights and Informal Privileges for Same-Sex Couples: Evidence from a National Survey Experiment.” From Long Doan, Annalise Loehr, and Lisa R. Miller:
Attitudes toward gay rights have liberalized over the past few decades, but scholars know less about the extent to which individuals in the United States exhibit subtle forms of prejudice toward lesbians and gays. To help address this issue, we offer a conceptualization of formal rights and informal privileges. Using original data from a nationally representative survey experiment, we examine whether people distinguish between formal rights (e.g., partnership benefits) and informal privileges (e.g., public displays of affection) in their attitudes toward same-sex couples. Results show that heterosexuals are as willing to extend formal rights to same-sex couples as they are to unmarried heterosexual couples. However, they are less willing to grant informal privileges. Lesbians and gays are more willing to extend formal rights to same-sex couples, but they too are sometimes more supportive of informal privileges for heterosexual couples. We also find that heterosexuals’ attitudes toward marriage more closely align with their attitudes toward informal privileges than formal rights, whereas lesbians and gays view marriage similarly to both formal rights and informal privileges. Our findings highlight the need to examine multiple dimensions of sexual prejudice to help understand how informal types of prejudice persist as minority groups receive formal rights.
* Brilliant Grad Students. And yes, Annalise and Lisa were students in Fabio’s School of Orgtheory. Even though I had nothing at all to do with their work, I will still parade them around.
From the Washington Post article on the “insanely confusing” path to citizenship.
Last night, President Obama announced new policies that would allow approximately five million persons to live in peace without fear of deportation. If you have lived in the United States for five years and have no crimes, you can obtain a status that allows you to be a legal resident. A similar rule applies to people brought as children and those with family members who are here legally. All I can say is “bravo.”
As much I applaud this action, it leaves serious problems unresolved. Currently, immigration to the United States is extremely difficult unless you are highly skilled or come from a country that has favored status. If you want to come to America because you want to escape poverty, political persecution, or organized crime, you have to pay thousands of dollars in fees, wait years, and hope that your number will be called. The chart above summarizes the complex and confusing immigration system. It’s not designed to facilitate legal migration. It’s designed to prevent migration.
It is completely normal for people to move to pursue jobs, be with friends, or simply to be in a place that they like better. Thus, let’s abolish this monstrosity of an immigration system. I’d advocate completely open borders, but there are other humane systems. For example, much migration is linked to jobs. Having a program of guest worker permits with unlimited renewals would be one such system. Let’s think of others. This country was founded on open borders, let’s make it that way again.
On Thursday, President Obama is scheduled to make a speech where he will likely announce an executive order that curtails some of the worst aspects of our immigration system, such as deportation of individuals who were brought to our country as children. I fully understand that Obama is a politician, not a magician. Even if he agreed that migration restrictions are unwise, he probably won’t act to pardon every undocumented immigrant.
However, I do hope that tomorrow’s actions won’t be an excuse to restrict migration even more. Instead, I hope that amnesty, or deferral of action, will allow Americans to reassess immigration. I want Americans to realize that travelling from Mexico to Arizona is no different that travelling between North and South Carolina. As long as someone travels peacefully, leave them alone. Preventing someone from taking a job, or owning a home, or enrolling in school, based on their nationality is no different than preventing someone from taking a job because they are Jewish, Black, or female. It’s simply wrong.
So tomorrow, I will cheer for every person who can now sleep without the fear that they will be forcefully moved to another country. But at the same time, I ask my fellow Americans to think seriously about the morality of immigration restrictions and I hope that they see that is simply an unjust law. We need a new world, a world of open borders.