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the one where fabio stands up at the end of jess calarco’s job talk and yells, “j’accuse!!”

pacino-court room

I was looking for trouble. I’d been drinking ginger ale all day and reading Andy Gelman blog posts. Then, the department email said some hot shot job candidate was giving a talk.

Jess Calarco strolls in Philly stlye and gives her job talk. A forty five minute talk on, of all things, ethnography. Give me a break! Little kids raising their hands, exercising their fancy-schmancy cultural capital. Don’t believe me? Go read it yourself – it’s in a new Oxford University Press book, called Negotiating Opportunity: How the Middle Class Secures Advantages in School. All the gory messy detail in 272 gripping pages of field work. Don’t buy the hardback for $99. Total rip-off. Get the more affordable paper back edition for $24.95!! Those publishers are total con-artists. You gotta be careful.

For the entire talk, Calarco goes on and on about how children from wealthier families negotiate the classroom in small incremental ways through student-teacher interaction. Asking for time on tests, arguing about assignments. What happens at the end of the talk has now become legend at IU soc. This is how Calarco remembers it:

Here is how I remember it. I straightened out my bow tie, I stood up, and asked: “The motivation for your field work is to understand how class based difference in class room interactional style might be linked to learning outcome or status attainment. What evidence do you have from field work that the association is present or explains the variation in outcome, much in the same way a quantitative researcher might use an R-squared to measure a model’s goodness of fit?

You could hear a pin drop. Children cried. Snowflakes started melting. Then, after taking a few notes, Calarco calmly explains that she was collecting data on the student’s performance to examine the link between classroom behavior and achievement and then she summarized some initial thoughts.

FOILED AGAIN! My plan to undermine the discipline of sociology failed! I went back to my office and vented my frustration on anonymous job rumor websites.

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BUY THESE BOOKS!!
50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!

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Written by fabiorojas

May 17, 2018 at 4:01 am

fabio’s bill of grad student rights

Last week, I wrote about my practice of asking stiff questions in job talk Q&A’s. Apparently, my questions are responsible for all manner of ill, from gender inequality in academia to something about Bourdieu and social power. To make it up to y’all, I’ll focus on the positive – what I think all graduate school advisers have an obligation to do.

A little background: I spent the early years of my academic career in departments that were very toxic. Lawsuits. Disappearing funding. Masses of junior faculty fleeing. Bad job market placements. Then, I moved to a graduate program that, while not quite as prestigious, was doing just fine. I clearly saw the difference. People often say that they support grad students, but many don’t. Here’s my summary of what effective advisers should be like.

  1. The right of response: All advisers will promptly respond to emails, dissertation drafts, and other materials. Letters and recommendations will be processed promptly. In academic terms, prompt means a few days, or a week, at most.
  2. The right of the reminder: All advisers will be open to gentle reminders if they violate #1.
  3. The right of socialization: All advisers will tell graduate students about the rules and standards of their discipline and relevant sub-fields.
  4. The right of prompt evaluation: All advisers will write letters of recommendation without complaint and in a prompt fashion, so long as the student gives them sufficient time. In academic terms, sufficient time means about 2-3 weeks.
  5. The right of civility: All advisers will treat graduate as colleagues in training. There will be no screaming, no belittling behavior, and, of course, advisers will respect the personal space of their students.
  6. The right of constructive criticism: All advisers retain the right to criticize the academic and professional work of their students. But advisers will deliver all criticism in a calm and professional manner.
  7. The right of fair warning: If advisers believe that there is a serious issue concerning a student, they shall communicate it early and in a professional manner.
  8. The right of no land mines: If advisers believe that can’t support the student in their doctoral process or job search, they should express their reservations and recuse themselves.
  9.  The right of the supportive letter of recommendation: Advisers shall write constructive letters that reflect the student’s accomplishments and future trajectory. If the adviser can’t do that, they are bound to issue a “fair warning.” (see Right #7)
  10. The right of career respect: Advisers will understand that graduate students pursue many different jobs after graduation. The adviser will not belittle students who do not pursue research intensive academic jobs. All students will receive training and support needed to complete their degree in a timely and constructive fashion.

Signed,

Your adviser

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BUY THESE BOOKS!!
50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!

Written by fabiorojas

May 15, 2018 at 4:01 am

why i will continue to be annoying at job talks

A couple of days ago, I wrote a blog post about why I think that one should be tough on job candidates during job talks. My argument boils down to a simple point – it’s my chance to push a little and see how they respond in a tough spot.

At first, I was going going to write a blog post defending this view, but then Pamela Oliver retweeted the following, which makes my point very clear:

Bingo. This is exactly right. In your job as a professor, you will be put under pressure. You will be asked uncomfortable questions. They will not care about  your feelings or how it conflicts with your sense of egalitarianism. If you read through Professor Michener’s thread, you will see that she handled it in a very thoughtful and professional way. The thread raises many good points, but the starting point is this: this job has moments of pressure and you need to be able to handle it well.

Just to give you a sense of how the “tough Q&A” might be helpful in assessing a person, here are examples of where “thinking on your feet” and “dealing with pressure” made a difference in my own life:

  1. Around 2000, an audience member at an ASA round table said my work was offensive to all LGBT people. She then stood up and stormed out.
  2. Around 2008, an audience member at an ASA panel stood up and said that my work was completely wrong. He was referring to a draft of this paper.
  3. During my midterm review, the current chair indicated that I may be in trouble. It’s ok. I pulled through – we’re still friends!!!
  4. My work on the More Tweets, More Votes paper was openly criticized by leading political professionals, including this Huffington Post piece.
  5. I have argued with people in public about open borders. Including the spokesman of the Hungarian national government, Zoltan Kovacs. Let’s just say he doesn’t share my opinion!
  6. Students will raise potentially inflammatory questions in the middle class. Last year, for example, a student claimed in class that Catholicism is the only true religion. Needed to be real careful about that one.
  7. The blog generates a surprising amount of hate mail – from other scholars!
  8. As a journal editor, people question my rejection letters all the time. Oddly, they never question my acceptance letters!
  9. And of course, the piles and piles of journal and book editor rejections that every professor must deal with.

Of course, the typical day is not that stressful, but scholars are often called to defend themselves and they must do so in the face of tough opposition. I don’t advocate a lack of courtesy or civility. But asking about things like research design, relation to research done by scholars in adjacent fields, and inference is totally acceptable and there is nothing wrong with a courteous, but blunt, question. Heck, IU grads have told me that my questions during practice job talks were excellent prep for job talks elsewhere. Thus, if you have had years to work on a dissertation and you can’t answer a mildly assertive question about your own work, I will not be impressed.

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BUY THESE BOOKS!!
50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!

Written by fabiorojas

May 10, 2018 at 4:24 am

why i am annoying at job talks

At my dept, I am the guy who asks the tough questions at the end of the job talks. This strikes people as aggressive or obnoxious and they are right. But I think there is good reason to be extra tough for a job talk.

  1. Teaching: Can you think on your feet? Most of the time, your students will be asleep. But once in a while, they wake up and they can ask tough questions. You have to be ready for it.
  2. Actual Contribution: Honestly, PhD program prestige and CVs drive most hiring. Thus, if your adviser makes you author #5 on an AJS or ASR article, you have a massive job market advantage. In that case, I have to see if you actually know what you are talking about, or if you got credit for doing the footnotes.
  3. Cultishness and Rigor: I want to see if you “drank the kool-aid” or if you really have given serious thought to what you are doing. For example, I love asking qualitative researchers about causal inference. Do they really believe that ethnography is a magic land where inference doesn’t matter? Or have they really thought about what can and can’t be done within a given methodological framework?
  4. Broad mindedness: Does the person only care about the writings of the two or three most famous people in their sub-area? Or have they thought deeply about what the sub area has accomplished overall? Similarly, are they going off what was the most recent top journal article? Or do they read widely and know they history of their area?
  5. Disciplinary Parochialism: Does the person only care about what sociologists have written about their topic? Or do they understand the value that other academics might bring to a topic? For example, I routinely ask people doing work/occupations and economic sociology about relevant research in economics.

Of course, no Q&A session can dig into all of these issues. But one or two well placed questions can tell me quite a bit.

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BUY THESE BOOKS!!
50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!

Written by fabiorojas

May 8, 2018 at 4:01 am

the contexts editorial method

The Winter 2018 issue of Contexts is out and IT IS FREE until May 3. I’ll take a moment to discuss how Rashawn and I edit Contexts. We are motivated by a few things:

First, Contexts combines two missions – public sociology and scholarly development. Thus, we expect our articles to be interesting and they should also reflect current thinking within the discipline of sociology. So we like articles that have a solid “take home point” and are well written.

Second, we don’t play games with authors. For feature articles, we only ask for a 1 page outline. If we don’t like it, we pass. If we like it, we ask for a full paper that we will peer review. There is only 1 round of peer review. Then, we either reject or accept with revisions. We do things in a matter of weeks, even days.

Third, unlike most journal editors, we actually edit articles. We don’t sit back and wait for reviewers to tell us what we think and say “here are some comments, you figure it out.” We know what we think. We will sit with you and line edit. We will help rewrite. No games, just plain old editing.

You got something to say? Would you like it printed in a beautiful magazine? Send us a proposal. We’d love to read it.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

Written by fabiorojas

April 16, 2018 at 3:41 pm

submitted a paper for an ASA section award? submit it to SocArXiv and be eligible for a SOAR award too

If you’ve submitted a paper to be considered for an American Sociological Association section award – including a graduate student award – consider submitting it to SocArXiv as well. Any paper that is uploaded to SocArXiv by April 30 and wins a 2018 ASA section award will, upon letting us know, receive a supplementary SOAR (Sociology Open Access Recognition) award of $250 in recognition of your achievement. Support open access, gain recognition, and win money all at the same time!

Here’s how it works: You upload your paper to SocArXiv by April 30. If it’s a published paper, check your author agreement or the Sherpa/ROMEO database to see what version, if any, you’re allowed to share. Once you find out you’ve won a section award, email socarxiv@gmail.com. SocArXiv will send you a check for $250, as well as publicizing your paper and officially conferring a SOAR award. That’s the whole deal.

Sharing your paper through SocArXiv is a win-win. It’s good for you, because you get the word out about your research. It’s good for social science, because more people have access to ungated information. And now, with SOAR prizes for award-winning papers, it can be good for your wallet, too. For more information and FAQs visit this link.

 

Written by epopp

April 9, 2018 at 2:25 pm

minor puzzle about academic hiring

A small puzzle about academic jobs: If getting “the best” is the true purpose of doing a job search, then why do academic programs stop interviewing after the 3rd person? Why it’s a puzzle: There seems to be an over-supply of PhD with good to excellent qualifications. Many never get called out for interviews.

Example: Let’s say you are a top 10 program about to hire an assistant professor. Then what do you look for? You want a graduate of a top 5 (or top 10, maybe) program with one or more hits in AJS/ASR/SF. Perhaps you want someone with a book contract at a fancy press.

You fly out three people. They all turn you down or they suck. The search stops – but this is odd!! These top 5 programs usually produce more than 3 people with these qualifications. Also, add in the fact that every year the market overlooks some really solid people in previous years. My point is simple – departments fly out 2 or 3 people per year but there are usually more than 2 or 3 qualified people!

The puzzle is even more pronounced for low status programs. Why do they stop at 3 candidates when there might be dozens of people with decent publication records who are unclaimed on the market or seriously under-placed? While a top program can wait for the next batch of job market stars, low status programs routinely pass up good people every year.

I have a few explanations, none of which are great. The first is cost – maybe deans and chairs don’t want to pay out more money per year. This makes no sense for top programs which can easily find an extra $1k or $2k for interview costs. For low budget programs, it’s a risk worth taking – that overlooked person could bring in big grant money later. Another explanation is laziness. Good hiring is classic free rider problem. Finding and screening for good people is a cost paid by a few people but the benefits are wide spread. So people do the minimum – fly a few out and move on. Tenure may also contribute to the problem – if you might hire someone for life, you become hyper-selective and only focus on one or two people that survived an intense screening process.

Finally, there may be academic caste. Top programs want an ASR on the CV… but only from people from the “right” schools. This explanation makes sense for top schools, but not for other schools. Why? There are usually quite a few people from good but not elite schools who look great on paper but yet, they don’t get called even though they’d pull up the dept. average.

Am I missing the point? Tell me in the comments! Why is academic hiring so odd?

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

Written by fabiorojas

March 29, 2018 at 4:11 am