Archive for the ‘academia’ Category

the contexts editorial method

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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

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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 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

remaking higher education for turbulent times, wed., march 28, 9am-6pm EDT, Graduate Center

For those of you in NYC (or those who want to watch a promised live webcast at with a livestream transcript here:, the Graduate Center Futures Initiative is hosting a conference of CUNY faculty and students on Wed., March 28, 9am-6pm EDT at the Graduate Center.  Our topic is: “Remaking higher education for turbulent times.” In the first session “Higher Education at a Crossroads” at 9:45am EDT,  Ruth Milkman and I, along with other panelists who have taught via the Futures Initiative, will be presenting our perspectives on the following questions:

  1. What is the university? What is the role of the university, and whom does it serve?
  2. How do political, economic, and global forces impact student learning, especially institutions like CUNY?
  3. What would an equitable system of higher education look like? What could be done differently?

Ruth and I will base our comments on our experiences thus far with teaching a spring 2018 graduate course about changes in the university system, drawing on research conducted by numerous sociologists, including organizational ethnographers.  So far, our class has included readings from:

We will discuss the tensions of reshaping long-standing institutions that have reproduced privilege and advantages for elites and a select few, as well as efforts to sustain universities (mostly public institutions) that have served as a transformational engine of socio-economic mobility and social change.  More info, including our course syllabus, is available via the Futures Initiatives blog here.

Following our session, two CUNY faculty and staff who are taking our class, Larry Tung and Samini Shahidi will be presenting about their and their classmates’ course projects.

A PDF of the full day’s activities can be downloaded here: FI-Publics-Politics-Pedagogy-8.5×11-web

If you plan to join us (especially for lunch), please RSVP ASAP at

Written by katherinechen

March 21, 2018 at 4:53 pm

in NYC spring 2018 semester? looking for a PhD-level course on “Change and Crisis in Universities?”

Are you a graduate student in the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium or a CUNY graduate student?*  If so, please consider taking “Change & Crisis in Universities: Research, Education, and Equity in Uncertain Times” class at the Graduate Center, CUNY.  This course is cross-listed in the Sociology, Urban Education and Interdisciplinary Studies programs.

Ruth Milkman and I are co-teaching this class together this spring on Tuesdays 4:15-6:15pm.  Our course topics draw on research in organizations, labor, and inequality.  This course starts on Tues., Jan. 30, 2018.

Here’s our course description:


This course examines recent trends affecting higher education, with special attention to how those trends exacerbate class, race/ethnicity, and gender inequalities. With the rising hegemony of a market logic, colleges and universities have been transformed into entrepreneurial institutions. Inequality has widened between elite private universities with vast resources and public institutions where students and faculty must “do more with less,” and austerity has fostered skyrocketing tuition and student debt. Tenure-track faculty lines have eroded as contingent academic employment balloons.  The rise of on-line “learning” and expanding class sizes have raised concerns about the quality of higher education, student retention rates, and faculty workloads.  Despite higher education’s professed commitment to diversity, disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups remain underrepresented, especially among faculty. Amid growing concerns about the impact of micro-aggressions, harassment, and even violence on college campuses, liberal academic traditions are under attack from the right. Drawing on social science research on inequality, organizations, occupations, and labor, this course will explore such developments, as well as recent efforts by students and faculty to reclaim higher education institutions.

We plan to read articles and books on the above topics, some of which have been covered by orgtheory posts and discussions such as epopp’s edited RSO volume, Armstrong and Hamilton’s Paying for the Party, and McMillan Cottom’s Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy.  We’ll also be discussing readings by two of our guestbloggers as well, Ellen Berrey and Caroline W. Lee.

*If you are a student at one of the below schools, you may be eligible, after filing  paperwork by the GC and your institution’s deadlines, to take classes within the Consortium:

Columbia University, GSAS
Princeton University – The Graduate School
CUNY Graduate Center
Rutgers University
Fordham University, GSAS
Stony Brook University
Graduate Faculty, New School University
Teachers College, Columbia University
New York University, GSAS, Steinhardt

Written by katherinechen

January 8, 2018 at 8:12 pm

one possible policy to address harassment in the academy

It is hard to prevent or control harassment in the academy because graduate students and post-docs often rely exclusively on a single person for professional support. Thus, if your adviser or supervisor acts inappropriately, it is very, very hard to find a replacement without wrecking your career.

This fits with a more general theory that harassment is facilitated by situations where men monopolize a resource. In the academy, we give a monopoly to the adviser or lab directors, in the case of post-docs. This is what prevents many graduate students from lodging complaints. While the university slowly adjudicates a complaint, the adviser can ruin one’s life and there isn’t much you can do.

One possible solution is to institute a policy of “adviser bankruptcy” and an “adviser credit rating.” Bankruptcy is what is sounds like. If the university receives credible evidence that a faculty member is abusing graduate students, their chairmanship of the dissertation committee is dissolved and the university actively seeks a replacement, possibly from another school. This last issue is important. If a whole department is toxic, or the university believes that the faculty will seek revenge within the department, or simply that there is no qualified member within a program, an external chair may be needed.

The credit rating policy is what it sounds like. All graduate faculty start with a “good” rating but if the university receives credible evidence of harassment or other misconduct, they are down graded. Downgraded faculty are suspended from the graduate faculty until (a) all charges are cleared or (b) an appropriate punishment has been served.

I don’t claim that this sort of policy will magically make a severe problem disappear, but it opens up options for victims abuse where there aren’t any right now.

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

December 13, 2017 at 5:01 am

sociology journal reviewing is dumb (except soc sci and contexts) and computer conference reviewing is the way to go. seriously.

This post is an argument for moving away from the current model of sociology journal reviewing and adopting the computer science model. Before I get into it, I offer some disclaimers:

  1. I do not claim that the CS conference system is more egalitarian or produces better reviews. Rather, my claim is that it is more efficient and better for science.
  2. Philip Cohen will often chime in and argue that journals should be abolished and we should just dispense with peer review. I agree, but I am a believer in intermediary steps.
  3. I do not claim that computer science lacks journals. Rather, that field treats journals as a secondary form of publication and most of the action happens in the conference proceeding format.
  4. Some journals are very well run – Sociological Science does live up to its promise, for example, as a no nonsense place for publication. I am not claiming that every single journal is lame. Just most of them.

Let’s start. How do most sociology journals operate? It goes something like this:

  1. A scholarly organization or press appoints an editor, or a team, to run a journal.
  2. There is a limit on how many articles can be published. Top journals may about only 1 in 20 submitted articles. Many journals desk reject a proportion of the submissions.
  3. When you submit an article, the editors ask people to review the paper. There are  deadlines, but they are routinely broken and people vary wildly in terms of the attention they give to papers.
  4. When the reviews are written, which can take as short as a few days but as long as a year or more, the editors then make a judgment.
  5. Most papers with positive reviews and that the editors like go through massive revisions.
  6. The paper is reviewed again, completely from scratch and often with new reviews.
  7. If the paper is accepted, then this takes as little as a semester but more like a year or two.

This system made sense in a world of limited resources. But it has many, many flaws. Let’s list them:

  1. Way too much power in the hands of editors. For example, I was told a day or two ago that a previous editor of a major journal simply desk rejected all papers using Twitter data. A while ago, another editor a major journal just decided she had enough of health papers and started desk rejecting them as well. Maybe these choices are justified, maybe they aren’t.
  2. Awful, awful reviewer incentives. Basically, we beg cranky over worked people to spend hours reading papers. Some people do a good job, but many are simply bad at it. Even when they try, they may not be the best people to read it.
  3. Massive time wasting. Basically, we have a system where it is normal for papers to bounce around the journal system *for years.*
  4. Bloated papers. Many of the major advances in science, in previous ages, where made in 5 and 10 page papers. Now, to head off reviewers, people write massive papers with tons of appendices.

Ok, if the system is lame, then what is the alternative? It is simple and very easy to do: move to peer reviewed conference system of computer sciecne. How does that work?

  1. Set up a yearly conference.
  2. Like an editorial board, you recruit a pool of peer reviewers and they commit to peer review *before seeing the papers.* Every year, the conference had new “chairs,” who organize the pool.
  3. Set hard page/word limits. The computer will not accept papers that are not in the right range.
  4. Once papers and abstracts are submitted, the reviewers *choose* which papers to review. People can indicate how badly they want a paper and you then allocate.
  5. Each paper had a “guide” who hounds reviewers and guides conversation
  6. Set hard deadlines. These will be followed (mostly) because there serious consequences if it doesn’t.
  7. Papers can then be ranked in terms of reviews and the conference chairs can have final say. Papers are not perfect or make everyone happy. They just have to be in the top X% of papers.
  8. CS proceedings sometimes allow discussion between reviewers, which can clarify issues.
  9. Some conferences allow an “R&R” stage. If the paper’s authors think they can respond to reviews, they can submit a “rebuttal.”
  10. In any case, accepted or revised papers also have to stay under the limit and must be submitted by a hard deadline.
  11. From submission to acceptance might be 3 months, tops. And this applies to all papers. The processes

Let’s review how this system is superior to the traditional journal system:

  1. Speed: a paper that may take 2-3 years to find a home in the sociology system, takes about one or two semesters in this system. The reason is that the process concludes quickly for every single paper and there are usually multiple conferences you can try.
  2. Lack of editorial monopoly: The reviewers and chairs rotate every conference, so if you think you just got a bad draw, just try again next year.
  3. Conversation: In the CS conference software (, reviewers can actually talk to each other to clarify what they think.
  4. (Slightly) Better Reviews: People can choose which papers to review, which means you are way more likely to get someone who cares. Unlike the current system, papers don’t get orphaned and you are more likely to get someone invested in the process.
  5. Hard page limits: No bloated papers or response memos. It is tightly controlled.

The system is obviously faster. You get the same variety of good and bad reviews, but it is way, way faster. Papers don’t get orphaned or forgotten at journals and all reviews conclude within about 2 months. Specific editors no longer matter and single gatekeepers don’t bottle neck the system. It is better for science because more papers get out faster.

Rise up – what do you have to lose except your bloated R&Rs?

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

December 6, 2017 at 5:01 am