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watercooler democracy: how rumors can democratize information at work – guest post by Katie Sobering

I’m posting this guest post about rumors and workplace democracy on behalf of UNT organizational ethnographer Katie Sobering.  Sobering recently virtually visited my “Organizations, Markets, and the State” grad course to answer questions about her ethnographic research on Hotel BAUEN, a worker recuperated cooperative located in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

In response to student questions about her published research, Sobering explained how she decided to focus on Hotel BAUEN over other collectivist-democratic forms.  By studying Hotel BAUEN’s trainings, meetings, everyday activities, and involvement in social movement activities, Sobering shows how we can use this case to understand how organizations pursue equality through practices such as job rotation and decision-making by consensus.  Sobering also depicted the challenges confronting the cooperative: securing ownership of the hotel, expensive, specialized maintenance of the facilities, and recruitment and retention of members. During the Q&A, Sobering traced her intellectual lineage and inspirations back to Joyce Rothschild’s seminal work on collectivist-democratic organizations and Rachel Sherman’s research on service work in hotels.  She currently is revising a book manuscript on her research.

Here’s Sobering’s take on rumors’ roles in workplace transparency, based on her research published in Work and Occupations:

“We’ve all heard rumors. Odds are, most of us have spread rumors every now and again. From the family dinner table to anonymous corners of the internet, people share unverified pieces of information to make sense of their social worlds. Rumors are especially common in the workplace, spurring the now well-known idea of the “watercooler effect.”

Managers, consultants, and academics alike have paid close attention to the role and repercussions of such informal communication at work. Much of this assumes that firms keep secrets. Thus, in lieu of access to information, workers pass rumors among themselves.

In the 21st century, transparency has become a buzzword, as work organizations like tech firms and startups flatten hierarchies, embrace informality, and remove barriers that traditionally limited access to information. Some organizations are experimenting with “radical transparency” while others warn that too much transparency can be counterproductive. Worker cooperatives and other participatory organizations often practice democratic transparency, recognizing that information-sharing is key to democratizing power. All this begs the question: in contexts of increased transparency, what is the role of rumors?

In my recent article published in Work and Occupations, I draw on long term ethnographic research in a worker-run hotel in Argentina to go behind the scenes in an organization in which workers enjoy a far more egalitarian environment than most U.S. employees experience on the job: extensive access to information, voice in the organization, and power over their jobs. I find that transparency does not quell the rumor mill. But rumors do have an important impact on the culture and practice of information-sharing.

Democratic transparency in Hotel Bauen

I conducted my research in Hotel Bauen, a twenty-story conference hotel located in the bustling center of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Built in the 1970s, the private owners declared bankruptcy in 2001 and shut down the property, leaving longtime employees out of work. In 2003, thirty former employees joined the growing movement of worker-recuperated businesses by occupying the abandoned hotel and forming a worker cooperative. Since 2004, Hotel Bauen has been open around-the-clock, hosting events, lodging overnight guests, and offering a meeting place and street-side café for passersby. Despite workers’ ongoing efforts to legalize their use of the hotel, the BAUEN Cooperative has grown from thirty founding members to 130 members in 2015. Today, it is one of the most iconic worker-recuperated business in Argentina.

Hotel Bauen is run by a worker cooperative: an organization in which all members are equal owners and govern through direct and representative forms of democracy. Since its inception, the cooperative has adopted formal policies and practices designed to make information widely available to the group. They have sought to create what Archeon Fung calls “democratic transparency,” an informational environment that allows people to collectively control the organizations that affect their lives.

First, in the BAUEN Cooperative, information is formally accessible to all members. Organizational records are kept in open book system that is available not only for managers or decision-makers, but also for members.

Second, the cooperative makes information proportional by sharing details about that which directly impacts the business and its members. While cooperatives in Argentina must hold as least one assembly each year by law, the BAUEN Cooperative organizes quarterly meetings to provide regular financial snapshots and open forums for discussion.

Finally, information is actionable through formal mechanisms that allow members to question and even overturn managerial decisions. With signatures of ten percent of the membership, members can convene an assembly of all workers to address and evaluate any decision or scenario in the cooperative.

Despite the transparency that the workers enjoyed in Hotel Bauen, rumors were part and parcel of daily working life. These whispers were often interpersonal in nature, passing hearsay about coworkers’ personal lives. But other rumors ventured into the inner workings of the organization itself.

I found that these rumors democratized information in two interrelated ways. First, rumors encouraged workers to participate in decisions, moving decision-making out of formal spaces and into the hallways where members of the cooperative could informally deliberate on the issue at hand. Second, rumors allowed members to oversee the managerial authority and empowered them to exercise their ability to hold the organization accountable.

[Check out more about worker influence after the jump]

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state-of-the-field article “School choice’s idealized premises and unfulfilled promises” now available

Just before 2019 ends and we enter 2020, I’ve finally broken the superstition that whatever you do on New Years will be what you will do for the following New Years.  This year, a R&R converted into an accept and page proofs before New Years hit!

My co-authored paper with Megan Moskop is now available under the Organizations & Work section of Sociology Compass!  In this paper, using critical sociology and education research, we overview the variants of school choice systems in the US and their impacts on students, schools, and society.

Here’s the abstract:

School choice’s idealized premises and unfulfilled promises: How school markets simulate options, encourage decoupling and deception, and deepen disadvantages

Abstract

In school choice systems, families choose among publicly funded schools, and schools compete for students and resources. Using neoinstitutionalist and relational inequality theories, our article reinterprets recent critical sociological and education research to show how such markets involve actors’ enacting myths; these beliefs and their associated practices normalized white, privileged consumption as a basis for revamping public education as market exchanges between schools and families. Proponents argue that choice empowers individuals, focuses organizations on improving quality, and benefits society more broadly by reducing inequality and segregation. We argue that such school choice myths’ excessive emphases on individual decision‐making and provider performance obscure the actual impacts of school choice systems upon people, organizations, and society. First, rather than enlarging alternatives that families can easily research, select, and (if needed) exit, school choice systems often simulate options, especially for disadvantaged populations. Second, rather than focusing schools’ efforts on performance, innovation, and accountability, they can encourage organizational decoupling, homogeneity, and deception. Third, rather than reducing societal harms, they can deepen inequalities and alienation. Future research should examine both how markets are animated by bounded relationality—routines that enable them to form, maintain, and complete exchanges with organizations—and how activism can challenge marketization.

Please consider assigning this state-of-the-field article in your sociology of education, inequality, economic sociology, and/or organizations courses!  (If your institution doesn’t have access to Sociology Compass, please contact me directly for a copy.)

This paper began when Megan approached me during a March 2018  Future Initiatives “Publics, Politics, and Pedagogy: Remaking Higher Education for Turbulent Times” event at the Graduate Center.  After hearing me talk on a faculty panel about my research interests, Megan asked whether we could do an informal reading group on school choice readings.  We exchanged emails and agreed to meet in person to discuss readings.

At the time, Megan was working on her masters classes and thesis in urban education at the CUNY MALS program.  She was looking for a way to manage her growing collection of citations as she analyzed her past experiences with teaching 8th graders and their families about how to participate in the mandatory school choice market in NYC .

As a new entrant to research on learning and schools through my on-going ethnography of a democratic school, I had the sense that whatever was happening in the insurance market for older adults seemed to exist in other emerging markets for other age groups.  To understand the education options in NYC, I had attended a few NYC Dept. of Education and other orientations for families on how to select pre-K and higher program.  I found these experiences comparable to my observations of orientations for professionals and older adults about enrolling in Medicare: palpable waves of anxiety and disorientation were evident in the reactions and questions from these two differently aged audiences to workshops about how they were supposed to act as consumers felt similar.  I thus became interested in learning about research on the comparable school choice market for my ethnographic research on how intermediary organizations try to orient consumers to the health insurance market.  (Indeed, a side benefit of this collaboration was that the school choice readings helped amplify my development of the bounded relationality concept that ultimately appeared in Socio-Economic Review.)

Megan and I met regularly discuss readings that Megan had suggested and I had found through literature searches in sociology.  After several of these meetings, I raised the possibility of writing a state-of-the-field overview article.  Working on this draft helped us keep track of what we had learned.  It also helped us understand how to map existing research and to identify a void that our respective expertises and writing could address: synthesizing critical studies emerging from organizations and education.   For Megan, I hoped that this experience would give her a behind-the-scenes look at the academic production of research, so that she could decide whether to head this direction.

As we read more about school choice, I realized that we hadn’t come across a chart mapping the types of school choice systems currently in operation.  Megan thus worked hard at developing a table that describes and compares different types of school choice systems.  (In my opinion, this paper’s table is a handy first step for those trying to understand the school choice landscape.)

Meanwhile, I focused on applying an organizational framework to categorize research from the sociology of education and education fields.  As we worked on the drafts in response to writing group and reviewers’ and Sociology Compass section editor Eric Dahlin’s comments, we also realized that no one had systemically broken down the impacts of using market practices to distribute public goods across levels of individual persons, organizations, and society at large.

Along the way, thanks to Megan’s connections to education and activism, we got to learn directly from people about on-going activism and research.  For instance, youth organization IntegrateNYC sent representative Iman Abdul to talk to my “Future of NYC” honors college students about efforts to racially integrate NYC public schools.  Megan and I also attended Kate Phillippo’s talk about her research on school choice in Chicago from her latest book, A Contest Without Winners: How Students Experience Competitive School Choice (2019, University of Minnesota Press).

In all, writing this paper has been a great journey with a fun and insightful collaborator.  Had you asked me back in spring 2018 what the outcome of presenting at a CUNY event would have been, I could not have predicted this.  I am forever grateful that Megan came to talk with me!

Happy New Years, readers!  May the new year bring you joy, happiness, and health.

 

hot off the press: NVSQ special issue on “nonprofits and policy”

As Aug. ends, now’s the time to squeeze in that last bit of reading and consider new additions to course syllabi before the new semester’s start.

The Association of Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Associations (ARNOVA)‘s flagship journal Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly has just published a special issue on “Nonprofits and Policy.” This issue was sponsored by the Kresge Foundation and guest edited by political scientist Steven Rathgeb Smith and sociologist/nonprofit organizations researcher Kirsten A. Grønbjerg.

This special issue’s articles include:

Written by katherinechen

August 20, 2018 at 6:38 pm

book cover exploration #1: from black power to black studies

Black power front_cover

Over the next few weeks, I’ll discuss the covers to my books and Contexts. Today, I’ll start with From Black Power to Black Studies. Two comments:

  • This photograph was taken by Bill Owens. Bill is a highly regarded documentary photographer who is most famous for the book Suburbia. He was sent by Newsweek to cover the Black student protests at San Francisco State in 1968. I chose this photo because it represents the idea that a Black student movement exists inside a White majority institution. It also technically interesting in that he makes the “horizontal” crowd photo vertical. The photo was later republished in Bill Owens, a monograph dedicated to his work.
  • The cover design initially made me unhappy. I complained. But my editor, the amazing Jackie Wehmueller, insisted and pointed out that it alludes to the 1970s and it was funky. I relented and I am glad I did.

BSU fight

Bill also allowed me to reproduce this photograph. It is a rare image of a social movement group engaged in conflict with another group. In this case, the Black Student Union at San Francisco State College got upset that the student newspaper ran articles that were critical of them. The details remain unclear many years later, but the BSU students ended up at the student newspaper offices and a fight broke out. Bill, amazingly, just kept shooting photographs! Later, the student newspaper published some of these photos, which escalated the situation further and eventually led to the Third World Strike and the establishment of Ethnic Studies and Black Studies in America.

++++++++

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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

June 1, 2018 at 4:32 am

party in the street: jacobin magazine edition

Branko Marcetic of Jacob Magazine did an interview with me about the main argument of Party in the Street. A quote:

BM: Why did antiwar organizing start to fall away around 2007?

FR: The main argument that Michael and I propose in our book is that support for the antiwar movement overlapped with support for the Democratic Party. So, in other words, when people were coming out to protest, they were protesting the war and using it as an opportunity to protest George Bush and the Republican Party.

So what happens is when the party moves on — when the Democratic Party starts to get victories and they start getting elected to office — there’s less of a motivation. Those identities start diverging from each other.

People have to make the choice, maybe unconsciously, where they could say, “You know, I could keep protesting the war, but does that make Obama look bad? Is that an issue we want to avoid?” And in the case of the antiwar movement, partisan motivations and partisan identities won the day.

Check out the whole thing!!

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

May 3, 2018 at 3:43 pm

civil rights and open borders

We no longer live in a society where the government bans African Americans from living in certain neighborhoods or taking certain jobs. The abolition of legalized segregation is one of the enduring achievements of the civil rights movement. It deserves to be praised and commemorated.

But a real commitment to civil rights doesn’t end with ending one type of discrimination. We need to think about other forms of discrimination. Women, for example, face many barriers and we should keep thinking about ways to make everyone an equal participant in our society.

When we think of civil rights, we often overlook immigration and we are even more likely to overlook the idea of open borders. Basically, open borders is the idea that people should be free to cross national boundaries as needed. It should be as easy to move from Tijuana to San Diego as moving from Detroit to Chicago.

But when we impose migration restrictions, we are no different than the segregationist of old who wanted to ban African Americans from their neighborhoods and schools. When he erect walls and send police to raid private homes, we say “you can’t be here!” Why? “They weren’t born in my country!” The nation of one’s birth is not a criteria of merit or justice. It’s merely an accident of birth.

My hope is that you will consider the injustice of detaining or deporting people based on where they were born. I hope that on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day you will come to realize that telling people to get out off the bus because they are Black is no different then telling the Mexican or Chinese migrant that have to leave your country. I want you to imagine a world without deportations and workplace raids and I hope that world will make you smile

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

January 15, 2018 at 3:36 am

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

(1) new sase submission deadline and (2) new grant available for researchers studying alternatives to hierarchical organization

Happy 2018, everyone!  Two announcements:

  1. The SASE conference submission deadline has been extended to Jan. 29, 2018.  Please consider submitting to the “alternatives to capitalism” network that I’m co-organizing.
  2. A new fellowship of interest to those studying worker cooperatives and similar organizational forms is now available via Rutgers University:

The Bill & Connie Nobles Fellowship
For the study of alternatives to hierarchy in organizing the activities of corporations

This Fellowship supports research on alternatives to hierarchical organization in the corporation. Scholars will address whether management has any fundamental reason to control employees. Is there a practical alternative to far-reaching hierarchical control by management that can eliminate the root cause of some problems that hierarchical organizations face? The negative impacts of such control on human development and behavior became more apparent as managers sought to maximize the contributions of knowledge workers and encourage employees to think economically. The study may involve innovations in theory or practice, or case studies. Approaches for including employees in sharing equity and profits should be addressed in the proposal.

Doctoral candidates and pre/post tenure scholars in the social sciences and humanities may apply for the $25,000 stipend that can be used for research/travel expenses.

Submit an email application with a 1500 word proposal and a vita by February 28, 2018 with decisions by March 15. Please have three letters of reference sent separately to: fellowship_program@smlr.rutgers.edu

Info at: https://smlr.rutgers.edu/content/bill-nobles-fellowship and https://smlr.rutgers.edu/content/fellowships-professorships for a listing of all current and past Fellows or email the Director of the program at bschrief    [at]  smlr   [dot]  rutgers   [dot]  edu

Written by katherinechen

January 8, 2018 at 7:32 pm

support brooke harrington

Dear Orgtheory Readers,

Last week, news outlets revealed that sociologist Brooke Harrington, an academic living in Denmark, is facing criminal charges for giving paid lectures, including one to the Danish parliament. Her work permit prohibits paid work aside from teaching position. Her supporters have set up a GoFundMe page to help defer her legal costs. You can find it here. In addition to assisting a fellow sociologist, this is another way to resist migration restrictions. Any amount will help.

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 5, 2017 at 4:05 pm

The OA modern dance flashmob

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 3, 2017 at 5:01 am

intersectional protest in science advances

Dana Fisher and my dear friend Rashawn Ray were featured in Science Advances for work that documents the current anti-Trump movement using the theoretical lens of intersectionality theory. From the abstract:

Can a diverse crowd of individuals whose interests focus on distinct issues related to racial identity, class, gender, and sexuality mobilize around a shared issue? If so, how does this process work in practice? To date, limited research has explored intersectionality as a mobilization tool for social movements. This paper unpacks how intersectionality influences the constituencies represented in one of the largest protests ever observed in the United States: the Women’s March on Washington in January 2017. Analyzing a data set collected from a random sample of participants, we explore how social identities influenced participation in the Women’s March. Our analysis demonstrates how individuals’ motivations to participate represented an intersectional set of issues and how coalitions of issues emerge. We conclude by discussing how these coalitions enable us to understand and predict the future of the anti-Trump resistance.

Recommended!

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

September 26, 2017 at 4:01 am

saida grundy discusses her experience with attacks on faculty

In the special issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies on Black Lives Matter, Saida Grundy discusses here experience when scandal broke over her social media posts:

This article examines attacks on black academics as an analytical apparatus for connecting histories of U.S. racial violence to the current state of white backlash against black advancement. Through an anatomy of these attacks – of which the author herself was targeted – this essay explores two processes: First, what these attacks do to blackness and, second, what this violence does for whiteness. In the former, this work explains that attacks on black academics are first and foremost anti-black attacks, not dissimilar to attacks on visible African- Americans in other arenas. The intention is to terrorize black progress on the whole. In the latter process, the generative nature of these attacks reproduces collective white identities across region, age, and newly digitized spaces. In the current political moment this digitized mob violence ritualistically reaffirms white hegemony. This essay concludes with an explanation for why the author believes these attacks will continue with regularity.

Required reading in the era of attacks on free speech.

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  

Written by fabiorojas

July 27, 2017 at 4:31 am

free speech and the protection of minorities

Over at The Atlantic, Musa al-Ghrabi and Jonathan Haidt argue for free speech, as a protection for minorities. They note that public schools are highly susceptible to external interference:

Here’s why this matters: In virtue of their heavy reliance on taxpayer funding and major donors, public colleges are much more receptive to calls from outside the university to punish faculty and staff for espousing controversial speech or ideas. Groups like Professor Watchlist, Campus Reform, or Campus Watch exploit this vulnerability, launching populist campaigns to get professors fired, or to prevent them from being hired, on the basis of something they said. The primary targets of these efforts end up being mostly women, people of color, and religious minorities (especially Muslims and the irreligious) when they too forcefully or bluntly condemn systems, institutions, policies, practices, and ideologies they view as corrupt, exploitative, oppressive, or otherwise intolerable.

Those most vulnerable to being fired for expressing controversial views are the ever-growing numbers of contingent faculty—who also tend to be disproportionately women and minorities. Meanwhile, the better-insulated tenured faculty tend to be white men.

In other words, public schools are influenced by politics. Women and people of color are more likely to be in public schools and they are more likely to be in positions where it easy to fire them. Think Lisa Durden (adjunct), or Steven Salaita (not yet under contract). It’s a serious argument to think about.

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  

Written by fabiorojas

July 11, 2017 at 4:11 am

student protest photos at maryland-college park

Last week, I was visiting the University of Marlyand to meet with the current Contexts editors, Syed Ali and Phillip Cohen, and my editorial partner, Rashawn Ray. While I was taking a stroll with Syed, I saw a student protest. Over the weekend, a noose was found at a fraternity house and it triggered a backlash. I took these photos of the students who were arguing with administrators.  The photo series begins with me being across the street, then moving into the crowd, then the administrator and the administration’s photographer and a final shot of the students.

20170510_142053

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by fabiorojas

May 19, 2017 at 3:22 am

the ironic cowardice of hypatia’s editorial board

A few decades ago, the scholarly and scientific study of gender was considered taboo. But, starting in the 1970s, various movements popped up in academia to change the situation. In philosophy, one outcome of this movement was the journal Hypatia, which was established in the mid-1980s to provide a place for academic philosophers to discuss philosophical issues arising from feminist perspectives.

As many of you know, Hypatia is currently enmeshed in a controversy. Rebecca Tuvel, of Rhodes College, published an article asking if the arguments made in favor of transgenderism could be applied to race. This argument may be right, or it may wrong. In any case, it is certainly a valid philosophical question. If you read through the article, it appears to be a rather conventional article.

But a lot of people didn’t see it that way.  Not surprisingly, there was an online petition asking that the paper be retracted. And of course, a lot of people noted that the complaints often bore little relation to the article. The surprising part was the response of some editorial board members. They actually apologized to the online mob! From Hypatia’s Facebook site:

We, the members of Hypatia’s Board of Associate Editors, extend our profound apology to our friends and colleagues in feminist philosophy, especially transfeminists, queer feminists, and feminists of color, for the harms that the publication of the article on transracialism has caused.

Spineless.  What harms? Read through it to see the slings and arrows of outrageous scholarship that Professor Tuvel threw upon her colleagues: “…descriptions of trans lives that perpetuate harmful assumptions and (not coincidentally) ignore important scholarship by trans philosophers” and “the use of methodologies which take up important social and political phenomena in dehistoricized and decontextualized ways.” In a journal that values free speech, the response would be a simple, “thank you for the feedback, please submit all replies and rebuttals to our managing editor.”

Here’s the ironic part. Hypatia of Alexandria was a prominent mathematician and philosopher of late antiquity who was killed  during a wave of political unrest by a lynch mob led by a religious zealot. Her death was horrible:

A mob of Christians gathered, led by a reader (i.e., a minor cleric) named Peter, whom Scholasticus calls a fanatic. They kidnapped Hypatia on her way home and took her to the “Church called Caesareum. They then completely stripped her, and then murdered her with tiles.” Socrates Scholasticus was interpreted as saying that, while she was still alive, Hypatia’s flesh was torn off ὀστράκοις, which literally means “with or by oyster shells, potsherds or roof tiles.”

Well, I’ll give the editors of Hypatia this much credit. They may lack in courage, but they compensate with truth in advertising.

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 

Written by fabiorojas

May 5, 2017 at 12:03 am

college campus outrage as fundraising tactic

It might be a controversial campus speaker, or an affirmative action BBQ. You see a lot stunts by conservative campus groups these days. Amy Binder has an interesting take in the Washington Post. These controversial tactics are stunts paid for by outsiders to stir controversy so that their cause gets attention and donations:

YAF (Young Americans for Freedom) fuels a provocative style for what one of our interviewees called “Average Joe” college students. Enticed by slogans depicting faculty as “tree-hugging, gun-taking, wealth-hating, and leftist-loving,” students are taught in “boot camps” to fight “persecution” on campus with an “activist mentality,” confronting their liberal peers and professors head-to-head with “aggressive” tactics. Students take up the combative charge by staging showy events like “Affirmative Action Bake Sales” and “Catch an Illegal Alien Day.” This provocative style of right-wing activism is designed to poke fun at liberals, get them angry, protest their events and, when chaos ensues, attract media attention.

Another organization we studied, the Leadership Institute, had $21 million in assets in 2014 and spent nearly $15 million that year supporting conservative students online, on campus, and in their training facilities in Arlington, Va. The organization has trained tens of thousands of college students over the past four decades to enter politics and use advanced technology to get the conservative message out. One former Leadership Institute employee is James O’Keefe, the videographer who produced heavily edited undercover audio and video recordings with workers at ACORN, NPR and Planned Parenthood, all of which went viral years ago on Breitbart.com. While at the Leadership Institute, O’Keefe traveled to campuses to consult with students on starting clubs and conservative newspapers.

To sum it up, every time the campus left goes on a rant, these groups get paid. While students have the privilege of bringing who they want to campus, and others have an obligation to behave in civil ways, we don’t have to support them. Given that the purpose is not to engage in good faith debate, but to provoke and antagonize, the most effective tactic is silence.

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 

Written by fabiorojas

May 3, 2017 at 12:21 am

let charles murray speak

On Tuesday evening, Charles Murray will speak at Indiana University. Not surprisingly, his visit has resulted in a bit of discussion on campus. A number of people have immediately wanted to protest the meeting and, like at many campuses, people want “answers.” A lot of my colleagues have acted honorably. While some have jumped to wild conclusions and recommended strong actions, most have done what scholars are supposed to do. They are asking questions, they are discussing the scholarly responses to Murray’s work, and they are organizing their own events.

Here, I want to lay out how I think about campus free speech. Basically, campus free speech is really about the ability of the owners, managers, and employees of an academic institution to discuss whatever they want in a civil environment. There is a lot of trust and tolerance built into this view of free speech. There are no boards that police campus events. There is no party that the campus represents. It is not the Indiana University of Liberals and it is not the Indiana University of Conservatives. It is simply Indiana University. Thus, if a small group of students and faculty obtain their own funding to bring in an outside speaker, so be it.

In this discussion, two important issues are raised and they deserve an answer. First, does permitting Murray to speak somehow legitimize or bring attention to “hate speech?” The answer is clearly no. Lots of ideas are taught and discussed in universities, including hateful ones, but that doesn’t legitimize them. For example, many Western Civilization classes and history classes will read Mein Kampf, in an attempt to understand national socialism and related movements.

Furthermore, it is not clear to me that Murray’s talk would even fit the definition of hate speech, which is that it is speech that “attacks” or “disparages” a minority group. His speech is about his book, Coming Apart. I have not read it, but it appears to be about the differences between working and middle class Whites. It may be right or wrong, but does not appear to be hate speech, as normally understood (“disparaging” or “attacking” remarks about an ethnic group). Finally, it would be unwise for universities to directly police speech. I rue the day that a committee of professors and students directly intervene in invited talks and seminars.

Second, people ask whether it is good or bad that conservative groups sponsor a talk. Once again, I return to the foundation of higher education. A university is not a community of liberals or conservatives. It is a community of scholars. Thus, funding – from any source – is not a problem so long as the funding is consistent with the ideals of independent scholarship. It is totally ok if a group funds scholarship that they like, so long as the student or faculty member is free to come to the conclusion they feel best reflects the evidence.

This is the standard that should be applied to liberal groups, like the Soros Foundation, or conservative groups, like the American Enterprise Institute, which often donate to campuses. In terms of the Murray talk, the faculty who helped organize the talk – some of whom I know personally – have also invited liberals, such as E.J. Dionne, and conservatives, such as a recent talk by Bill Kristol. The Murray talk seems to be consistent with inviting a fairly broad spectrum of commentators, even those who are in the opposite camp.

Finally, let me end with a discussion of the source of Murray’s notoriety. It is not Coming Apart, it is The Bell Curve.  That is the book that most people are alluding to when he is accused of hate speech. In all honesty, it is the only work by Murray I have read in its entirety. I read it in the 1990s to see what all the controversy was about.

It’s a mixed bag in my view. The book’s main goal is to argue that IQ research is not a sham and that it is a variable of importance for studying life outcomes. This is actually a fair point and it is consistent with a lot of sociological practice, but not its rhetoric. For example, how many models of achievement or status control for “academic ability?” Answer: tons. In the mid-20th century, it wasn’t unusual for sociologists to have a regression with IQ in it, such as Blau and Duncan’s The American Occupational Structure. Even today, many surveys will include measurements of cognitive ability. The GSS even has a verbal test in it so the researcher can adjust for IQ.

But The Bell Curve goes farther than that and makes many dodgy claims. For example, it claims that American cities will become segregated by cognitive ability, which may or may not be true. Then, there is the very short section on group differences – including racial differences – in IQ, which should be treated with great caution. But, for me, most people skipped over the most non-sequitur claim in The Bell Curve, which is that cognitive limits should be the basis of public policy (e.g., cutting social support makes sense since it won’t change IQ and thus behavior). This strikes me as bizarre. If low IQ individuals have limited life course chances, shouldn’t they be the first to get help? Even on its own terms, The Bell Curve stretches a lot of evidence and argument to reach the authors conclusions on policy.

The bottom line is that the university should be a place of free speech, even speech that may disgust us. There is a difference between unpopular opinions or distasteful opinions and truly hateful speech. Murray says a lot of things I disagree with (e.g., his recent move to restrict migration, which is a bad policy) but he is not in the realm of the politician who incites people to violence (e.g., see Trump’s infamous “Get ’em out of here!” moment), the student who loses their temper, the student’s who physically attacked and injured a professor at Middlebury College, or the faculty member who directly calls for brute force against journalists.

Let him speak. Show up if you want to, or not. Either is fine.

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Written by fabiorojas

April 11, 2017 at 12:17 am

open borders day 2017

greenarrowamberborder

It is my pleasure to announce “Open Borders Day 2017.” This year, we’ll have an event in Chicago at Loyola University. It will be a panel discussion with three speakers:

  • Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute will speak on the economics of migration.
  • Alexandra Filandra of the University of Illinois, Chicago will speak on racism and migration.
  • Fabio Rojas of Indiana University will speak about open borders as an issue that liberals and conservatives should agree on.

The event will be 1:30pm, March 16 at Loyola University in Chicago. Room: 4th floor, Information Commons. Please come by!!!

Also: If you are in San Diego, drop by the panel called “Is immigration a basic human right?” where GMU’s Bryan Caplan will argue for open borders against Christopher Witman of St. Louis University.

Let peaceful people move freely!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($5 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

March 9, 2017 at 12:58 am

global resistance in the neoliberal university

intlconf
Those of you who are interested in fending off growing neoliberalism in the university might be interested in the following international  line-up at CUNY’s union, PSC.
You can watch a livestream of the conference via fb starting tonight, Fri., March 3, 6-9pm and Sat., March 4, 9:30am-6pm EST:
…an international conference on Global Resistance in the Neoliberal University organized by the union will be held today and tomorrow, 3/3rd-4th at the PSC, 61 Broadway.  
 
Scholars, activists and students from Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, Greece, India and the US will lead discussions on perspectives, strategies and tactics of resisting the neoliberal offensive in general, and in the context of the university in particular.
 
You can visit this site for a link to the conference program:
 
Due to space constraints, conference registration is now closed. But we’re thrilled by the tremendous interest in the event! You can watch a livestream of the conference here: https://www.facebook.com/PSC.CUNY.  If you follow us on our Facebook page, you will receive a notification reminding you to watch.  
 
We look forward to seeing some of you tonight and to discussing the conference with many of you in the near future. 
 

 

 

Written by katherinechen

March 3, 2017 at 11:29 pm

is the mla about literature anymore?

Phil Magness is at it again. In a recent blog post, he presented the results of a very simple exercise. Go to the Modern Language Association web site, search for the number panels on specific authors (e.g., Shakespeare or Toni Morrison) and compare with the number of panels you find if you search for topics relating to politically controversial topics like climate change. The results? I will quote Phil here:

So…I decided to take a look. The following rough tallies show the number of MLA 2017 sessions that included at least one paper or presentation on an overtly political topic.

  • 22 sessions featured one or more presentations on environmental justice themes (e.g. climate change, ecology, animal rights/extinction, and resource extraction)
  • 15 sessions featured one or more presentations on “globalization”
  • 39 sessions featured one or more presentations on “postcolonialism”
  • 8 sessions featured one or more presentations on adjunct activism or “contingent” academic labor
  • 10 sessions featured one or more presentations invoking “neoliberalism”
  • 3 sessions featured one or more presentations on the politics of boycotting (usually tied to the Israel-Palestine conflict)

Some of this is standard fare, especially in Critical Theory-infected disciplines. But I was also curious how it stacked up against what most people think of as the scholarly domain of English professors, which is to say the standards of the literary canon. For comparison, here are the number of sessions that include at least one paper on a prominent literary figure’s work:

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Written by fabiorojas

January 18, 2017 at 12:01 am

telluride lessons 3: what i learned about the black struggle for freedom

What I learned from my students and my co-teacher.

This is the last post in my series about what I learned from teaching an intensive six week seminar for really, really, really ridiculously gifted and talented high school students. Here, I’ll describe the actual content of the course and what I learned from teaching it.

Content: The course had two goals. The first was to examine the different stages of Black civil rights from colonial times to the present. It included examining both arguments for and against slavery and segregation. Thus, we worked through examples from abolitionism, the Reconstruction era, desegregation/classic civil rights, Black Power, and contemporary America. Second, we insisted on an interdisciplinary approach. So we read fiction, essays, and scholarly work. We also viewed films and documentaries.

Take away #1: In my reading, the big issue post-Civil War was enforcement of rights. In reading after reading from Civil Rights era authors (going back to Plessy and before), the central issue was the massive gap between having political rights and having them enforced. For example, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 didn’t actually introduce any new legal principles or rights into the American state, except perhaps to extend legal equality from state institutions (e.g., voting) to some areas of civil society (e.g., housing). But it didn’t really change the doctrinal terrain very much from what was enshrined in the 1st section of the 14th amendment.

What it did do was create a series of mechanisms for enforcing rights that were completely new, such as the EEOC. Once you realize this, then a lot of federal level domestic politics post-1970 makes sense. The goal of anti-Black politics, then, is to attack the various state mechanisms that exist for enforcing Black rights, whether they be in employment (slashing the EEOC budgets), voting (e.g., voter ID laws/felon disenfranchisement laws), or equality in the judicial process (e.g., not punishing police abuse, mass incarceration).

As a corollary, this also reinforces my long standing critique of conservative politics, which is that it really isn’t about small government at all. Rather, conservatives often use libertarian rhetoric to selectively criticize programs they don’t like while remaining silent on expansions of the state that they like. I strongly do not believe that conservativism is an ideology of racism, but in the post-Civil Rights era, it was way too easy to resist racial equality under the guise of resistance to state expansion.

Take away #2: The Civil Rights movement is a much deeper phenomenon than I had previously appreciated. A very long time ago, I had abandoned the view that the Civil Rights movement popped up in the 1940s and reached its peak in the 1960s. I knew that the NAACP itself dated to about 1910 and that there were strong movements against lynching and other racist actions.

What I did not appreciate was that people were doing “classic civil rights” actions a bit earlier than this narrative suggests. For example, when I was preparing for our discussion of Plessy, I read a little about the background of the cases. I learned that Plessy was a “staged” case – a New Orleans civil rights group, the “Comité des Citoyens of New Orleans,” wanted to challenge segregation of trains by getting a mixed raced, light skinned man arrested. He was supposed to be the Rosa Parks of the day. The Comité was a club of 18 New Orleans citizens, including a former Lieutenant Governor. This suggests to me that resistant to racial separation had deep roots, more than most people suspect.

Take away #3: I’ll finish this post with a brief comment about the role of education in post-Civil War Black rights. Today, we think of education as the epicenter for Civil Rights litigation, but that wasn’t quite right. The reason is that Jim Crow was built after the compromise of 1876, and even then, there were lots of moves to restrict Black rights before that point. However, the public school system as we know was built from about 1890 to 1930, when states started requiring attendance. Later, as schooling became a certification for the labor force, school segregation became a much more acute issue.

This comes out in multiple ways. For example, early Plessy era litigation, involved things like transportation and jobs. The “classic Civil Rights” cases that we now remember come about 40 to 60 years later. When you read historical accounts of Civil Rights strategy, you get the feeling that education segregation took Civil Rights attorneys by surprise in the early 1900s and this is even mentioned once or twice. Another data point: the way the NAACP got clients was to let people bring complaints to them about local issues. It was only until the 1940s or 1950s when you had lots of school based complaints, which you could then bundle into bigger cases like Brown. This suggests to me that while education based litigation is important for its intrinsic merit and usefulness for precedent, the bulk of racial segregation happens in other domains, like housing or employment or criminal justice.

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Written by fabiorojas

December 20, 2016 at 12:01 am

echoes of espeland: competing rationalities in the dakota access pipeline

gettyimages-5994379081

Yesterday, the Army Corps of Engineers announced a temporary halt to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project. It stated that it would explore alternative routes for the pipeline that would, presumably, avoid the areas of deep concern to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The DAPL story has been in the news on and off since September, when journalist Amy Goodman captured a clash in which guards used dogs and pepper spray to drive back protesters. I had only been paying superficial attention to it, but started thinking more yesterday with the Corps’ decision to hit pause on the project.

Specifically, I was thinking about the echoes between this battle and the one chronicled by Wendy Espeland in her classic book, Struggle for Water: Politics, Rationality, and Identity in the American Southwest.

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Written by epopp

December 5, 2016 at 11:11 pm

just in time for Nov. 8, election day in the US

Hot off the press, a study about how interactions with law enforcement and prison impact political participation in the US:

“RACE, JUSTICE, POLICING, AND THE 2016 AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION”

by Kevin Drakulich, John Hagan, Devon Johnson, and Kevin H. Wozniak

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1742058X1600031X
  • Abstract

    Scholars have long been interested in the intersection of race, crime, justice, and presidential politics, focusing particularly on the “southern strategy” and the “war on crime.” A recent string of highly-publicized citizen deaths at the hands of police and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement have brought renewed visibility to this racially-driven intersection, and in particular to issues involving contact with and attitudes toward the police. Using data from the 2016 Pilot Study of the American National Election Studies, this study explores how contact with the criminal justice system and perceptions of police injustice shape political behavior in the modern era, with a specific emphasis on prospective participation and candidate choice in the 2016 presidential election. The results indicate that being stopped by the police—an experience that can feel invasive and unjust—may motivate political participation, while spending time in jail or prison—an experience associated with a marginalization from mainstream civic life—appears to discourage political participation. Perceiving the police as discriminatory also seems to motivate political engagement and participation, though in opposite directions for conservative versus liberal voters. In addition, perceptions of police injustice were related to candidate choice, driving voters away from Donald Trump. Affective feelings about the police were not associated with candidate choice. Perceptions of the police appear to act in part as a proxy for racial resentments, at least among potential voters in the Republican primary. In sum, the intersection of race, justice, and policing remains highly relevant in U.S. politics.

Written by katherinechen

November 7, 2016 at 5:44 pm

scary stuff trigger alert

Well, it’s the scariest time of year.  For some, the scariest stuff reaches its apotheosis on Election Day, Nov. 8, while for others, Halloween is the celebration of choice.  For a sociological take on the Oct. 31st festivities, check out Sociological Images’s compendium of Halloween blog posts.

I’ve been counting down these weeks to recommend reading  Margee Kerr‘s book Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear (hat-tip to a neuroscientist friend for the rec), about the mechanisms underlying fear among humans.   In her book, Kerr takes readers on a worldwide journey to investigate fear in different contexts, from a derelict prison where inmates served their time in solitary confinement to Japan’s notorious Suicide Forest.

Kerr is also a practicing sociologist who also designs and refines an experimental haunted house,  ScareHouse, located in Pittsburgh.  In chapter 8 of her book, she describes how people want to bond with others after being scared and how she and colleagues have channeled that intense emotional energy with an anonymous “confessional” room where people can unload secrets.  Overall, Kerr’s experiences shows how sociology and related research can directly inform and shape experiences.

To learn more about fear from Kerr, read the Jezebel interview with Kerr here or watch this video on about how fear evolved and “Why is being scared so fun?”:

Now for some of our social scientists’ fear… Trigger warning !!! after the jump, courtesy of Josh de Leeuw.

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Written by katherinechen

October 25, 2016 at 11:07 pm

new article on insider activism by briscoe and gupta

Forrest Briscoe and Abhinav Gupta have a new article  “Social Activism in and Around Organizations” in The Academy of Management Annals that reviews recent work on movements inside organizations. The abstract:

Organizations are frequent targets for social activists aiming to influence society by first altering organizational policies and practices. Reflecting a steady rise in research on this topic, we review recent literature and advance an insider-outsider framework to help explicate the diverse mechanisms and pathways involved. Our framework distinguishes between different types of activists based on their relationship with targeted organizations. For example, “insider” activists who are employees of the target organization have certain advantages and disadvantages when compared with “outsider” activists who are members of independent social movement organizations. We also distinguish between the direct and indirect (or spillover) effects of social activism. Much research has focused on the direct effects of activism on targeted organizations, but often the effects on non-targeted organizations matter more for activists goals of achieving widespread change. Drawing on this framework, we identify and discuss eight specific areas that are in need of further scholarly attention.

It’s really a wonderful article that gets into the subtleties of this area of work. Highly recommended!

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Written by fabiorojas

September 23, 2016 at 12:10 am

black lives matter moves to cultural nationalism: analysis and forecast

Let’s start with a quiz. Guess which policy demands are from the Black Lives Matter platform and which ones are from the original 10-point plan from the Black Panthers in 1966:

  1. We believe that this racist government has robbed us, and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules.
  2. An end to the privatization of education and real community control by parents, students and community members of schools including democratic school boards and community control of curriculum, hiring, firing and discipline policies.
  3. We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else
  4. We believe we can end police brutality in our Black community by organizing Black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our Black community from racist police oppression and brutality.
  5. A reallocation of funds at the federal, state and local level from policing and incarceration [specific programs omitted] to long-term safety strategies such as education, local restorative justice services, and employment programs.
  6. Institute a universal single payer healthcare system. To do this all private insurers must be banned from the healthcare market as their only effect on the health of patients is to take money away from doctors, nurses and hospitals preventing them from doing their jobs and hand that money to wall st. investors.
  7. Racial and gender equal rights amendment.

Answer: BLM – 2, 5; BP – 1, 3, 4. Trick question: 6 & 7 are actually from a list of Occupy Wall Street demands. If you got some wrong, don’t worry. A lot of these demands are interchangeable and all three groups have promoted some version of most of them.

The purpose of the quiz is to illustrate how the recent Black Lives Matter platform draws heavily from Black cultural nationalism and progressivism. It also shows that the Black Lives Matter movement is now evolving in a direction very similar to these groups. Like the Panthers in 1966, Black Lives was founded specifically in response to police repression. But it framed itself in Marxist terms and soon expanded to offer social programs. Similarly, Black Lives Matter started in response to police shootings and has now offered a fairly comprehensive list of demands rooted in the Left.

There are differences of course, but I think we can now articulate a framework, or baseline, for thinking about BLM. It is a progressive, community oriented movement, not a movement that primarily focuses on police reform. It is also a movement that will have wide appeal on the Left, but less appeal to the middle and the Right.

Since we’ve had a number of movements like this, we can look at their history. We’ve had the Panthers in the 1960s, the anti-globalization movement of the 1990s, and the Occupy movement of 2010s. These movements tend to be brief, but intense. They have wide cultural impact, but limited policy or electoral impact. The impact of BLM will be very concentrated in a few places and otherwise widespread and diffuse. Time will tell if the comparison with BLMs ancestry is an adequate guide to their future.

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Written by fabiorojas

August 11, 2016 at 12:01 am

the pull of nationalism and the drift from king

I just spent the last six weeks teaching the Telluride Association Sophomore Seminar. The topic was “The Black Struggle for Freedom: an Interdisciplinary Approach.” Along with my co-teacher, Maria Hamilton Abegunde, we spent a month and a half reviewing abolitionism, civil rights, black power and “post-racial” America from a number of perspectives. In this post, I want to summarize a few thoughts I had on on how people perceive black power and civil rights today.

So here is what we did. We had students work with various written, visual, and audio materials. For civil rights, we spent time reading famous court decisions (e.g., Plessy or Brown), read historical summaries, and watch videos. For Black power, we did the same. Read the Panther’s 10 point program,  watch videos on Black power activism, and read academic treatments of various Black power initiatives, such as Scot Brown’s book on the Us Organization or my book on Black studies.

We then had a discussion and got to the issue of what people took away from the readings. A few things jumped out at me. First, while most students clearly understood the importance of civil rights, the highly legalistic approach to social change meant that people didn’t appreciate much of what the movement was about. For example, a constant theme in civil rights activism is enforcement, which came up in Plessy, in Thurgood Marshall’s speech to the NAACP, in Brown and its aftermath, and in the text of the 1964 civil rights act. “Racism is bad” is something everyone can appreciate but “we are trying to create state and civil mechanisms for rights enforcement” is something that does not grab the attention of people. It is easily lost in collective memory.

Second, the SCLC/Kingian approach to social change is easily misinterpreted by modern readers, much as it was back then. Basically, a lot of people equate non-violence with passivity. This is clearly not the case as King’s actions were highly disruptive and extraordinarily confrontational. There is also the mistaken view that King did not believe in self-defense. Rather, King is very clear that non-violence is a tactic that makes sense in a specific context. Like most non-violence proponents of his era, he supported use of violence against exterminationist regimes such as the Third Reich.

Third, there is an aesthetic and interactional aspect of nationalism that has more appeal than civil rights activism. For starters, there is something sensational and breath taking about the best images from the Panthers. It’s really inspiring and uplifting to see people stand up for themselves. Second, as one student put it, King talks at you “from above” while Stokley talks “with you.” This isn’t to say that the Panthers, or other Black Power figures weren’t theoretical. Indeed, they could be, as the careers of Angela Davis and Huey Newton show, but the *average* person is more likely to be affected by the rhetoric and iconology of the Black power when it was direct.

So, to summarize, here are three reasons  that Black Power has an edge when appealing to people in the present:

  • Civil rights was articulated as legalistic and process oriented form of social change, instead of direct intervention. Civil rights is presented as a fairly abstract argument about law, equality, and segregation. Black power is remembered as a dynamic movement that empowered people directly.
  • Civil rights and non-violence is seen as passive strategies that do nothing when applied to instances of violence, such as police shooting.
  • Black power is more enjoyable in that it depicts direct action, not non-violence. Black power writings are more direct and speak to experience.

In the coming weeks, I’ll use my teaching experience to delve more into Black social movement politics, American history, and teaching.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

August 1, 2016 at 12:17 am

tenure and promotion experiences among women of color

After completing a Ph.D., how to get a tenure-track position, secure tenure, and advance to full and beyond are not clear, particularly since multiple layers of bureaucracy (committees, department, division, school, and university board) have a say over candidates’ cases.  Despite written policies specifying criteria and process for tenure and promotion, universities can interpret these policies in ways that advance or push out qualified candidates.  Over at feministwire, Vilna Bashi Treitler shares her experiences with the tenure process at one university, where unofficial teaching evaluations were apparently used to justify a tenure vote:

In my case, I was unable to defend myself when someone at my tenure hearing read verbatim from RateMyProfessor.com, a popular website where anyone can write anything about any professor in the country. The review reported me for “abandoning” my class. My colleagues discussed my case without reference to the medical emergency that pulled me from class: I lay, pregnant and bleeding, on doctor’s ordered bed rest, trying to save my baby. My colleagues failed to consider the testimonies of graduate students who taught the four class sessions that remained in the semester – at my own expense – or the fact that my website showed evidence that classes continued (with the aid of graduate students) and I distributed handouts online, despite my forced absence.

Perhaps most frustrating, it did not appear to matter to my colleagues that I had several peer-reviewed articles published in top journals, a book already published with a top-tier university press, a grant from the National Science Foundation for a new project, and mostly good reviews from students up until that time. This happened 10 years ago, and despite the opposition, I survived and succeeded in the academy. However, I never stopped facing challenges from white students who – despite signing up for my course, which at no time was ever a requirement – resist what I have to teach them, and in some cases, treat me with open disrespect.

Having served with Vilna on a committee overseeing dissertation proposals at the Graduate Center, CUNY and spending time with her discussing pedagogy, I can attest that she is very invested in students’ learning, no matter how difficult the topic.  In sociology and related disciplines, we teach and discuss complex topics – inequality, discrimination, and the various –isms – that can challenge or even threaten people’s worldviews.  The individualistic emphasis in the US makes it especially difficult to convey alternative ways of thinking.

Vilna’s post includes several recommendations for the academy.  In particular, she urges colleagues who have power to act on behalf of those who do not:

We must stand behind the promises we made to young faculty when we hired them: if you produce high quality scholarship, we will award you the tenure you need to continue conducting cutting edge research. Any scholar who makes the grade with notable and widely accepted peer-reviewed scholarship should not have their fates sealed in closed-door processes with little transparency or overt accountability where the complaints of a relatively tiny number of students – of course, students have never published research or taught courses themselves – are given undue weight. (Of course, bad teaching should not be rewarded, but we have other ways to assess teaching, including examining syllabi, having faculty regularly observed by peer scholars, and creating and encouraging the use of teaching centers where new scholar-teachers can seek aid in improving their classroom skills.)

Faculty who serve on committees that make these decisions know when injustice is being committed, and the time is now to take a stand. Standing up to proceedings that negate principles of both academic freedom and honor among colleagues and that allow racism and sexism to decide who is a quality scholar is risky and requires courage, but is nevertheless necessary. It is difficult to ask questions aloud about what’s not happening when a colleague looks like they’re being railroaded. If you stand up, you effectively become a whistleblower, for which there might be retaliation – but if you’re tenured, that’s exactly what tenure is for: protection from punishment for following through on ideas that may be unpopular. So when the tide turns against a junior colleague in your department or university, the difficult but morally right thing to do would be to take a bold step to stand up and at minimum question why.

And standing up takes many forms. When the conversation turns towards student complaints about a professor, inform your colleagues that student evaluations have gender and race biases (see here, and here, too). Find out if the professor has good evaluations that are being ignored or downplayed. Ask whether colleagues are overlooking other evidence of good teaching, like positive peer observations, or syllabi chock full of information about assignments, how grades are determined, and classroom policies. Professors who stand up must ask about the rest of the scholarly record: are we talking about the teaching of a highly productive scholar who has a publishing record and is a good departmental and college/university citizen? Maybe you should ask whether those things should matter more than evaluations – especially if you know this is what junior faculty are told when informed of the requirements for tenure.

Standing up also looks like administrators who overturn or challenge insufficiently explained tenure denials for stellar candidate records, being mindful of institutional commitments to inclusion and diversity. In addition, professors who become aware that injustice is occurring should reach out to administrators and encourage them to do the right thing.

Vilna’s insightful post includes links to several other scholars’ tenure denial experiences in the academy, as well as additional recommendations on working with students.

 

Written by katherinechen

July 27, 2016 at 5:25 pm

lbgt students are more likely to be activists

From Zhara Vrangalova, a study examining if LBGT student are more active than others in politics:

Student protest is often an engine of social change for sexual minorities and other oppressed groups. Through an analysis of college students in the Add Health survey (n = 2,534), we found that sexual minorities attend more political marches than heterosexuals. To understand why this sexuality difference occurs, we performed a logistic regression analysis to decipher the importance of four explanations: essentialism, selection, embeddedness, and conversion. We discovered that participation in political groups is the best explanation of the sexuality gap in activism, but racial attitudes were also important. Type of college major was generally connected to student activism, but educational attainment and disciplinary curriculums did not explain the increased activism of sexual minorities.

By Eric Swank and Breanne Fahs, in Sexuality Research and Social Policy.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 23, 2016 at 12:24 am

racism at harvard and student protest

Jamile Lartey of the Guardian wrote an article addressing campus protest at Harvard and what students of social movements have to say current activists (see my post earlier this week):

For 80 years the family crest of the brutal slaveholder Isaac Royall Jr served as the official seal of the prestigious Harvard Law School.

Royall, whose endowment founded HLS in 1817, once instructed that 77 enslaved Africans be burned alive at the stake for an insurrection on his family’s Antigua sugar plantation.

In March, student protesters at Harvard notched a decisive victory in their fight to “decolonize” their campus, when administrators announced they would retire the Royall family seal, citing “the prospect that its imagery might evoke associations with slavery”.

Two months later, many of the students who pushed for the change say the decision is bittersweet. The removal of the seal sends a message, they say, but it doesn’t do enough to address the currents of racism on campus.

The article has a nice overview of current protest. Lartey also discusses From Black Power to Black Studies in some detail:

In his book From Black Power to Black Studies he chronicles how black activism and demands in the late 1960s led to the creation of new academic departments and disciplines like black studies, and later Chicano and women’s studies that exist to this day.

“Students are so into the adrenaline of protests and screaming at people but then you have to know when there’s an opening, when do we have a moment to actually get something reasonable in. You have to be prepared with something that will really work in the context of that institution,” Rojas said. “Social movements do not win by merely being expressive, they have to have a plan.” This, Rojas said, is different from simply having demands.

Rojas cited the protests at San Francisco State College in 1968 as an example of the tenacity and organization required to effect meaningful change. A coalition of students of color demanded the school open a black studies department along with more ambitions demands like free tuition for all students of color. Students forced the issue with a “guerrilla campaign”, which included mass rallies spawning hundreds of arrests, physical intimidation and even small-scale bombings. They also threatened a strike. Ultimately administrators and students arrived at a compromise.

These demands were considered radical in 1968, but compared with the standard of some of last autumn’s student protests, they are comparatively mild. Students at the University of North Carolina, for example, demanded the “elimination of tuition and fees for all students” and the defunding and disarming of campus police.

Will today’s student protesters marshal the same leverage, patience and intensity to force these kinds of concessions? “Students can make change to these institutions,” Clayborne said. “It comes from small groups of committed people coming together and building it.”

Interesting.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

April 15, 2016 at 12:01 am

advice for black student movements today

I recently had a long discussion with a journalist about the current state of black student activism and we spent a lot of time thinking about what can be learned from the past. I started with two major points:

  • Have specific and achievable demands. One of the big lessons of movement research is that you need to present ideas that make sense within the institutional context of the protest. Hire more minority faculty? Achievable. End all micro-aggression? Not achievable.
  • Clearly link protest tactics to outcomes. A lot of protest is highly expressive and it is not clear how it is linked to some concrete social change. One of the brilliant tactics employed by the students at Missouri was having football players boycott an NCAA game. The penalty was $1 million per game. The protest mattered.

Then, we got into more subtle issues:

  • When possible, student activists should be deeply involved in activism off campus. In my study of the Third World Strike, I was deeply impressed with how much help campus activists got not only from “protest groups” (like the Oakland based Black Panthers) but also from religious leaders, attorneys, and politicians.
  • Learn to cultivate alliances with institutional insiders. In my book on Black student protest and Black studies, I discuss numerous instances where students relied on deans, consultants, and lawyers to help push their case.
  • Know when to fight and when to compromise. Assuming that one has a well planned protest, there may be a point when you can get something. Social change is not about eternal fighting, it’s also about knowing when to claim a victory and get something.

Feel free to use the comments to discuss more lessons from research for activists.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

April 11, 2016 at 12:01 am

announcement: open borders day 2016

It is my pleasure to announce events for Open Borders Day 2016. This year, we will start a week early. On March 9, there were will be a discussion with Lant Pritchett and Jeffrey Miron about liberalizing migration. This talk will be held at the campus of Harvard University. On March 16, Tanya Golash Boza will discuss her new book Deported: Policing Immigrants, Disposable Labor and Global Capitalism at The Green Arcade bookstore in San Francisco. In Washington, D.C., Bryan Caplan will discuss open borders with migration critic Mark Krikorian at an event hosted by the America’s Future Foundation. Theresa Brown of the Bipartisan Policy Center will moderate the discussion. You can register for the Caplan/Krikorian debate here. Please keep an eye out for other events.

These events are free and open to the public. Consult the Open Borders Day website for details about times and locations. If you are organizing your own Open Borders Day event and would like it listed on the website, please send me a message. And of course, please feel free to share this announcement or link to the Open Borders Day website.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

 

Written by fabiorojas

February 3, 2016 at 12:01 am

brayden king on boycotts at freakonomics

Bryaden recently appeared on the Freakonomics podcast to discuss the effectiveness of boycotts. Click here to listen.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

January 25, 2016 at 5:47 am

is there discrimination against conservative law professors?

We’ve often discussed the ideological profile of the academy on this blog. My own view is that there is massive self-selection. Gross’ book on conservative academics finds systematic evidence that conservative ideology correlates with a stronger preference for highly paid careers. That means that conservative undergraduates, as a group, would be going strongly against their preferences for higher lifetime income by enrolling in graduate programs. The self-selection explanation has one property that other explanations don’t: it can explain why physical science academics might be liberal.

There is other research that makes the case that anti-conservative prejudice it at play. Haidt and his collaborators, for example, surveyed their own field of social psychology to show that many academics admit that would likely be prejudiced against conservative academics. Freese and Fosse conducted an experiment showing that graduate program directors were less likely to respond to students if they included conservative credentials in their emails.

To this literature, there is a new article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy by James Phillips. Roughly speaking, Phillips gathers data on the publication histories of about one thousand law professors. Using voting registration, campaign donations, and other data, the author estimates the political orientation of each professor. The article has a lot of analysis in it, but he is trying to show that conservative professors have similar/better qualifications and publication records than liberals or unknowns. He finds that conservative professors, in many ways, have better qualifications (e.g., has a J.D.), publish more, and are more cited.

For those interested in academic politics, I suggest that they read the whole article. On a first read, at least, it seems thorough. So here are a few responses: (a) legal academia is very, very hierarchical and network driven. One of the results is that conservative legal academics clerk more, but for less prestigious courts. And one of the unwritten rules of the legal academy is that the best jobs go to those who clerk “higher.” That, by itself, could weed out a lot conservative law profs. So there may be plenty of conservatives getting clerking jobs, but if relatively few are in the appeal and Supreme courts, that by itself could wipe out entire generations of conservative law profs, even if hiring committees weren’t prejudiced.

(b) The higher rate of publication and citation could be due to two factors – survivor bias (only the “toughest” conservative profs survive, while lots of average liberal profs get jobs) or conservative profs might publish in different fields. For example, the publication rate and citation patterns in medical sociology is wildly different than in historical sociology. In law, I could imagine liberal profs publishing in less popular areas like Eskimo rights, while conservatives stick to criminal justice or taxation, which is way more popular. I would have to reread to see if this possibility is addressed.

(c) Self-selection can also play a big factor. If law students are similar to the overall population, then there would be a correlation between conservative beliefs and a desire for income. Thus, an average liberal legal academic is more likely to “settle” for lower paying law school jobs. In contrast, average conservative legal academics leave and only the best remain.

A number of outlets have jumped to the conclusion that this paper proved discrimination. It doesn’t. Rather, it thoroughly discredits an important hypothesis – that the low number of conservative profs reflect substandard work. When you read the detail, you see lots of different processes playing out in the data.

So thumbs up, let the debate continue.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

January 20, 2016 at 12:01 am

ellen berrey and the politics of affirmative action

The most recent DuBois Review has a really interesting article about how social movements push for legal change and how that fights changes the field of advocacy groups. Ellen Berrey’s “Making a Civil Rights Claim for Affirmative Action” is a historical review of how one University of Michigan student group fought for affirmative action and how that changed the other organizations at Michigan that were involved in racial student politics:

The politics of affirmative action are currently structured as a litigious conflict among elites taking polarized stances. Opponents call for colorblindness, and defenders champion diversity. How can marginalized activists subvert the dominant terms of legal debate? To what extent can they establish their legitimacy? This paper advances legal mobilization theory by analytically foregrounding the field of contention and the relational production of meaning among social movement organizations. The case for study is two landmark United States Supreme Court cases that contested the University of Michigan’s race-conscious admissions policies. Using ethnographic data, the paper analyzes BAMN, an activist organization, and its reception by other affirmative action supporters. BAMN had a marginalized allied-outsider status in the legal cases, as it made a radical civil rights claim for a moderate, elite-supported policy: that affirmative action corrects systemic racial discrimination. BAMN activists pursued their agenda by passionately defending and, at once, critiquing the university’s policies. However, the organization’s militancy remained a liability among university leaders, who prioritized the consistency of their diversity claims. The analysis forwards a scholarly understanding of the legacy of race-conscious policies.

Great addition to the literature on student mobilization.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

January 19, 2016 at 12:01 am