There have been several posts lately about public sociology and the tenure process, including newsocprof and thepublicandtheprivate and, most recently RadioFreeNewport. All are written by young scholars. The general tone of these remarks is either to worry about the impact of public sociology on getting tenure, or to decry older sociologists who tell younger sociologists to focus on getting tenure before getting heavily involved in public sociology. So another view seems helpful. I say this as someone who did not do public sociology until later in my career, well after I had tenure. These younger writers are ignoring the central point that tenure protects you when you do public sociology. Continue reading “tenure and public sociology”
Things I’ve been doing that did not seem bloggable:
1. Writing official letters of discipline for plagiarism cases. I could write a blog about this, but we all know about the problem and it just depresses us.
2. Reading graduate papers. Work, not unpleasant, not bloggable as not anonymous. Could be combined with my own writing trauma into some sort of essay about writing, but at this point I think others are doing it better.
3. Pulling up garlic mustard. This might be bloggable, as I have to figure out what to do with 5 bags of plants that cannot be sent to the land fill and are dangerous to just leave lying around in your yard. Why 5 bags? Because I just this spring learned that a big patch of my back yard has been taken over by it. But do any of the rest of you care about garlic mustard? Is this really a topic for a sociology blog?
4. Misc family things: consulting with my son who is graduating and moving into his first apartment, talking to my housebound mother for 30-60 minutes on the phone everyday, and also less often to my father who is also having health issues, preparing for relatives’ visit to said son’s graduation, attending graduation parties for other young people.
5. Sunday school teaching. Very funny incident that is only funny to liberal Christians: conservative Christians would be appalled that it happened at all, and non-Christians would find the whole thing just weird. Only sociology if it turns into a reflection on the sociology of different kinds of religion.
6. (Edit). I forgot getting up at 5:30 (I’m not a morning person) to do a public radio interview. Do you suppose this is what Michael Burawoy had in mind?
I still intend to write a post with my thoughts on newsocprof’s discussion of public sociology and the tenure process, which jt also addressed in a response post in The Public and the Private. That will come later, after the flurry of end-of-term grad advising and family business (including my son’s college graduation and attendant in-law visit, out of town trips, and help moving).
In the meantime, I thought I’d mention this week’s public sociology issue for me, which is less philosophical and more mundane. The Governor is finally giving a press conference next week about his intentions with respect to the big racial disparity report released by the Governor’s Commission in February . We Commissioners have been invited to the press conference, which is being held in the city 80 miles away at 2 in the afternoon. As far as I can tell, we are being invited to stand behind the Governor while he talks. I’ve never met him; I don’t know whether he will even bother to talk to me. I’ve decided to go, even though this will take up at least four or five hours of my day, lead me to reschedule a bunch of grad student appointments, and make it that much harder for me to get time to get any work done before the relatives show up next week. It could turn out to be a total waste of my time. But I find that I hate to miss it.
In other public sociology news, two national NGOs jointly released their reports on disparities in drug arrests last week showing that the big city in our state is one of the nation’s worst, so I got calls from reporters. A bunch of people said to me, “I heard you on the radio.” I said, “So what did I say?” I never did find out. I did not realize he was taping, although I guess I should have. Apparently what he put on the air was OK. You never know. That’s another fun part of public sociology: there is nothing like a good quotation out of context to make you sound like an idiot, or worse.
Maybe as long as two years ago, a state legislator called me to say that they were trying to get a commission created to deal with racial disparities, and would I agree to be on it if asked. Last January, the Governor announced that such a commission would be created, and it made front page news; I got a lot of reporter calls about it, many asking me if I’d be on the commission. I said I did not know if I’d be asked, but I’d serve if asked. The commission got created in late March and had its first meeting in April. The fact that the commission had actually been appointed was not news and was buried in a short paragraph in back pages. We were supposed to report in October, but this was impossible. Given the expertise on the commission, we could have begun writing our report at the first meeting and done a good job, but it was deemed important to get testimony from stakeholders and the public, and there were some things we learned we did not already know. Because of that, and other often-frustrating organizational issues I will not go into, we had to defer the deadline and were not able to really write the report until January. It is released today in the middle of one of the most exciting political weeks of the decade. I am assuming it will get essentially zero play, as “news hole effects” (which I’ve researched) mean that any bit of news is inevitably in conflict with other news. All I can hope is that our recommendations might get implemented despite the total lack of public discussion that can be expected from the timing of all this.
Joining blogland has been interesting, if time consuming. I’ve been particularly interested in tapping into the universe of Black & biracial blogs, the debates about adoption, and the academic blogs. I also realized I have been on a run of non-sociological experiences this week. After a week spent nose down finishing a grant proposal (the sociology part), I have had or will have the following experiences within a four-day period. (1) The final meeting Friday of a commission hammering out proposals to address issues of racial bias. I’m the only academic in the group, which has lots of lawyers, judges, social service professionals, and public officials. About half are Black. Very different from the very pale academic circles that I usually move in, and an interesting good experience, although not without its frustrations in terms of process. (2) Spending the night sleeping on a cot at my church, where I’m doing my turn as a volunteer in a program providing temporary housing for homeless people. A couple of new families had moved into the program and the women sat up late last night talking with each other, forming relationships and getting to know one another, while my husband and I went to sleep on cots in the other room. This morning we got up at 6 to put on the coffee and provide whatever assistance we could, as the families had to be up, have all their possessions packed for the move to the next church, and out by 7 am to go to the day center while volunteers came in to clean out the rooms so they would be ready for Sunday School by 9. (3) Tomorrow I’m supposed to give a lunch talk to a group of Democrats about racial issues in my community; they want an update about what has been happening in the Commission. I have not figured out what to tell them. I’ll have to call the organizer to remind myself what to say, as they won’t be set up for my usual PowerPoint spiel. I also suddenly realized this morning that classes start Tuesday and I don’t have the syllabus updated and printed for my 150 students, so I’m going to have to (one again) impose on the good will of the office staff to get it ready on time. At least the class is in the afternoon. And I have a ton of work to do to get ready for my Wednesday graduate seminar. Moving right along.
Hello everyone. I’m new at this. My first thoughts are about how “out” to be. Now that I do a lot of public sociology, I have a public personna to consider. How much can I say to the web about the interesting things I’ve observed without delegitmating myself and my work? Much of what I spend a lot of time thinking about is race relations in the US, due to my teaching and public work, and I hope to write about this as I think I have had thoughts and experiences different from a lot of White people’s. But I worry about saying something in public that will seem condescending or insulting to the people I am writing about. I have to think about just how public this forum us. I was up most of the night preparing much-overdue reports for the commission I’m on. Somehow a couple of dozen of us have to agree on a report, and we have not had much time to work on it. Many of us said, “why don’t we just send email drafts around?” Turns out some people are very worried about drafts circulating. Partly we are subject to open records laws. Partly there are concerns that anything that is emailed can get forwarded to who knows who and that people would start criticizing the report before we even get it written. There are people who have already written editorials against what they expect us to say. So getting the work done is that much harder. This relates to a second point. While the political culture in my home town (which for now I’ll call Universityville) Continue reading “public sociology”