Monthly Archives: November 2011

on the grounds for political dispute

In a heated[1] debate among me, Ezra Zuckerman, and Kieran Healey, Ezra argues that purity in one’s constructionism… means forswearing political action, or at least any political action that is justified in terms of a critique of social valuations and the institutions that support them. I disagree, on the grounds that political action is adequately […]

ask a scatterbrain: gifts from grad students

A reader writes: Dear Scatterplotters, It’s Thanksgiving time here in the US and, as graduate students, we often feel pretty thankful towards our committees, letter of recommendation-writers, and so on. Often, we want to express our gratitude somehow, but it’s not at all clear what might be an appropriate way to do so. For example, […]

scatterbleg: income and altruistic wishes

My wife is working on a project that demonstrates, among other things, that lower-income adolescents report “wishes” on a survey that are more for themselves, such as housing, cars, etc., where higher-income adolescents report more wishes that are altruistic for the world, e.g., the end of global warming or poverty. She is looking for sociological […]

ginsberg, the fall of the faculty

A few weeks ago I had a long plane ride and used it to read Benjamin Ginsberg‘s The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why it Matters. Ginsberg, a distinguished political Scientist at Johns Hopkins, made headlines with this book and excerpts appearing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and […]

late penalties

Anyone want to take a break from political news and reflect on grading policies? Specifically, what penalties are appropriate for late papers and exercises? In practice, these range from the extremely Draconian “no late work accepted at all, you just get a zero” to the extremely lax “whenever” and include a huge middle ground of […]

food for thought from/re graham spanier

The below comes from my colleague Philip Cohen. (Spanier was president of Penn State from 1995 until yesterday): Excerpts from Graham Spanier’s article: “Higher Education Administration: One Sociologist’s View,” Sociological Perspectives, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Summer, 1990), pp. 295-300, I truly believe that it is something like athletic accomplishment. To be really good you […]

blood pressure, the slavery hypothesis, and social construction

My wife is a physician, and like many doctors was taught in medical schools that African Americans are susceptible to hypertension, and particularly salt-sensitive hypertension, as a result of genetic selection through conditions during the middle passage. I raised this possibility in chatting with Liana Richardson, a postdoc here at UNC, about her very interesting […]


Wherein I wonder about a sentence, learn a lot, and end up with more questions. The first hymn in church yesterday was titled “Great Spirit God” (one of two translations of Wakantanka Taku Nitawa in our hymnal). The music note said the tune is Lacquiparle, “Native American melody (Dakota) Adapt. Joseph R. Renville, 1842.” This […]

if the university is a body, what organ is athletics?

In the wake of athletics scandals, general budget cuts, and a new athletic director, questions of how athletics fits into the University in general are high on the agenda these days. Yesterday there was a forum with the outgoing Athletic Director, Dick Baddour, and several other people involved in athletics, to discuss the role of […]

gwen lister, courageous journalist, steps down

In 1985, in the midst of the Apartheid occupation, an incredibly courageous journalist, Gwen Lister, founded The Namibian, an independent, populist newspaper. It became one of very, very few independent papers to take up the cause of The People after independence. I worked for The Namibian in 1991-1992 as it was making the transition from […]


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