tenure letters

It’s that time of year. People are considering job changes and everyone who moves from one tenured job to another needs external letters. In this game, the request for letters comes only after the department has made a hiring decision: the letters are for the an extra-departmental review at the college level. I am being asked for letters on a few weeks notice, just as I had to ask other people for them when I did my bit as chair. I am looking at several requests as I write this. Some of these are from obscure branch campuses I’ve never heard of that are asking for detailed analytic evaluations of the contributions and national influence of the candidates, for God’s sake.  Others are for extremely senior people who hardly need me to buttress their claim to fame. I have three choices: spend significant time working up a good detailed letter being sure to explain why everybody is a star, write a superficial positive letter that is at risk of being coded as reserved (i.e. negative), especially for the non-stars, or decline to write and definitely be coded as negative, again, especially for the non-stars. This is idiocy. It is bad enough that we have to do this for promotion to tenure, but does anybody believe that the external letters provide one iota of information that could not be obtained from reading the cv and the person’s publications? The department wants to know whether the person is a lunatic, but that they find out from gossip or phone calls. I don’t mind altruism and doing things for the collective good and the welfare of other scholars, but I do resent wasting my time for the benefit of bureaucratic nonsense. Not only are they asking me to read their watch for them, they are asking me to write several pages of well-crafted prose about what it says and do it for free.

it’s 12 o’clock, do you know where your TAs are?

The first meeting of my undergrad class is in 57 hours.  Not that I’m counting.  I have sixty students registered, and the students have signed up for discussion sections along with the lecture.  I do not, at present, know whether I have one or two TAs.

Am I weird to think that at this point I should know whether I have one or two TAs? Continue reading “it’s 12 o’clock, do you know where your TAs are?”

iowa transforms the inevitable into a coin flip

(prediction markets, right now)

The other big winner in Iowa on Thursday was prediction markets, as they had swung sharply for Obama and Huckabee shortly after the caucuses began and well before CNN was presenting the races as anything other than up in the air. I have drunk the Kool-Aid on them so much that Continue reading “iowa transforms the inevitable into a coin flip”

i’m confused

I just read David Brooks’ editorial about the outcome in Iowa. First, I’m worried that he praises Obama. Why would he do this? I suspect something sinister, like he hopes to deflate his candidacy. But that’s paranoia. I’m more confused by his statement, outlining what Huckabee knows that all others in the field don’t: “A person’s lifetime prospects will be threatened more by single parenting than by outsourcing.” Really? What does this mean? I’m curious where he gets this from. I’ve emailed him for the data he’s used to make the claim. I don’t expect a response. Continue reading “i’m confused”


I am working on preparing my undergraduate course, “SOCIOL 204: The Individual and Society,” which is intended for sophomores and presently has 61 students enrolled. I will be using PowerPoint and puppets. I’ve received several e-mails from the Teaching Center here about:

If you haven’t been in a clicker-classroom yet, you’re missing out on the fun. And chances are, you’ll get to participate soon.

The Student Response System (SRS), also referred to as clickers, is a hardware and software system that allows instructors to pose questions and gather students’ responses during a lecture. The clicker nickname comes about because of the remote control device students use to answer posed questions (see full story).

Apparently it’s not too late for me to decide to use this if I wanted. Anybody use these? Have any opinion about them?

hey, wait a minute

I wasn’t aware of this blog before, but it has several sociologists and other prominent academics listed as contributors. [HT: Jenn Lena.]

But, the person who is listed as editor? Isn’t he the same person who started the Public Sociology blog at Berkeley? The blog that had some posts, then went private–yes, Berkeley had blog called “Public Sociology” that was private–and then came back and sat for more than a month with no posts whatsoever? Am I misremembering this? Am I misremembering the person? He came to the first ASA blogger get-together and we spent several minutes talking about his Berkeley blog. It’s peculiar just because the person says “This is my first blog.” as the final sentence of his bio, which is kind of an odd thing to say anyway, but especially, you know, if it isn’t actually your first blog. I’m confused. Does anyone else remember this?

Update: Here is a post from back in the day about the Berkeley blog. It doesn’t clarify whether the editor of Immanent Frame is the person who ran it, though.

Update, #2: Jonathan (the aforementioned “the person”) responds in the comments, and it seems I’m mistaken. Confused apologies to him, who I really thought was the person I talked to at ASA way back when. BTW, here’s what the old site looked like, via the Web Archive. Sadly, fans of a certain OtherBlog that is fond of deleting its post will note that the have the bot-blocker on and so their old posts are not accessible from the Web Archive (although I suppose anyone who is truly hardcore can fish the old posts out of their RSS feed or browser cache).

Update, #3: The archives of Footnotes provide the pertinent information.  I’m not sure how I came to have these people mixed up.