open letter: asa jessie bernard award committee

The following is an open letter published by the undersigned members of the ASA Jessie Bernard Award Committee, dated April 29, 2019.

Dear Esteemed Members of the American Sociological Association:

Last year, controversy over the recipient of the 2018 Jessie Bernard Award raised important questions regarding the ethics of ASA members and issues of sexual harassment, work theft, and power imbalance among junior and senior members, as well as the proper procedures for revoking past awards. These are important issues that we understand the ASA leadership is working to address and which may take time to sort through. This letter is not intended to address those issues. Instead, the purpose of this letter is to promote transparency around events surrounding the 2018 award, to share the recommendations of the 2019 and 2020 Jessie Bernard Award Committees, and to reaffirm our commitment to the Jessie Bernard Award as a feminist intervention within sociology.

In August 2018, the members of the Jessie Bernard Award committee unanimously voted to rescind the award to Michael Kimmel and forwarded a letter explaining its decision to the ASA Council the following month. The ASA announced that it had selected Kimmel for the Jessie Bernard award at its annual awards ceremony; the Council thereafter sent an email to its membership stating that they had voted unanimously to defer delivery of the award. In March and April 2019, the ASA Council responded to our letter, reiterating its decision to defer delivery and in the meantime, focus its efforts on preventing and responding to sexual misconduct, including a procedure to revoke awards.

While the ASA sets up this process, the undersigned members of the JB award committee want to make public the recommendation to rescind the 2018 award to Kimmel and our intent to formally forward this recommendation once the proper procedures are in place. Although we understand such changes take time and careful consideration, we urge the ASA to address these issues before the continued lack of clarity and action threatens irreparable damage to the esteem of the award and the larger association.

The members of the committee would also like to announce its intent to move forward and unconditionally stand by its commitment to recognize the exceptional achievements and contributions of deserving sociologists–including this year’s co-recipients. In so doing, we hope to honor Jessie Bernard’s legacy, reinvigorate the spirit of the award and continue to recognize those whose research is dedicated to disrupting the complex manifestations of inequality within academia and beyond.

Sincerely,
The Undersigned Members of the Jessie Bernard Award Committee

Angie Y. Chung, Chair
Emily Fairchild
Lyndi N. Hewitt
Katie Linette Acosta
Sara L. Crawley
Ivy Ken
Carla A. Pfeffer

I received this open letter today through the ASA Sexualities Section listserv. I assume it went out to other section listservs as well. I post it here with permission of one of the authors. -Tina

 

reply: ethnographers are not lawyers, and nobody ever said they should be

The following is a guest post by Steve Lubet.

There is a story often told in the Cook County Criminal Courts Building about a young defense lawyer who was determined to do everything possible for a burglary defendant. After meticulous research, exhaustive investigation, and conscientious preparation, the attorney presented an airtight alibi, showing virtually minute-by-minute, and through multiple witnesses, that the client could not possibly have been at the scene of the crime. There was only one thing standing in the way of an acquittal. The elaborate alibi had been established for the wrong day, and counsel’s painstaking effort was all for naught. As with most such mythic accounts, this tale is probably apocryphal, or at least broadly exaggerated, but it still serves a valid teaching purpose. Even the most carefully developed argument will fail if it is based on a faulty premise.

So it is with Prof. Mikaila Mariel Lemonik Arthur’s recent response to my own essay on ethnography in Contexts. It would be a powerful riposte if only it had addressed my actual views. My essay is about comparative means assessing reliability – using multiple real life examples from law, history, and journalism – but you would never know that from reading Arthur’s piece. Her rejoinder of over 1500 words quotes only a single four-word passage from my work. Everything else is ill-premised spin. As I will explain below, there is nothing easier than presenting an alibi for the wrong day, nor simpler than refuting the imagined arguments of a straw person.

Continue reading “reply: ethnographers are not lawyers, and nobody ever said they should be”

selective college admissions games

Alongside the well-publicized scandal of super-rich parents covertly buying their kids entry into super-elite colleges (as distinguished from super-rich parents overtly buying entry through donations, and just-pretty-rich parents doing so through opportunity hoarding), I am interested in two more general patterns in selective-college admissions these days:

  • The incredibly low admissions percentages at elite colleges (public and private), publicized and often understood as indicators of college quality; and
  • Many colleges closing for lack of financial resources, and many others below capacity (in these cases generally, though not entirely, less-selective institutions)

Finally, meanwhile, the “oversupply” of Ph.D.s, particularly in the humanities and some social sciences, is well-documented and anxiety-producing.

Continue reading “selective college admissions games”

the distribution of student loan debt

Sometimes it’s hard to find basic descriptive statistics. Even when data exist that could provide the relevant descriptives, it still takes work to analyze them. Social scientists don’t have much incentive to produce high quality descriptive statistics, except as incidental by-products of our typical, more complicated statistical analyses (usually aimed at teasing out causation or explanations). And yet, sometimes, all you (or, in this case, a friend) wants to know is, something seemingly straightforward like: What’s the relationship between income and having student loan debt? How much do people owe in student loans given their incomes?

Continue reading “the distribution of student loan debt”

ethnographers are not lawyers, ethnographies are not trials: standards of evidence, hearsay and the making of good analogies

The following is a guest post by Mikaila Mariel Lemonik Arthur

In the Winter 2019 issue of Contexts, legal scholar Steven Lubet analogizes ethnography to legal fact-finding. Lubet is not an ethnographer or a social scientist—he is a law professor with scholarly expertise in evidence and in legal history. Legal scholars do have a habit of weighing in on fields not their own, but then we sociologists can play that game.

Continue reading “ethnographers are not lawyers, ethnographies are not trials: standards of evidence, hearsay and the making of good analogies”

how to peer review for grad students

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Recently, I have seen a number of senior scholars asking for advice on Twitter about how best to give a constructive peer review to a graduate student whose work they find fundamentally flawed. It’s a good question and a particularly important one. (And, as a graduate student, one I feel particularly qualified to answer.) For many graduate students, peer review is the way we get our first exposure to the discipline beyond our own departments. Our experiences with peer review shape the way we see our broader field and our willingness to pursue careers within it.

Those first (and often, repeated) rejections also take a big toll on graduate students’ mental health. I have yet to meet a graduate student who didn’t ask themselves if they belonged in academia after receiving that first rejection letter. No matter how much academics try to normalize rejection as part of the process, graduate students’ impostor syndrome flares up and it can become really difficult to sit down and start writing again. If you’ve never had validation that your work is good, it can be hard to believe that you can produce something great.

It’s easy to recognize that senior scholars sending out long, tough reviews want to improve the scholarship before them, but you can’t improve the scholarship if you scare the scholar out of pursuing the project they submitted for your review—or out of academia altogether.

Facing my own particularly harsh rejection this week, I spent some time thinking about the reviews I have found the most helpful at this stage in my career—and those that were such a gut punch that I disregarded them altogether. I came up with a list of recommendations for reviewing articles you imagine have a graduate student as an author.

Continue reading “how to peer review for grad students”

no more accommodations: how operation varsity blue changed my approach to in-class exams

There are so many horrifying pieces to the recent college admissions scandal. Dozens of celebrity and CEO parents have been indicted for lying and cheating to get their kids into “top” colleges. Some created fake athlete profiles and paid off coaches to get their kids in. Others paid for fake test scores. And still others had their children fake learning disabilities to get extra time on the SATs.

That last part. The fake disabilities part. That’s the part I can’t let go. And that’s how I found myself digging through the details of the affidavit, looking for an explanation.

There are so many horrifying pieces to the recent college admissions scandal. Dozens of celebrity and CEO parents have been indicted for lying and cheating to get their kids into “top” colleges. Some created fake athlete profiles and paid off coaches to get their kids in. Others paid for fake test scores. And still others had their children fake learning disabilities to get extra time on the SATs.

That last part. The fake disabilities part. That’s the part I can’t let go. And that’s how I found myself digging through the details of the affidavit, looking for an explanation.

Continue reading “no more accommodations: how operation varsity blue changed my approach to in-class exams”