querying quants (a triptych)

I.

“I had dinner last night with someone who self describes as a ‘quant jock.’ Is that a familiar phrase to you?”

“Yeah, it gets used a lot at the Kennedy School.”

“So, I understand what it is to be a ‘quant’ – both in finance and in social science – but what’s a ‘quant jock’?”

“It just refers to someones who’s really good at quantitative methods, but I’ve never heard anyone use it to refer to themselves.”

“So, is Jeremy Freese a quant jock?” Continue reading “querying quants (a triptych)”

why does college cost so much?

The cost of higher education has far outstripped the cost of living. In the late 1960s, my tuition at an elite private school was $2400 a year, the equivalent of $12,381 in today’s dollars. Tuition today at that same elite school is $33,000. (Room & board is extra.) I’ve read reports that say that on a percentage basis, the cost of public colleges and universities has risen even faster.

At the same time, financial aid is down. Continue reading “why does college cost so much?”

finally!

Finally! Something happens to dull the sting of having had my Wikipedia page deleted due to “lack of notability.” By way of explaining what, my prominent-blogger friend Ann and I have divergent political views. Some more ideologically-simpatico friends of mine thought it was hilarious when somebody started a parody blog about her blog. I didn’t find it amusing, because I thought some of the humor went over the good-taste line and the rest was merely repetitive, although perhaps I would have thought it was more funny if I didn’t feel personal loyalty. Regardless, another emotion I felt was envy: somebody else was sufficiently moved by her blog to start and maintain a whole blog of their own all about her blog. I mean, c’mon! What better evidence that one has arrived?

Okay, so I know this isn’t anywhere near the same league of thing, but still: somebody in sociology has started a snark-blog* for which three of the first five posts link either to my former blog or to Scatterplot. Orgtheory, by contrast, has but a single snark-link. To recap: Scatterplot/JFW 3, Orgtheory 1. Continue reading “finally!”

built on others’ backs?

So I went to an “untenured faculty” meeting at Columbia recently. Rather foolishly I expected the meeting to be about the plight of the assistant professor. You know, struggles, stress, fighting for more respect, how do deal with feelings of insecurity, etc. That was exactly what it was about, except that with the exception of me and another sociologist friend, the meeting was almost completely filled with adjuncts. I never really knew how much of the teaching at Universities happened by folks who are treated, well, to put it bluntly, very poorly. And by all reports, things are getting worse.

As I left the meeting, instead of feeling a sense of solidarity with my fellow junior faculty members, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. I walked in thinking that I would be surrounded by my people* – those who could REALLY understand how bad I had it. And I left feeling like a jerk, because compared to the adjunct folks, I had it great. Continue reading “built on others’ backs?”

a not for profit post

A friend and I did some shopping yesterday, including a stop at Ten Thousand Villages, which prominently announced underneath its name: “A Not For Profit Store.” This being my first time, I asked my friend, “So, then, what’s the point?” The apparent point is that the money they would make as a profit gets passed along to the people in various developing countries who make the products, so these suppliers make more money than they would otherwise.

Of course, a store with this mission could conduct itself by acting just like a for-profit business, only instead of distributing its profits to its owners passing that money back up the supply chain. However, one way the store makes more money than it otherwise might is that it is staffed by volunteers, and so it operates with lower labor costs. And, of course, the store is able to attract progressively-minded customers and get them to pay a greater markup than they otherwise might because it allows us to spend some of our–in the great scheme of things, let’s be honest, ridiculously undeserved–wealth buying unneeded material goods for others in a way that makes us feel like we are doing something positive for the world. My presumption is that this last source of profit is much greater than the first two for how much money the enterprise is ultimately able to give back to its suppliers in the developing world.

I bought a curio for a friend. The store also sells holiday cards, and I was tempted to buy one and write inside “I could have just given $20 in your name to charity, but instead I got you a $20 knick-knack that you don’t need in the hope that maybe $3 more of it gets back to the person who made it than otherwise would. And let’s face it: you prefer that I got you the knick-knack, and so would I. Sick, is what we are. Sick, bloated and spoiled.” Continue reading “a not for profit post”