Here in the Diocese of Syracuse, for the last 5 or 6 years, a fairly well organized movement of lay Catholics has emerged to express dissent from the local bishop and the wider Church. Today, this movement is mostly visible in the activities of Faithful Catholics Concerned (FCC), a group I wrote about just under a year ago. FCC’s goals include opposing the local bishop and the USCCB when they become involved in ‘partisan politics’ and are shared by Catholics across the U.S. A few weeks ago FCC hosted a day long workshop with a keynote address by Fr. Jon Sivalon, who some Catholics certainly identify as radical. At the workshop, Fr. Sivalon quoted Thomas Merton to call for a lay-centered, ‘Vatican II’ Church. Local activists promote what could be called a theology of community, meaning that they understand God to be active whenever ‘two or more are gathered,’ and hence they see the institutional church as secondary to the substance of being Catholic. Does this attitude about the institutional Catholic Church make them radical? Continue reading
The ASA released its 2012-2013 Faculty Salary Brief for Sociology and other Social Science Disciplines. It reports that the average salary for sociology faculty is $75,580. Full professors make, on average, $95,052, associates earn $70,431, and assistants $58,779. The analysis reports recent trends, small differences between public and private schools, and some inequality across Economics, Political Science, Anthropology, and Sociology.
I never know what to make of reports like this. What jumps out to me the most is how much more, on average, Economics professors make than the other disciplines studied. I don’t care so much that ‘it’s more,’ but rather that it points to what I think is an important issue in faculty pay that we don’t talk about very much (at least not in my faculty circles) which is the inequality in faculty pay within institutions. I understand the argument that some folks make about some disciplines having opportunities to make more money in other types of work, so the school has to play in that market (i.e. I’m not going to be opening a corner sociology store any time soon). I guess that’s fine as far as it goes, but once someone has chosen (yes, ‘chosen’ is a tricky word) to work in higher ed, and at a particular institution, shouldn’t that matter? We are compensated in other ways (time, autonomy, status, etc.), and we all pretty much get those regardless of our discipline. So, aren’t we all pretty much doing the same job at the same place? To what extent can differences that are so stable by discipline be justified?
I also can’t help but notice that those are pretty good salaries, relative to many salaries. These kinds of reports should be delivered, I’ve always thought, along with some data on U.S. median household income and income distribution. Are sociologists paid less than faculty in other disciplines? Yes, many are. Are sociologists and other faculty paid less than similarly educated professionals? Yes, many are. What do faculty salaries look like relative to administrator salaries? Are faculty, on average, paid well relative to the U.S. income distribution? Yes, many are. It seems to me that reports of salaries must always be interpreted relative to inequality within the profession, and in the economy as a whole. This approach, I’d argue, allows us to take seriously other work related issues like inequality in faculty job access (adjuncts, tenure track lines, professors of practice), job stability (who gets tenure?), and pay by gender, race, age, etc. Further, it allows us to think about how our economy as a whole values the work we do, as well as how it values other kinds of work. I think those are more interesting and important questions.
What do you think?
Yesterday at Le Moyne we had a discussion about uses of Twitter in academic work. We focused primarily on how it might be used for teaching, but talked a little bit about how it might allow professors and students to be part of a larger research and professional community, beyond the college. I’d say our conversation was skeptically received by most of those in attendance, but then again they were in the room on what was by far the most beautiful Friday afternoon of the semester.
My colleague Lara Deruisseau, a bio prof here at Le Moyne, made a very interesting point about Twitter and community. I had commented about how Twitter might help us overcome the tyranny of small departments at liberal arts colleges by connecting to professionals all over the planet. Lara, however, drew our attention to the fact that, over the last year, several of us have come to know our Le Moyne colleagues from various departments and offices on campus much better because of our Twitter interaction. These web networks have enhanced our local community in important and powerful ways. Our increased collaboration will certainly have (postive) effects on our curricula and pedagogies.
This strikes me as excellent confirmation of claims about the place of computer networks in daily life. I’m reminded specifically of work by Barry Wellman like this essay about computer networks as social networks (notice the date – he was on this early!) or this one about person-to-person communities. In particular, something that is exciting is that networks like Twitter make it possible for communication at the college level to be professor-to-professor rather than department to department, or, more cynically, professor-to-department-chair-dean-chair-department-to-professor. Especially in the context of increased administrative and procedural layers, Twitter might be seen as a place where faculty collaboration/inspiration can happen person to person.
I’ve been teaching at Le Moyne since the fall of 2005. Minus one semester of sabbatical, that’s 15 semesters. If you count the recent Boston Bombings, I have led spontaneous sociological/criminological reflections on mass killings (usually shootings) that occurred during 10 of those 15 semesters. If you count conversation about Jared Loughner’s crime which happened immediately prior to the spring 2011 semester, then it’s 11 of 15 semesters. Most of those conversations were only a few minutes long because the shootings didn’t capture national attention like some others. Some semesters had more than one, or shootings which animated, unplanned conversations taking up an entire class. I recall that our conversations about Nidal Malik Hasan‘s shooting at Fort Hood lent itself to applying ideas we’d been discussing in Sociology of Religion, and that Seung-Hui Cho’s Virginia Tech shooting was particularly frightening for college students. I also note that we barely talked at all about Kurt Myers’ Herkimer shooting that took place just 70 or so miles from here, and that the ambush of firefighters in Webster (just 70 or so miles the other direction) happened in between semesters.
My approach to these discussions is usually to tell the students that they are educated adults and have a responsibility to think carefully about these events. I’ll tell them I don’t have any clear answers, but that together we can think of the right questions to consider if we want to achieve some understanding, and maybe work with others to end these sad events. They sometimes go a little like this post of mine after Newtown, CT. Tomorrow I’ll lead a less spontaneous, but hastily planned discussion about Boston. We’ll start the conversation with this essay comparing the bombings there with other crimes like Columbine. Maybe next time there is a mass shooting to talk about I’ll use this from the The Chronicle. But, I hope not because no matter how powerful these classroom experiences can sometimes be, I don’t want to continue having these spontaneous discussions.
Edit (4/25/2013): Add this to our discussion of Boston. A danger of the spontaneous conversations is the relatively high likelihood of ignoring the context of the high profile shootings, which includes our violent, racist, xenophobic, American culture.
Student Suggested Readings
I’m a man who is quite regularly mistaken for a woman. It has been happening for years, it happens every six months or so, and it happened again just last Friday at the dining hall here at Le Moyne as a female colleague and I paid for our lunch. The cashier was a bit occupied and, seeing the two of us approach said, “I’ll be right there ladies.” She noticed and said sorry; we paid and went on our way. My sociologist colleague and I threw around some possible reasons that I’m so regularly confusing: I’m short; my hair is curly to the point it’s a natural perm; I was with a woman and the cashier saw her first. I don’t recall the first time it happened and I’d guess it probably bothered me, but it happens enough now that when somebody does it I often turn into a field sociologist and ask them why they thought I was a woman. Nobody ever gives a very clear answer, and almost everybody is fairly flustered by their called out sex miscategorization. I may never know why this happens, but it makes me think about some fun sociological questions too: How does it affect the interaction? Why do people say sorry? Can I learn anything about gender identity in daily life?
Are professional athletes paid too much? It’s pretty common to claim that’s the case, and here is a fairly standard example of the claim from Edward McClelland in today’s Slate. However, maybe the athletes aren’t overpaid, but are rather paid fairly relative to the wealth their labor helps produce for others. Here’s a good example of this argument from baseball writer Craig Calcaterra, which was a direct response to the ‘overpaid’ Slate essay. This is a fun debate to explore in discussions of social inequality. When I teach social inequality, I use this debate to focus in on how we, as a society, determine the value of work. Do we let the free market sort it out and trust that those getting paid the most are most deserving according to its logic? The classic functionalist explanation of economic inequality is that those who get paid the most must be doing the most important things. So, high pay indicates high social value. This explanation has been rightly debunked because it’s easy to point out many inefficiencies and counter examples that demonstrate that our meritocracy doesn’t really work very well. Calcaterra rightly points out these critiques when he writes:
Today I was sitting in a sandwich shop. Yes, it was Subway. I eat there almost as much as Jared. I chose a small table near the door because I was just one person and didn’t think I should take a booth, even though the table was so small it made it hard for me to do the reading I planned on. Perhaps this is why I ended up watching people as they entered more than I read. I’ve always been interested in ‘door opening’ behavior, and today I saw an interaction that got me thinking about obedience to civility norms and how they directly coerce our embodied behavior.
Outside, a male/female couple with a baby carrier approached the door from the right, while a lone man approached from the left. The man got to the door an instant before the female member of the couple, and opened the door from left to right so that she was now effectively behind it. Noticing the woman, the lone man stepped close to the door, standing inside it but not going into the shop. He held the door so the woman and the man could enter before him. He was, however, in the way so that the man and woman had to adjust their path to get around him. He was, at once, being polite and standing in the way. It was a polite, but awkward exchange.
The lone man could have very easily walked through the door he had opened, and the woman could have reached out and held it while waiting to go through. They had both taken straight line paths to door up until their meeting, being very efficient about entering. But, once they were at the door, the paths became less efficient in the service of civility. Not to mention that the lone man lost the spot in the sandwich line to which he had a justifiable claim. He got there first, after all. Now, the cost of his civility was being in the way, and being 2 further spots away from his 11 inch ‘foot-long’ sub.
The sketch below illustrates what I saw. A,B are the couple, and C is the lone man. Straight lines indicate ‘efficient’ paths, and curved lines indicate walking around an obstacle (in this case the door, and the polite, lone man).
Thanks to Todd Schoepflin for taking the initiative to get a conversation started about Twitter. We don’t really know what this collaboration will lead to, but hopefully something that contributes to sociological understanding of Twitter and other forms of social media, but really interaction more generally. Todd posted this over at his blog as a way to summarize our initial conversations.
Fresh off that interview, I posed a question about why people use Twitter, via Tweet a few nights ago, and @DrJasonCrockett and @socsavvy responded with some very interesting comments.
There are few things more upsetting to sociologists than poorly used survey data. It’s frustrating to see data interpreted without any context or consideration of how the survey method might affect results. A very serious example of this is evident in the ‘Regnerus Affair.’ The bigger parts of the story are certainly questions about the review process, Regnerus’ relationship with the project’s funder, and the political implications of the work being published. But, I’d guess most sociologists who read the piece after it was published reacted initially to the study’s just plain bad operationalization of ‘same sex families’ and the uncritical thinking about the causal relationship between family socialization and children’s outcomes. That measurement of same sex families wouldn’t have passed my undergrad Methods course, and it got published in a respected journal.
What does it mean to be a diverse congregation? Most congregations aren’t very diverse, meaning the vast majority of American places of worship tend to be mostly folks of one race. For example, Emerson and Kim report that 90% of U.S. congregations are at least 90% one racial group (2003: 217). They define a multiracial congregation as one in which no racial group makes up more than 80% of the membership, and find that less than 8% of U.S. congregations meet that standard. Yes, those data are a little old, but I’d be surprised if it has changed very much.
Over the last 5 years, or so, I’ve been paying attention to significant changes taking place in the Catholic diocese of Syracuse. Because of a lack of priests, the diocese has closed a relatively large number of parishes. One of the parishes that was closed was considered by many in the city to be the ‘Black Catholic Parish.’ The data I have on this parish, qualitative and quantitative, show that to be a semi-reasonable claim. Its members were more likely to be African American than at other parishes, and it probably did meet Emerson and Kim’s criterion for diversity. When I interviewed white people, they certainly thought of it as a ‘Black Parish,’ and they valued that diversity. African Americans I interviewed also valued the diversity of the place, but they were less likely to think of it as explicitly ‘black.’ They would point out that it wasn’t just a white and black place, but that there were other people of color there too. Not to mention worshipers from a variety of class situations.
When this parish closed as part of the changes in the diocese, it merged with a parish that was relatively progressive and considered by Catholics of color to be a welcoming place. But, it was a very white parish, and wouldn’t have qualified as diverse according to Emerson and Kim. It was definitely not as ‘multicultural’ as the closed parish, and this is confirmed with interviews I did with people who attended there after the merger. The merger, importantly, created a new place of worship inside the building of the mostly white parish. Some from the former ‘black’ parish said the new place was diverse because they brought that diversity with them. To them, the ‘diversity’ was the same faces from their old parish, and still they weren’t all African American. For the worshipers who didn’t have to go anywhere for the merger, this new community was “definitely” more diverse.
The new place is diverse according to the measure developed by Emerson and Kim, but the experience of that diversity is not the same for everybody. For some it was new, and an adjustment. For others it was much the same as before, but not exactly. Besides having moved to a new building, there was the fact that in the old parish they were simply being Catholic, but now, to some extent, they were ‘the diversity.’
Emerson, Michael O. and Karen Chai Kim. 2003. “Multiracial Congregations: An Analysis of Their Development and a Typology.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 42(2):217-227.