Cardinal Dolan at Le Moyne: sociological reflections (not culture war material, sorry)

Le Moyne College has made the news recently because we have invited Timothy Cardinal Dolan to be our commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree. A group of students started a petition to disinvite Dolan because of his role in the Church’s response the child sex abuse scandal and because of statements he’s made about same sex relationships.

I was interviewed a few times by different journalists, but my comments weren’t used –I’d guess because I didn’t really have anything controversial to say. I didn’t sign the petition, and except for rather limited contact with just a few students who have signed the petition or are involved in various forms of protest, I haven’t really been involved. I’ll wear a rainbow sash during Sunday’s commencement ceremony, as will several other faculty members. When Cardinal Dolan speaks, I’ll probably be just as uninterested as I ever am in commencement speakers.

Probably the biggest media splash was yesterday when two representatives of Le Moyne, our president Dr. Linda LeMura, and director of mission and identity, Fr. David McCallum chose to appear on Fox & Friends to discuss the ‘controversy.’ Honestly, I was under the impression things had mostly died down here on campus. Yes, there is some slight civil disobedience planned for Sunday, but the man is speaking and I’ll be very surprised if any Le Moyne students engage in disruptive protest.

Fox News, and in particular Fox & Friends, make their money by stoking the culture war (also see this silly piece in National Review Online). To hear the segment from the morning ‘news’ show, you’d think ‘leftist, secularist’ students were flipping the pope mobile. On the contrary, this is the most active protest having to do with religious issues I’ve seen in my 10 years here, and it’s decidedly civil and reasonable. There are good reasons to be upset that Le Moyne has invited Fr. Dolan (apparently an invitation offered by our Eric Dolphy loving past president), just as there are good reasons to invite the Archbishop of New York to be the speaker at Jesuit Le Moyne College (this is why I didn’t sign the petition, defensible choice or not).

Because I’m a sociologist of religion, however, this is certainly an opportunity to think about the sociological meaning of the protest on our campus.

Le Moyne got more Catholic after we moved to lay presidents. It’s a case study in the processes of secularization and resacralization. With Jesuit presidents, we just were Catholic. It was more difficult for outsiders to question it. Now it’s easier to question, so it has be demonstrated more overtly. We got our first director of mission and identity, and we are increasingly offered opportunities to explore our Ignation heritage.

However, were I to guess, I think our student body follows the general trends of their generation in terms of religiosity. When I ask, as I regularly do, students rarely say they’ve come because the school is Catholic, and less because it is Jesuit. Many seniors barely know what a Jesuit is, and I think we see that as more of a problem now than we used to. There is probably a selection effect as I teach social science electives, and I’d not be surprised if more religious students avoid me because of my relatively outspoken attitudes about atheism. But, I don’t think there is much self-organized religious activism on campus, orthodox or progressive. The Dolan reaction is the most I recall in my time here. I’m sure there is support, but it’s not organized like the opposition. I think that is indicative of the general apathy about religious issues on campus. The Dolan protest isn’t about Catholicism, per se. It’s more about sexuality and sexual assault, issues common across college campuses, Catholic or not.

Drone police and instant replay justice

As yet another video of a police officer murdering a black man makes its way through the media, we are again hearing calls for officers to wear body cameras. It’s not certain that body cameras would make much difference in police behavior. Nonetheless, cameras on cops all across the country opens up a number of exciting possibilities.

Here are some ideas.

Police departments need revenue – sometimes they’ll stop and fine you just to pay the bills. That’s patently unfair, and not very entertaining. Why not affix a camera to every officer and live-stream the feed over the police department website? Charge a few bucks a month for access, and put the long running tv show Cops right out of business. Violence voyeurs everywhere will sign up for Gold Subscriptions that include exclusive access to the racist jokes making their way around the local police department.

Americans love instant replay almost as much as reality TV. Who doesn’t like an X-Mo replay of a great diving catch, or viral video replays of police brutality? But, why not use the replay technology to make sure everybody gets a fair shot at justice? Pop a camera on every police officer in America, give every citizen 2 ‘challenges,’ and set up a Police Replay Operations Center in Times Square. Whenever a citizen feels unjustly treated by an officer of the law they can use one of their remaining challenges. The Police Operations Replay Operations Center will spring into action, carefully evaluating all available video angles to make sure the police officer made the right call. Broadcast the replays on a mega-sized video board in the town square so citizens can deliberate the case as well. Rationality will deliver indisputable justice. (To be fair, however, people of color should probably be allowed more challenges).

I can’t help but think that the Police Operations Video Operations Center could be put to better use than a clunky replay system that disrupts the flow of police work. Why not let the folks at the monitors play an active role in protecting and serving? In fact, police work can be dangerous for cops out on the streets, so why not use the technology to remove the cop from the beat where things can get out of hand quickly, while also giving them the eyes and force needed to control any situation? It works for the military, and police forces all around the country are using military grade resources. Yes, drone cops is clearly the way to go. Remote controlled, camera equipped, fully armed drone cops will ensure the safety of the police while delivering swift, reviewable, streamable, profitable justice.

Research Methods Resources: quantitative analysis

Here at Le Moyne I regularly teach a research methods course that serves criminology, sociology, and political science students. It is a survey course, by which I mean I cover a broad range of topics. I typically start with the epistemology of the social sciences, move into research design issues like measurement and connecting empirical work to theory, and then spend the second half of the semester focusing on specific analysis procedures. The course covers both quantitative and qualitative methods, so very little time is allowed for each.

I spend about 3 weeks on quantitative methods, hoping that by the end students are relatively comfortable with understanding and producing descriptive statistics, crosstabs, t-tests, correlations, and regressions. This year I covered logistic regression in more detail than normal. It’s a lot to cover in that time, so over the years I’ve created some handouts meant to help students do the work we have limited class time to practice.

I’m going to put two handouts here. One is meant to help students work in SPSS to do some basic quantitative analysis. The other is meant to walk them through using the SDA resource from Berkeley. One year I taught SDA exclusively because it’s free and gives students access to some high quality data with lots of social science applications.

I offer these resources ‘as is,’ and am confident that there are mistakes – I catch some every year and surely make more as I expand them. It’d be great if others found these useful, and I’ll only be reasonably embarrassed if you point out errors I’ve made (hopefully nothing super-serious!).

SPSS handout (MS Word)

Brief.SPSS.Guide.2015

SDA handout

SDA.Handout (MS Word)

The Pheminist Manifesto

Over the last several months at Le Moyne, a group of student activists have come together to protest sexism and gender injustice. They call themselves ‘Pheminists’ (our mascot here at Le Moyne is the Dolphin). They have written a declaration of intent they call the Pheminist Manifesto, and have asked that I make it available for sharing here here on my blog.

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The Pheminist Manifesto: A declaration of Intent

We, the feminists of Le Moyne College, declare our intention to make issues of sexism and gender injustice a priority. We pledge to educate our community, bring awareness to gender injustices both on campus and off, and push for change at Le Moyne College as long as gender injustices continue.

We believe each woman has the right to dictate any decisions involving her body, her education, her career, her spirituality, her beliefs, her family and her overall quality of life. Every woman has the human right to a life free from patriarchal, paternalistic coercion.

Our particular brand of feminism is inclusive and intersectional. Women of all ethnicities,  all faiths, all ideologies, all sexualities, all bodies, and all gender expressions have a place among us.

Men also have a place among us; we welcome men who regard women as equals. Male feminists are a testament that toxic and hegemonic masculinity can be resisted, and its subversion should be celebrated and encouraged. We reject the notion that feminism is, or ever has been, synonymous with “man-hating.” However, we must remember that the scars etched by the patriarchy are deepest in women and non-male and/or non-conforming gender identities, and that is where we focus our energies.

As educated individuals for and with others, we pledge to recognize our privileged status, and use it to raise campus and community consciousness about sexism, including the ways in which it intersects with racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism and all forms of oppression.

We pledge to cultivate a safe community free from shaming of any kind. We encourage questions and conversation. We acknowledge our individual experiences and we pledge to support and empower all women. We are feminists working together towards the transcendence of gender injustice. This is our pledge as ’Phins for Pheminism.
The Le Moyne Pheminists

Artists and Alienation: Everyday Marxism at Subway

I eat at Subway, a lot. Probably more than any self-respecting person should. In fact, including this post, my blog has a bit of a Subway Series going on here and here. Maybe I should write a book on the sociology of Subway.

The Subway I go to most often requires its employees to shout ‘Welcome to Subway!’ whenever someone walks through the door. Other places do this as well – i.e. “Welcome to Moe’s!” I don’t find it particularly welcoming to be shouted at by strangers when I walk through doors. Does anyone ever shout back – “Oh my! It’s so nice to see you all today!” That would be weird. But, more than not feeling welcomed, it makes me feel guilty about imposing on these low wage workers making sandwiches on command for strangers all day. (I mean, not so guilty that I don’t eat there twice a week and load my card with points.)

A couple of months ago I was at a different Subway than my usual spot, but they still do the Welcome to Subway Shout – standardized welcoming is heartwarming. This day, however, it was less a shout and much more of a ‘dumb things I gotta do today mumble.’ I totally get that – no offense taken. In fact, I’ve often thought that ‘Subway sandwich maker’ has got to be one of the most alienating jobs available. These folks are making products that they immediately give away to their boss of the moment. They make the sandwich, someone else eats the sandwich – all day long. Not only do they immediately lose the product of their labor to someone else, they have to experience alienation from customers who often make really odd demands for sandwiches (i.e. “cut the bread the old way”). Customers are the sandwich exploiters of these Sandwich laborers – or as they are known in the industry: Sandwich Artists.

Yes, Corporate Subway calls these folks Sandwich Artists. This has to be as ironic an employee moniker as there is – it’s much worse than Wal-Mart’s ‘associates.’ There is nothing artistic about using predetermined ingredients, in required amounts, at the command of strangers walking through the door. This is not craft nor creativity, but rather carefully monitored capitalist production.

Here is a screenshot from Subway Corporate describing the position of Sandwich Artist:

Sandwich Artists report to Management.

Sandwich Artists report to Management.

Notice the happy Sandwich Artist who ‘Reports to: Management.’ I’d guess this isn’t the same as an artist working for a patron. These are well managed artists, as we can see in the position’s Tasks and Responsibilities which include exhibiting “a cheerful and helpful manner while greeting guests and preparing their orders” and preparing “food neatly, according to formula, and in a timely manner.” These artists are paid for emotional labor and following a formula. Smiling and painting by numbers isn’t how I think of artists! That said, some members of the Subway Family are very fast – and, like any strong, artistically inclined family, Subway celebrates their efficiency.

Once at my favorite little corner Subway, I was chatting with a Sandwich Artist I’d come to know a little bit. She’d start my Veggie Delite before I ordered it. Yes, there was a sense of friendship here, not alienation. As we worked our way down the sandwich assembly line she mentioned she’d just given her two weeks and was leaving without a new job yet acquired. I said, ‘oh, that’s too bad, why are you leaving?.’ She gave me the most obvious look one could give, and said “It’s Subway.”

Yep. It’s Subway. Home of the alienated artist.

Teaching Weber’s concepts of Class and Status with The Washington Post and Todd Snider

Here’s an article that would be useful for a range of sociology and political science courses (What is the ‘Middle Class’? It depends who’s using the term, and why). I could see using it in a social theory course, a social inequality class, or the public opinion seminar I’m teaching this semester.

For Social Inequality, I’d use it early in the semester when I’m providing an overview of income and wealth distributions in the U.S. One of the things I’ve learned teaching inequality over the years is that students really don’t have a working knowledge of the income distribution and where they or their families fall in the spread. Many of the students I teach are relatively privileged, and don’t seem to understand it. This partly because even the relatively privileged stress over paying for the American Dream. The article illustrates both of these issues quite well.

In Public Opinion I’d use it to illustrate good use of public opinion data and to show how public opinion often doesn’t match very well with other sorts of data. I’d use it to start a conversation about why that’s the case.

In Social Theory I’d use it when I was teaching Weber’s “Class, Status, Party.” In this case I’d use it not because it’s a good example, but to demonstrate why Weber thought it was important to distinguish class and status. Read this paragraph:

The problem with that emerges immediately. In New York County, N.Y — that is, Manhattan — the median household income in 2013 was almost $69,659. In Tuscaloosa County, Ala., the median was $45,408. That’s a function, among other things, of cost of living differences. But someone making $55,000 in Alabama is above average. Making that in New York, below. The status conferred by income is relative.

Do you see what I see? The author starts by making a good point about how cost of living differences across the U.S make national numbers somewhat misleading at the local level. But, that last sentence conflates class and status. When I look at cost of living differences I read those as indicators of how the distribution of material goods works in a place. An income of $45,000 in Tuscaloosa County, Ala. is going to allow a relatively decent standard of material living, while that’s much less likely in Manhattan. But, in Weber’s analysis, that’s not a perfect predictor of status – the esteem granted to you by others. You can have low income and high status, so the author shouldn’t have equated the two.

Of course, Weber tells us class and status are often closely related to one another, but seeing how the two are different helps us better understand the complexity of social life. I might then move the conversation to a discussion of the status of a Manhattan banker in Manhattan and Tuscaloosa. One can imagine ways the ‘banker’ might have different statuses in the two places, even with the same income. Maybe I’d use Todd Snider’s song “New York Banker” to make the point with a little soulful humor.

Dry Lake – SoundCloud

My computer crashed! Can’t do syllabi, so I did this:

Listen to Dry Lake by opiatesofsilicon #np on #SoundCloud

Some day I want to write about music making. Maybe soon.

I’m not your boss, sir: service worker small talk as class warfare?

One of my least favorite social interactions is when service workers, often waitstaff, use ‘terms of endearment.’ You know, “what can I get you, hon?” or “there you go, boss.” It makes me uncomfortable. I say service workers because these are the interactions in which I notice it, but surely it happens elsewhere too. Quite frankly, terms of endearment from just about anyone make me uncomfortable, so it may just be that I’m atypically socially distant (I’d buy that). Maybe, but I think there are social patterns here to be considered

First, the phenomenon appears gendered. I’ve never noticed a male waiter call me ‘hon’ or ‘sweetie,’ and I don’t recall a lot of female service workers calling me ‘boss.’ Service workers have an opportunity to do some fun breaching experiments here. I imagine most folks wouldn’t notice if a female worker called them ‘boss,’ but I imagine nearly every male would notice if a male worker called him ‘sweetie.’  Having read about ‘everyday sexism‘, I’d guess women hear a lot more of this sort of small talk than do men, from both women and men. Women are probably uncomfortably called ‘sweetie’ all the time, by everyone. Do male workers call female customers ‘boss’?

Second, why do I find it so uncomfortable? I think the language is too intimate for what are nearly always fleeting relationships in the context of economic transactions. While I’ve never said it, I always think “I’m not your hon,” or “I’m not your boss”  Maybe Donald Black’s theory of Moral Time could help me understand a bit of it. Is the conflict I feel a result of ‘over intimacy?’ That seems reasonable for ‘hon’ and ‘sweetie’ and the like, but maybe not for ‘boss.’ I find ‘boss’ harder to take. I always hear with it a bit of disdain. Maybe it’s a small shot at the inequality of the service relationship? Maybe in this context ‘boss’ is meant to draw attention to the fact that work is being done, for me, by someone who is likely underpaid and under appreciated. Maybe it’s a subtle critique of class privilege? Maybe it’s the expression of completely internalized capitalistic social relations?

Why I Prefer Todd Schoepflin’s perspective to Orlando Patterson’s

My friend and colleague Todd Schoepflin tweeted earlier today about having enough points on a ‘sub card’ to get a free sub. It’s an exciting moment. I’ve been there, and that sub really does taste better. It’s revealing about the value of money and food, I’d argue, and how emotions and physiological experiences are context dependent. I might be over interpreting that, fine, but there is certainly room for an interesting sociological analysis of sandwich transactions.

Todd later made a somewhat self deprecating tweet about ‘tweeting the mundane.’ I think sociologists can and should say revealing things about the mundane. Most of every life is mostly mundane. It is the routines of the mundane that makes sociology possible in the first place, and it’s a part of human life that I think sociologists have a unique opportunity and skill set to explore. I believe this even in light of the recent conversation on my social media sources about Orlando Patterson’s complaint that sociologists have made themselves irrelevant. First, I’d ask irrelevant to what? Next, I’d say I just don’t think it’s true that we’ve ‘made ourselves’ irrelevant. I think it’s at least as reasonable to argue we’ve been ignored and demonized by policy makers for doing exactly what we should be doing – questioning the ideologies of the powerful.

Yes, sociologists should make their work available to policy makers and do everything we can to affect change through such channels. I know several sociologists who do this very well without finding the limelight or writing Piketty-esque books. But it would be a shame if our collective effort was aimed at becoming part of the power-elite at the expense of paying close attention to how and why folks buy subs, make subs as employment, sit in traffic, parent in public, fall in love, manage the work/life balance, and all the million other mundane things most of us do most of the time.

Banned Essay: You’re Probably a Pheminist

The following essay was written by Le Moyne Peace and Global Studies/Political Science double major Kailey McDonald. She submitted it to the Le Moyne student newspaper, The Dolphin, and the student run paper refused to print it. So, I’m sharing it here.

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You’re probably a Pheminist

By Kailey McDonald ‘15

GUEST WRITER

“I support equality and everything, but I’m not a Feminist because…” WAIT. Stop right there. You actually are a feminist. I understand the confusion, though. Feminism has a lot of reincarnations, and the most well known is the man-hating, bra-burning warrior queen. To be fair, that Feminist is still pretty darn badass.

It takes an incredible amount of courage to speak out against the mainstream the way our foremothers did, and some pretty hefty ovaries to burn a 50 dollar bra [the sheer amount of cereal and PB&J that money could’ve bought is staggering]. But I’m a feminist, and I love men. I love my bras. I don’t feel any particular desire to burn them either.

So what does it mean to be a feminist?

The answer is pretty complicated. There are different types of feminism, and people wield their feminism in many different ways. But my feminism is about gender justice for every type of human, and plain old justice in general.

Maybe this is the fourth-wave of feminism, this “I’m not a feminist, I’m an equalist” rhetoric popular amongst the youngin’s these days [but let’s stick with the term feminist, I’d like to honor our foremothers’ courage with their coined term].  We’re moving away from the exclusive women-only feminist model popular in the 70s towards something new, something that has a place for every person burning for gender justice.

Millennial feminism can’t and won’t hate men, because it’s not [millennial] feminism if it’s exclusive. We cannot ignore the feminists that do not fit the middle-to-upper class white cis-women mold, the way they were excluded from the movement in the past. We cannot exclude anyone, because it’s not justice if it’s not for all.  This is my feminism, and my pledge.

We will not skinny-shame, fat-shame or slut-shame. We will not tell you that you cannot be a stay-at-home mother or father. We will not tell you that you can’t wear makeup, or must work full-time, or any of the other things you think feminism will tell you.

What feminism will tell you is that you alone can make the decisions that regard your future, your education, your body, your clothes, your makeup, your sexuality and all of the other decisions we make in our lives, whether you are a man, a woman, or identify as neither. These are basic rights that belong inherently to every human being, and I am here as a feminist to fight for them.

Chances are you want to support human rights for everyone. You like the idea of justice for all, and maybe you don’t know what gender justice is but it sounds pretty damn awesome. Chances are, you are a feminist. And there’s nothing negative or shameful about it! Let’s celebrate our feminism! I say we all get loud and proud. Let’s  make Le Moyne the cultural center of a movement. Let’s reclaim feminism, and make it the feminism we want it to be. If you’re “not a feminist, but…,” why don’t you join me, and take all of those absolutely dreadful things you hate about “feminism” and throw them out the window. Ixnay on the bra-burning for now [though I repeat, pretty bad ass]. Let’s brand it as something all Dolphins stand for. Let’s make feminism ours.

Let’s stand up as ‘Phins for Pheminism.