301 posts categorized "Behind the Headlines"

June 18, 2018

Higher Education and Goal Displacement

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

My educational institution has recently been in the news after a series of scandals led to calls for the university’s president to resign. Concern had been growing among students, faculty, staff, and alumni, that the president’s leadership style focused more on hiding bad news in order to protect the university’s image in the quest of fundraising.

These scandals included a medical school dean who used drugs with young addicts, apparently on university property in some cases, and being present when one young woman overdosed. The person initially appointed to replace this dean had been found guilty of sexual harassment during a previous university investigation. Most recently, a student health center gynecologist has been accused of inappropriate photographing, touching and making sexual comments to hundreds of students during pelvic exams over the span of nearly three decades.

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June 11, 2018

Movin’ on up and Movin’ on Home: Millennials Returning Home

12_01446By Angelique Harris

Graduation season has just passed, and many new graduates are faced with a series of important life changing decisions. In addition to starting new careers and/or continuing on with their education, most also have to figure out where they are going to live.

Very few new high school and college graduates are in the position to, or even want to, move out on their own. Some return home to their families, while others have simply never left home. Young adults make the decision to return home for a variety of reasons, typically either financial (as they want to save some money), cultural (as some groups expect adult children to live at home until they are married), or to provide some sort of help or support to family members who might be ill.

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May 28, 2018

Villains, Victims, and Verstehen

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

I studied drama as an undergraduate, and in one class I remember learning about playing villains. No one sees him or herself as a villain, we learned, and the person portraying such a character should figure out their motivation. Does the character feel like they have been wronged and are thus justified in seeking revenge? Do they feel passionate about a cause that the other characters view differently? Every character—and most people—views themselves as good, maybe even heroic sometimes, and this is no different for roles that appear to be obvious villains.

Likewise, social scientists are very interested in learning more about people’s perceptions of the world around them. Max Weber, one of the key thinkers in sociology, noted the importance of verstehen, or understanding the people we study.

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May 10, 2018

Social Change and Your Next Step

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Graduation is always an exciting time for students and their families. It can also be a stressful time, as graduates sometimes struggle to figure out what's next. Commencement speeches provide soaring rhetoric about “following your dreams” and how you are the leaders of the future.

As a young graduate, I found these kinds of speeches to be pretty pointless (and sometimes boring). For someone trying to figure out “what they want to be when they grow up,” these motivational speeches—and often graduation gifts in the form of motivational books for the graduate—offer little useful advice.

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March 26, 2018

Hurricane Maria and U.S. Failure

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

In September 2017, the Caribbean and southeastern parts of the United States experienced two devastating hurricanes: Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

Hurricane Irma – a category 5 storm with winds upwards of 175 mph – caused physical destruction, flooding, and loss of life (~134 total) throughout Barbuda (95% destruction), Puerto Rico (1 million without electricity), Florida (6.5 million homes without electricity), and elsewhere.

Two weeks later, on September 20, Hurricane Maria – a category 4 storm with winds of 150 mph – followed a similar trajectory through the Caribbean. Already reeling from the effects of Irma, Maria further devastated Puerto Rico, where it made landfall; the majority of phone lines (cell and landlines) and internet communication was down (85% inoperable), the agricultural sector was destroyed, 230,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, and the Guajataca Dam, holding 11-billion gallons of water, failed. In addition, the entire island lost power.

The U.S. government’s limited and slow response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico highlight the second-class status of commonwealth entities. Although U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans have limited access to the rights of citizenship.

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March 23, 2018

It’s About Power, Not Privilege

Peter kaufman 2014 Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman and Todd Schoepflin

If you can’t tell by our profile pictures, we are both white male sociologists. We are also upper middle class, able-bodied, and heterosexual. With the exception of one of us being Jewish and the other being short (5’ 4”), we have enjoyed many privileges and advantages throughout our lives.

For the past few months, we have been closely following the #MeToo movement. It is clear that what started as a simple social media hashtag has blossomed into a potential bellwether of the changing gender landscape. We both feel strongly that sociologists should be lending their analytical insights to help understand and advance the efforts for gender equality. But what is the role for sociologists like us who approach the world though multiple positions of power and privilege? Should we weigh in and risk sounding clueless or stay quiet so that we can listen and learn from others?

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February 23, 2018

2018 Oscar Watch: Diversity in Hollywood

12_01446By Angelique Harris

The Academy Awards are one of the most revered of the award shows in Hollywood. Although the lack of diversity in who receives nominations and awards has been called into question various times in the past, there was little traction until 2015, when the #OscarsSoWhite movement was born.

The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was created on Twitter by April Reign, the managing editor of BroadwayBlack.com, when the Oscar announcements were made and there were no contenders of color for best acting categories. In fact, adding fuel to the fire, even in films with Black leads, such as Creed and Straight Outta Compton, those nominated for Oscars (Sylvester Stallone for best supporting actor and Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff for screenwriting, respectively) were White. After this glaring lack of diversity, the same thing happened the following year, with no best actor nominees of color. As a result, many celebrities boycotted the event, such as Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Will Smith, who refused to attend while many others, including President Obama, spoke publically about this issue.

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February 19, 2018

What Would You Do?

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

Consider the following scenario: You are in a clothing store shopping for a new outfit. As you are browsing through the selections you notice that a black female customer is being targeted unfairly by a sales clerk. Instead of allowing this customer to shop freely as you are, the sales clerk is following her around, constantly asking her what she wants, making obnoxious comments to her, and eventually telling her that she should leave the store.

What would you do? Would you say something to the sales clerk or seek out a manager to complain? Would you say something to support the customer and voice your concern over the way she is being treated? Or would you continue on with your business and pretend to ignore the interaction you just witnessed?

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January 22, 2018

The Malfunction Heard Around the World: Cultural Appropriation, White Privilege, and Misogynoir

12_01446By Angelique Harris

Many college-aged students are too young to remember Super Bowl XXXIX. In fact, I doubt few people even remember the fact that the New England Patriots played the Carolina Panthers in this game (actually, no, maybe a lot of people know this). Nevertheless, it’s likely that this was one of the few Super Bowl games where the halftime show drew attention away from the game.

This was the game where the terms “wardrobe malfunction” and “nipplegate” entered into our popular cultural lexicon. I am not a huge sports fan, so back in grad school, when I was invited to my friend's Super Bowl party, I only went for the free food and to see Janet Jackson perform at the halftime show (these were the days before YouTube and readily available DVRs). Also, having grown up in a family that didn’t watch sports, I was actually looking forward to attending my first Super Bowl party and partaking in this uniquely American tradition.

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December 25, 2017

How Sociology Can Save the World

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

The title of this post comes from the name of a Lifelong Learning Institute class I taught recently. Lifelong Learning Institutes exit throughout the United States offering non-credit courses for adults 55 years and older. The class I volunteered to teach met once a week for four weeks. Here was the description of the course:

How Sociology Can Save the World: Let's face it: The world is pretty screwed up! The gap between the haves and the have-nots is skyrocketing, the earth is imperiled by human-caused climate change, and various acts of intolerance seem to be on the rise in many countries. Although there is no quick and easy remedy to all of the world's ills, we can take steps individually and collectively to get us back on track. In this class we will consider four sociological concepts that, if they were more widely understood and applied, could address many of the problems that threaten our collective existence. Each week, short readings that center around one of the four sociological concepts will be assigned.

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