By Jonathan Wynn
Last year I wrote about pranks and I have received several phone calls over the last two weeks from sports radio folks wanting me to talk about the alarming story coming out of the Miami Dolphins football team. These talk radio guys seem to want to know: “Isn’t a prank just a prank?” The answer has to do with power, institutions, masculinity in sports and, in this case, race.
Continue reading "The Sociology of Harassment " »
By Peter Kaufman
A few weeks ago there was a racist incident on my
campus. In one of the resident halls, a message was written on a whiteboard
that said, “Emmett Till Deserved to Die.” After the message was removed a new
message appeared shortly thereafter that said, “You Can’t Erase the Truth.”
Unless you know the story of Emmett Till, you are probably unaware of how hateful and threatening
this racist message is. For those who didn’t learn this story in history class
(which is probably most of us), Emmett Till was
fourteen years old when he was kidnapped and brutally murdered in
Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly talking to a white woman.
Continue reading "Racism on College Campuses" »
Sociology courses and concepts are not just for people
looking to become sociologists. I
wrote about the diversity of the sociology major recently, and mentioned
that journalists and even novelists can benefit from a degree in sociology. How
can storytellers enhance their skills by learning about sociology?
Continue reading "Sociology for Storytellers" »
By Jonathan Wynn
Having taught at a few different
colleges and universities, I’ve had students who knew the real struggles of
living in poverty and near poverty. But for every one of those students, there
have been hundreds more who were unfamiliar with the anxieties of everyday
economic uncertainty. Poverty is a hard
thing to teach about—both the very macro-level issues to the more personal,
blog post last year on McDonald’s was an invitation to think about work and
compensation at a global scale (on The Big Mac Index) recent news offers us a chance to connect the dots between the big
headlines of the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act, news on new campaigns
against low wage pay for fast food work, and those everyday economic hardships.
In all the talk about the Affordable Care Act, I’ve seen too much about broken
websites and not enough about those unemployed and low-wage workers who need
Continue reading "Big Corporations and Big Social Programs " »
One of the most challenging aspects to learning about social structure is
that it is often difficult to see the ways that social institutions shape our
lives. The federal government
shutdown of 2013 helps make some aspects of social structure visible.
Social structure’s impact is clearest when these structures
change or stop working as they usually do. Take the closure of the nation’s
national parks, which show us that even nature is shaped by social structure. People
who planned vacations around visiting a national park and the businesses
supported by tourists felt the government shutdown’s impact immediately.
Continue reading "Making Social Structure Visible: America's National Parks" »
By Jonathan Wynn
I remember—so long ago!—how
enthusiastic my parents were when I told them I wanted to study architecture…
Then their diminished excitement when I switched to educational psychology… And
how confused they were when I tried to tell them what sociology was. For them, the
evolution of my college major choices made it increasingly hard for them to see
a path to a career. For me, I followed the path that most challenged and
excited me the most.
What kinds of decisions are
you making when picking your major?
Continue reading "Minor Issues with Your Major" »
A title is a way of framing the meaning of a paper, a movie,
a book, a song, a job, and even a person. You might take great pains to come up
with a catchy title for a term paper (or just stick with the tried and true
“Term Paper”). What do human titles represent?
We use titles, information that precedes peoples’ names, in
order to provide meaning about that person. In public forums, titles convey
status and expertise. News programs regularly confer expertise on the people
they interview by including a title, even it is one that is only meaningful for
the story (like “witness,” “neighbor” or “resident”). Our more stable titles
reveal how we create order and meaning of others’ identities on a more regular
Continue reading "What’s in a Title?" »
By Sally Raskoff
I saw this sign on my campus
It makes people giggle when they first see it since it is
right next to a door that they could certainly access in order to exit the
building. It is an unlocked door that opens, thus it is accessible.
This sign is a reflection of social structure.
Continue reading "Signs of Structure" »
By Jonathan Wynn
Whether you’re at a massive research university or a small, private liberal arts college, there
are good odds that you’ll come across a non-tenure track faculty member. That
person may or may not be a Doctor or a Professor, which can create a little
discomfort for you: How do you address your instructors? The easy answer is to
ask, and always to be respectful. But before we get to the interactional level,
I wanted to spend a few moments on the bigger, structural issues in education
Few undergrads really
understand the behind the scenes gears that put an instructor in front of
Continue reading "“Hey, Miss:” How Not to Talk to your Instructors" »
At the start of the fall semester, my university held a
convocation to formally welcome incoming freshmen and transfer students to the student
body. Students wore ceremonial gowns, and faculty wore the decorative gowns of
their alma maters. Parents of incoming students looked on with pride, and
applauded loudly when their student’s dean formally “presented” them to the
Although most students I observed seemed less than excited
to be at the early morning ceremony, rituals have a purpose. That’s why we have so many.
Continue reading "Ritual and Renewal" »