390 posts categorized "Behind the Headlines"

February 05, 2024

Community Development Studies in Sociology, and What Sociology Offers Students

CKing headshot 1 4.3 Calvin-odhiambo IMG_5518

By Colby King, Calvin Odhiambo, Associate Professor of Sociology, and Lizabeth Zack, Professor of Sociology and Department Chair, University of South Carolina Upstate

The recent decision by the Florida Board of Governors to exclude Introductory sociology from the list of courses that fulfill the social science general education requirements for Florida public college students has sparked discussions highlighting the vital role of sociology in academic curriculum. Stacy Torres wrote here about the life-changing role sociology course can play in students’ lives.

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January 29, 2024

Gender, Sexuality, and Social Exclusion

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

Recently politicians have continued attempts to police gender and sexuality through the passage of laws that seek to exclude and punish. It is important to consider why the attention to other people’s gender and sexual practices are part of public and political discourses, and why some people are the target of social exclusion.

For context: while laws attempting to limit transgender rights have dominated the last decade, criminalizing same-sex relationships is not by any means new, although new laws have been passed around the world in the past few years. Human Rights Watch maintains a list of criminal codes outlawing same-sex relations around the world dating back to the nineteenth century. Many laws criminalizing LGBTQ people were passed in the middle of the twentieth century. Why?

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January 24, 2024

AI and Sociology

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

My inbox received two very kind and curious emails from students this semester. One was to our listserv, expressing remorse and solidarity for someone who had a death in the family. The second was a note of gratitude for my teaching this semester. The instincts behind were kind. Both students wanted to share meaningful feelings with our community in the first case, and with me in the second. They were interesting because they were both written entirely by AI.

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January 17, 2024

Florida, Don’t Deprive Public College Students of the Opportunity to Develop their Sociological Imaginations

Stacy Torres author photoBy Stacy Torres

Even though I’m a professor, sometimes I fantasize about going back to college. Everyone should have the chance to experience that electric feeling of discovery. General education requirements exposed me to worlds I scarcely imagined as the first person in my family to go to college. I remember the thrill of encountering new subjects such as philosophy, theology, Spanish literature, art history, ancient Greek and Roman history. Like many high school students, I’d never had the opportunity to take classes in the social sciences, including anthropology, economics, political science, psychology, and sociology.

I could have never predicted an introductory sociology course would change my life.

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November 22, 2023

The Impossibility of University Neutrality in Times of Crisis

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

Campuses are being torn apart due to the Israel-Hamas war. Students are protesting, getting arrested on campuses, and being threatened. While acknowledging that there are unspeakable horrors of war happening across the globe, it can still be said that it is the most challenging time to be on a U.S. college campus in my memory.

I am certain that even what I write here—which is tentative based on thoughts that are in-process—could be interpreted for this, against that, or not for anything and, therefore, bad. A lack of certainty, when faced by colleagues, friends, and students with very clear beliefs on very brutal realities, can be interpreted as a moral failure. My scholarship is not on colonialism, war, or international conflict, however. No one could or should look to me for enlightenment on this, and there are far too many people online who have spent a little time on Wikipedia and self-appointed themselves as experts in the history of Middle Eastern conflict.

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October 16, 2023

Writing an Op-ed: Lessons in Public Sociology

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

I have a book coming out in a few weeks on hospitals and their communities. One of my co-authors and I are hoping to write an op-ed that will bring some of the knowledge from the book (particularly the policies recommendations we are making) to the wider public. Sociology should always be looking for ways to reach a wider audience, and do more public sociology.  

When aiming to write an op-ed, one of the things that authors will look for a “news peg.” These are very recent events in the news that a writer can use to make a wider point about some political or social issue. When the Fyre Festival debacle occurred, for example, I was able to co-author an op-ed about the financial risks and rewards for small bands to participate in music festivals. In my local paper, when a recent controversy arose about the renovation of my small town downtown strip, I was able to write about Jane Jacobs’ more pedestrian-focused approach to urban planning.

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September 25, 2023

“You Want to Work or You Want to Steal?” The Impossible Choices Migrants Face Without Work Authorization

Stacy Torres author photoBy Stacy Torres

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes,” said Mark Twain. And history is once again rhyming in the current migrant crisis. The most visible consequences of our broken immigration system have unfolded on New York City streets, where this summer hundreds of asylum seekers slept outside a midtown Manhattan hotel doubling as humanitarian relief center and overcrowded shelter. But this national issue transcends any single region, and the growing desperation offers a cautionary tale for communities across the country.

More than 100,000 migrants have arrived in New York City since spring 2022, with more coming daily.  The city reports housing more than 82,000 people, including nearly 30,000 children, with the mayor estimating shelter costs to reach $12 billion by 2025.

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July 12, 2023

Social Media and Digital Resistance

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

It’s not hard to find stories decrying social media. From concerns about mental health, bullying and eating disorders, wasting time, and spreading misinformation, the presumptive “harm” of social media has become taken for granted, especially where young people are concerned.

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May 15, 2023

Life Expectancy: Explaining Declines in the U.S.

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report last year indicating that life expectancy in the United States dropped about 2.7 years between 2020 and 2021, “the biggest two-year decline in life expectancy since 1921-1923.”

What is life expectancy, how does it vary, and why has it declined?

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April 03, 2023

Public Libraries as Social Infrastructure

Colby King author photoBy Colby King

A few years ago, I wrote about post offices as social infrastructure. I referred to sociologist Eric Klinenberg’s book Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure can help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life, in which he defines social infrastructure as “the physical places and organizations that shape the way people interact,” (p. 5). I recently saw a vivid illustration of how Klinenberg’s original subject, libraries, operate as social infrastructure. I want to share the story and discuss its context.

My wife and I have been taking our daughters, who are 5 years old and 21 months old, to our local public library and borrowing books. Our oldest has been particularly excited about this. She finds a new book from the Princess in Black series on each visit.

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