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2015 Scavenger Hunt Results

It’s a new low!

In Chicago this year I felt particularly busy. Between sessions, meetings, and hanging out at Kitty O’Sheas, I hardly had any time to explore the conference itself. I never made it to the book exhibit or poster presentations, I never found the unisex restrooms, and I never even posted on social media about ASA or ate a meal alone! I did, however, manage to wander around the various floors of the Hilton wondering how practical it was to give each floor its own confusing layout. I also found the ASA App to be useful, though I wish that it would have been more friendly to those without wi-fi or wireless signals by only updating when requested.

In the end, I completed 13 of 30 scavenger hunt items, including: 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 17, 19, 20, 21, 28, 29, and 30. Next year promises a new location that is even more distracting since I’ve never been there, but can it match Kitty O’Sheas and Meli Cafe? I’ll let you know in 12 months.

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At the American Sociological Association conference in Chicago I noticed something else that demonstrates the ways that faculty members are just as bad as students when they are in the audience instead of standing at the front of class. During several presentations audience members took pictures of PowerPoint slides so that they did not have to write information down. This practice was made worse by the fake camera noises that their phones made as they took the pictures (I’m not sure whether or not all phones have the ability to turn the camera noise off). The most egregious example of this was in a presentation with a lot of references on slides. Those who wanted to record the references just took pictures. Worst of all was the fact that the presenter made very clear at the beginning that he would send the complete presentation via e-mail to anybody who was interested.

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The 2015 ASA Scavenger Hunt

Conference bingo cards are fun to read but fail because bingo can’t actually be played unless everybody is in the same room. Conference scavenger hunts are infinitely better. Thus, for the fourth straight year I give you the ASA Scavenger Hunt! You can download the 2015 ASA Scavenger Hunt and, for your convenience, I have also listed the items below. Post your progress and results in this SJMR thread. Good luck!

2015 ASA Scavenger Hunt

Instructions: Record the dates, times, locations, and/or session numbers for the items below between Friday, August 21 and midnight on Tuesday, August 25. Post your results in the “2015 ASA Scavenger Hunt” thread at SJMR. Good luck!

  1. Attend a friend’s roundtable session
  2. Hear a presenter explain technological difficulties with, “I’m used to my Mac”
  3. Hear somebody refer to the Chicago School in a presentation
  4. Attend a workshop
  5. Attend a great talk by an “unknown” sociologist
  6. Check out the poster presentations
  7. Use the ASA App
  8. Walk past the Employment Service area and observe the job candidates
  9. Discuss the pros and cons of replication
  10. Overhear a sociologist make a racist/sexist/homophobic (etc.) comment
  11. Talk to somebody about SJMR
  12. Eat some candy at the book exhibit
  13. Turn the paper part of your nametag upside-down to make tag-checking more obvious
  14. Find the unisex restrooms and rate their implementation on a scale of 1-10
  15. Pour one out for DAN
  16. Get a free drink at a section reception
  17. Spot Fabio (bonus points if he’s wearing a fanny pack)
  18. Talk to somebody from a liberal arts school about his or her research
  19. Talk to somebody from a research school about his or her teaching
  20. Talk to somebody on the job market about his or her ideal job
  21. Introduce two people you know to each other
  22. For Faculty: Buy a student coffee or a meal; For Students: Accept coffee or a meal from a faculty member
  23. Eat a meal alone
  24. Have an awkward conversation with an acquaintance
  25. Post on social media about ASA
  26. During conversation, move somebody across the room by slowly inching closer to them
  27. Walk to the Navy Pier
  28. Spend an entire day in Chicago without attending a session
  29. Take a picture with that shiny bean (a.k.a. Cloud Gate Chicago)
  30. Eat deep-dish pizza

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DAN is on life support

At the American Sociological Association conference, the cool departments have private parties. For the rest of the departments around the country, there is DAN, or the Departmental Alumni Night. Traditionally, DAN was an event where you could get together with faculty and fellow graduates of your uncool institution and purchase high-priced, standard-quality beer and wine while slowly watching Indiana graduate students claim the tables of other schools. Today, DAN is on life support.

Things weren’t always bad. According to the ASA program, at least 45 departments participated in DAN in 2006 (I say “at least” because it appears that departments can pay to participate later even if they don’t make the cut for inclusion in the program). In 2009, the year after “the crash,” however, only 25 departments participated. 2010 saw a slight increase to 31, but the writing was on the wall. In 2012 and 2013 only 12 departments were listed in the program. Last year, only 10. This year? The ASA app only lists five.

Unfortunately, I doubt that DAN’s decline has been the result of a surge in private parties. Maybe it is easier today to use technology to meet up with the people at ASA that you actually want to see. Maybe nobody from uncool schools can afford to come to ASA these days. Maybe their semesters have already started. In any case, it appears that it is time for the ASA to pull the plug and put DAN out of its misery.

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook for more ASA-related fun via your news feed. And don’t forget to write a living will. You don’t want to end up like that lady in The Other Side of Darkness.

The new and improved ASA App

Was it really just last year that the American Sociological Association released an “app” that was really just a web page? After seeking feedback, the ASA really has tried to do better this year. For example, if you are registered for the conference and logged into the ASA website the online program actually lets you see the locations of sessions, hopefully ending the practice of searching for sessions online and then having to look those sessions up again when you get the actual program to find the locations (at least when exporting the schedule didn’t work).

More interesting are the developments in ASA app land. These developments center on the fact that this year there is an actual app that you can download to your phone. The app provides session information as well as maps and directions to get from your location to particular sessions. (Of course, all of this will depend on the strength of the ASA’s wifi signal.)

Scatterplot has some instructions for downloading the app, because of course the ASA needs to make it more complicated than necessary by putting the link to the app page on the Member Portal and not on the conference website where somebody might expect to find it. Once you’ve downloaded the app, you need to login with your userid and the ASA’s app password (which you get from the app website), but then to access your saved sessions and information you need to login again with your normal ASA password. Once you’ve done all of this, you can search for sessions, set reminders for sessions, use the maps, etc.

The ASA is trying, so hopefully everything works well when we all get to Chicago! Now, about the conference dates…

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Are you sick of people trying to pay you for your work? Are you tired of increasingly long lists of job requirements? Will you do anything to avoid the word “adjunct” from appearing on your CV? Then you should consider applying for the position of “Volunteer Professor” at Southern Virginia University!

Tempted but not yet convinced? Wait, there’s more!

“In exchange for their service, the university provides volunteers with complimentary apartment-style housing and five meals a week.” That’s nearly one meal per day!

“In addition, volunteers are welcome to participate in the full life of the university attending concerts, recitals, plays, athletic competitions, and student life events. They are also welcome to use the library and recreational facilities.” These generous benefits will help keep their bodies and minds in shape in the absence of health insurance!

“On weekends volunteers enjoy visiting historic sites in and around Virginia, including Monticello and Civil War sites, Williamsburg and Washington, DC.” (Assuming that they spend their evenings begging for money to pay for these excursions!)

“At least once a month volunteers gather for a Family Home Evening or pot-luck dinner.” (Applicants should be advised that fruit obtained from the dining hall during their five weekly meals does not constitute a suitable pot-luck contribution – please see the above note about begging.)

“Inquiries and applications may be mailed to Provost Madison Sowell, 1 University Hill Drive, Southern Virginia University, Buena Vista, VA 24416, or sent by email attachment to madison.sowell@svu.edu. Preference is given to those who can volunteer for at least two semesters and whose specialty coincides with one of the teaching areas listed above.”

Many will enter, few will win, though by entering some will have already lost.

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Recent news about Apple CEO Tim Cook’s appointment to the Duke University board of trustees reminded me of Bill Cosby. Not because Tim Cook has been accused of horrible crimes (he hasn’t), but because Bill Cosby served on the board of trustees for Temple University from 1982 to 2014, when he resigned. The fact that Cosby apparently only attended one meeting during his 32 years on the board would have caused me to wonder why he was chosen if another article hadn’t noted that he had helped raise millions of dollars for the school.

Immense personal wealth is the other thing connecting Cook and Cosby, as well as the others who have recently been named to Duke’s board. Among them are The Coca-Cola Foundation Chairwoman Lisa Borders, PRM Advisors founder Patricia Morton, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and ValueAct Capital CEO Jeff Ubben. For at least the next six years, each of these people will be charged with guiding Duke’s “educational mission and its fiscal policies.” Unfortunately, I doubt any of them know very much about higher education.

The appointments of millionaires to a school’s board of trustees doesn’t surprise me because I have seen the role that board members play in my six years as a faculty member. It is true that they often have the “official” say in hiring and promotion, as well as voting on school policies, but from my experience their most important role is often one of donating money and fundraising. Before a capital campaign is made public there is a “silent” phase in which board members are approached for donations. When the campaign goes public, then, the school can announce that they have already raised millions of dollars. Even at my relatively poor former institution there were multiple millionaires on the board of trustees. Millionaires who knew very little about the day-to-day operation of a small private liberal arts college.

It is not surprising, then, to see these board members argue that colleges should be run like businesses. I doubt that I would make a good corporate board member since I lack detailed knowledge about how corporations function and care much more about things like social justice than stock dividends. The difference is that since I don’t have this knowledge so it would be absurd for me to be asked to serve on a corporation’s board. The reverse, though, is not true. The University of Illinois’s decision not to hire Steven Salaita appears to have been based not on academic concerns but on fundraising concerns raised by the board of trustees.

This is a problem. It is time to separate the roles of major donors and major decision-makers in higher education. Maybe we could create special boards to oversee the economic advancement of each institution. The problem with that is that in order to do so we would have to admit that our interest in these people is primarily financial and that we do not actually trust them to steer our great institutions of higher learning. Because that would be absurd.

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