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Archive for the ‘Meeting Expectations’ Category

As we near the middle of August your thoughts are probably centered on things like the job market, syllabi, and last-minute preparations for ASA presentations but it is time to clear your mind and turn your attention to what really matters, the 2014 ASA Scavenger Hunt. How successful has the ASA Scavenger Hunt been? So successful that nobody even makes ASA Bingo cards anymore!

Last year I discovered that the beginning of the semester is not the best time for dealing with prizes if people actually enter, but that has not dissuaded me from announcing that if you enter and win there is at least a small chance that you will receive something for your efforts! You’re also welcome to play alone or set up conference pools with your friends.

Click here to download the official 2014 ASA Scavenger Hunt form

As in previous years, the rules are these:

  • The 2014 ASA Scavenger Hunt is open to anybody who is attending this year’s ASA conference in San Francisco. Your status as an undergraduate, grad student, assistant professor, or “famous” sociologist will not affect your chances of winning.
  • Record the dates, times, locations, and/or session numbers for the items on the list between Friday, August 15 and midnight on Tuesday, August 19.
  • Items may be double-counted. This means that if, for example, you attend a session outside of your research area in which a “famous” sociologist gives a disappointing, long-winded talk that begins with “I’m going to keep this short” you will have covered items 1, 2, and 5 on your list.
  • The person who submits a form accounting for the most items will might or might not receive… something! This is a very exciting opportunity and your chances of winning are high!
  • The winner’s name could be posted on my blog, unless the winner doesn’t want his or her name associated with a scavenger hunt, in which case the winner is welcome to choose a suitable pseudonym.
  • I will be playing along and will keep you posted on my own progress throughout the weekend. If nobody enters I will privately declare myself the winner and treat myself to ice cream.
  • If you would like to discuss your own progress on Twitter, use the hashtag #ASAHunt.
  • Have fun!

Additionally, you may find the following links helpful:

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links via your news feed.

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In addition to learning that I should fund sociology at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, I also spent some time with senior colleagues, one of gave me some advice that is relevant to my continuing series on Academic False Consciousness. As faculty members, he said, we should always be loyal to individuals but never to institutions. The reason for this is that individuals are much more likely to be loyal to us than institutions and to think otherwise is to ignore everything that Marx tried to teach us.

I was reminded of this conversation when talking to a staff member who had recently decided to leave my school for a better job. Because the timing of his departure coincided with the beginning of the new academic year, some in the administration had grumbled about the difficult position that he put the institution in. Of course, if the same administrators had decided that he should be fired it seems unlikely that they would care what time of year it was.

The difficulty of discerning between loyalty to people and loyalty to institutions at a liberal arts school is that it can be hard to tell where people end and institutions begin. The staff member who quit his job certainly made things more difficult at the institutional level because it will be difficult to replace him in a timely manner. It will also, however, create an additional burden on his former coworkers, who will be asked to do more in his absence. Although thinking about his coworkers may have caused him to question his decision, it is actually the institution that will decide on the timetable for his replacement and whether or not his position will be filled with a temporary employee in the interim. If the institution decides that it will not, the burden on his former coworkers is not the fault of the employee who is leaving for greener pastures.

In the end, most of his coworkers supported his decision because they understood his reasons for leaving. The fact that he had found a better opportunity did not bring about the end of their loyalty to him. Although I think that we should dig in and make the most of the opportunities that are available to us in the positions we hold, the fact that we are given these opportunities should not prevent us from seeking better opportunities elsewhere.

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Fund Sociology

At the recent annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in New York, the ASA made a statement that others should “Keep Calm and Fund Sociology,” as our purple conference bags noted. The continued funding of sociological research is certainly important, as successful efforts to deny NSF funding to political science make clear. Nevertheless, maybe the ASA should have used the approach of the British Sociological Association, which produced a video at its own annual meeting (available below) showing all of the ways why it is important to commit sociology. The video shows why sociology is important, which will hopefully lead to continued funding. It also makes me want to join the BSA.

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Although I missed them in Denver last year, I’ve been chronicling the ASA’s attempts to provide unisex restrooms since 2010 when I noticed the women’s unisex restrooms in Atlanta. With two conference hotels this year, the ASA saw two implementations of unisex restrooms.

At the Hilton, the unisex restrooms were similar to those at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, with a unisex sign in front of men’s and women’s restrooms that were right next to each other. While better than nothing, this implementation makes me wonder whether conference attendees actually treat the restrooms as unisex, stick to the gendered bathroom that they would usually use, or avoid them altogether.

Over at the Sheraton, the situation was different. In addition to men’s and women’s restrooms, the Sheraton also had restrooms that were designated as unisex and restrooms that were designated as accessible/family. These rooms were part of the hotel design and not an attempt by the ASA to impose its progressive attitudes toward gender on a gender-binary space.

If I were rating them, as I did for this year’s scavenger hunt, I would give the Hilton a 3 out of 10 and the Sheraton a 7 out of 10. While the Sheraton gains points for having preexisting unisex restrooms, these restrooms were designed for a single person (or a family). This is certainly better than providing no space for a person who does not feel comfortable in a gender-binary restroom but seems less progressive than offering a multiple-person restroom that can be used by everybody.

It turns out that I am not the only person interested in restrooms, since Bill O’Reilly is very concerned about a law in California that allows transgender teens to use the restrooms for the gender they identify with. If all restrooms were unisex, neither Bill nor I would have anything to complain about!

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Last year, I completed 16 of 30 items on the inaugural ASA Scavenger Hunt. Over the past four days I was able to set a new personal best with 20 of the 30 items on this year’s form. I completed items 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, and 30. Unfortunately, I was in Central Park but failed to recreate any of the scenes from Elf. Send me your submissions soon (socslac [at] gmail [dot] com) for a chance to win… something!

In addition to the scene around the Hilton statue, where I waited for people multiple times, here are some other reflections on ASA 2013:

  • If you are going to write about an earlier conference experience on your pseudonymous blog just before ASA, you probably should not tell the same anecdote when you are actually at ASA, unless you want your secret blogging identity to be revealed!
  • There are some aspects of the city that I really like (drinks at the Bryant Park Cafe) and others that I really dislike (crowds, traffic, section receptions in tiny rooms, Times Square).  I think that the negatives outweigh the positives.
  • Interesting sessions do not belong at 8:30 am!
  • Meeting with friends at night + going to 8:30 am sessions = conference exhaustion, which is only worsened by rain.
  • Corkscrews at Duane Reade cost more than wine at Duane Reade, which probably says more about the quality of the wine than the corskcrews.
  • This year’s ASA bags are good for carrying bottles of wine. If you put the wine in the bag diagonally you can discreetly walk through multiple hotel lobbies without drawing attention to the fact that you are carrying extremely cheap wine.
  • I wonder where ASA Bear is now.
  • Early ideas for next year’s scavenger hunt: witness somebody playing Candy Crush Saga during a session’s Q&A, attend an Author Meets Critics session in which the critics forget to criticize the author, arrive to a meeting 15 minutes late so that you do not have to stand by a statue by yourself, look at your phone while waiting for somebody else so that you don’t feel quite as stupid standing by a statue.

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It is that time of year again. The time of year in which sociologists join together in a city and then occupy themselves by playing bingo and going on scavenger hunts. Of course, some ASA games are more equal than others. As I argued last year:

The problem with an ASA bingo card is that the ASA experience is inherently unlike the game of bingo.

Bingo is played in a room full of [smoke and] other people, each with randomized cards listening to eliminate enough numbers to win. Without doing something radical like emailing Kieran to ask, I assume that John Siracusa’s bingo cards for Apple keynote presentations provided the inspiration for the original ASA bingo card. The first of these, in 2006, included a standard card in addition to twenty randomized versions allowing different chances to win. (Incidentally, none of them were winners.) The beauty of Siracusa’s keynote bingo was that individuals in the audience could conceivably follow along, checking off events until somebody won and shouted “bingo!” in the middle of Steve Jobs’ introduction of some new product. (As far as I know, this has never actually happened, which is unfortunate.)

Which brings me to the solution. What we need is not an ASA bingo, but rather an ASA scavenger hunt. In a scavenger hunt, everybody is free to seek the items on the list in any location and order they choose, making this format perfect for a large conference like ASA.

Click here to download the official 2013 ASA Scavenger Hunt!

The 2013 ASA Scavenger Hunt Rules:

  • The 2013 ASA Scavenger Hunt is open to anybody who is attending this year’s ASA conference in New York. Your status as an undergraduate, grad student, assistant professor, or “famous” sociologist will not affect your chances of winning.
  • Record the dates, times, locations, and/or session numbers for the items on the list between Friday, August 9 and midnight on Tuesday, August 13.
  • Items may be double-counted. This means that if, for example, you attend an Author Meets Critics session in which somebody in the audience is wearing a tie and you bail because it is boring you will have covered items 7, 11, and 5. on the list.
  • The person who submits a form accounting for the most items will receive… something! This is a very exciting opportunity and your chances of winning are high!
  • The winner’s name could be posted on my blog, unless the winner doesn’t want his or her name associated with a scavenger hunt, in which case the winner is welcome to choose a suitable pseudonym.
  • I will be playing along and will keep you posted on my own progress throughout the weekend. If nobody enters I will privately declare myself the winner and treat myself to ice cream.
  • If you would like to discuss your own progress on Twitter, use the hashtag #ASAHunt.
  • Have fun!

If you want to double your fun, last year’s inaugural Scavenger Hunt form can be found here, though the only thing you will win by playing with last year’s form is satisfaction.

 

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As Stephanie Medley-Rath warns at Sociology in Focus, thousands of sociologists are about to descend on New York City. I’ve written quite a bit about attending conferences in the past, covering submission types, tag-checking, dealing with the status of my institution, and the ASA’s continuing efforts to provide unisex restrooms, but Medley-Rath’s post, along with Eric Grollman’s advice at Conditionally Accepted (which is a great blog name) for attending academic conferences, reminded me of my first conference experience.

I was fortunate to be involved in research as an undergraduate and in my senior year of college my faculty mentor and I submitted a paper to ASA that we had worked on together. ASA that year was being held within driving distance of my undergraduate institution and with my undergraduate mentor there to show me the ropes I figured that the experience would not be too bad, even if a poster presentation at a regional conference would have been less intimidating. We were accepted to a roundtable session, which lowered the stakes a bit, and prepared for our presentation over the summer.

Everything was looking good until two weeks before the conference when my mentor called me and told me that he would not be able to attend and that I would have to present our paper on my own. No longer would there be somebody to show me the ropes, I was going to have to find the ropes on my own. The fact that this news coincided with my move to the location of my new graduate program did not help relieve the stress.

Eventually, the time for the conference came and I drove to the big city, where I checked in to the slightly-cheaper graduate student hotel (do they even have designated graduate student hotels anymore?). I have very few memories of the conference itself, which means either that the experience was traumatic and I have blocked it out or, more likely, that I didn’t experience much of note because I was at a conference where I knew almost nobody. I do remember going to my roundtable presentation in a suit and tie, which was the last time that I’ve worn a tie at a conference, and that another professor from my undergraduate institution was there to offer her support during my presentation. I also remember attending my graduate institution’s party where I spoke awkwardly with some of the students I had met during my recruitment visit.

More than anything else, I remember finding the ropes. Because I had no idea what to wear, I paid particular attention to what other people were wearing. It seemed that with a few notable exceptions, the older people were, the more poorly they were dressed (although the setting probably prevented me from thinking they were homeless). I went to presentations, was surprised by how boring some of them were, and generally felt better about my own presentation. As a pseudo-outsider, I got to see how others did sociology.

In the end, I returned to my new apartment having learned a lot about the academic side of conference attendance and starved for social interaction. It was years before I attended ASA again. What originally served as an intimidating introduction to the discipline now serves as a chance to reconnect with friends and colleagues and recharge my academic batteries. This will be my eighth year in a row.

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Despite writing the scavenger hunt myself I completed just over half of the items on it! I completed numbers: 2,3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 13, 15, 16, 17, 21, 22, 24, 27, 29, and 30. I wish that I had put seeing a scared employment services candidate on the list. Did anybody else notice how terrified ASA Bear was before his interview?

I consider my biggest ASA failure this year to be the fact that I never came across the unisex restrooms. I thought that they may have been nonexistent until I got home and noticed that they were marked on the map distributed upon check-in. If anybody saw them, I’d love to have a picture for the SLACer archives!

And now, the fall semester awaits.

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ASA is over but you still have twelve and a half hours to submit your entry in the inaugural ASA scavenger hunt! Entries are due by midnight Eastern time (ten ASA time).

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In case nobody has told you yet, there are some cool buttons featuring social theorists at the Norton booth in the Convention Center at ASA. Collect all seven! (By that I mean “stand at the jar blocking other people’s access to the buttons until you’ve found all seven”.) Too bad it isn’t on the scavenger hunt.

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