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Posts Tagged ‘American Sociological Association’

ASA ended a week ago so I suppose it is time to post my 2014 ASA Scavenger Hunt results. Last year I set a personal best by completing 20 of the 30 items, but this year I could not attain that level again, ending up with 17 of 30 items. For those competing at home, I completed items 3, 7, 8, 11, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, and 30. I also left San Francisco with some good ideas for next year, including people sitting in the back row of an empty presentation room and “We’re going to use X as a proxy for Y.”

Regarding item number 14, I was fairly busy at ASA this year and may  have attended a record number of sessions and meetings, so I didn’t have time to check out all of the unisex restrooms. The ones that I did see, in the Hilton on the Ballroom Level were a textbook example of how not to designate unisex restrooms, and were even worse than those in the Hilton last year in New York. Although they appeared on the conference hotel map and signs were posted on the restroom doors indicating their unisex status, the door to each restroom was at the end of a 10-15 foot-long hallway, the end of which was marked for men or women and made no mention of unisex status. Thus the Hilton Union Square receives a 1 out of 10 for its unisex restrooms. Grading it felt like grading the student who puts absolutely no effort into an assignment. Hiltons of the world, you can do better!

 

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As a friend noted last week, the presence of sociologists from all over the world descending upon San Francisco to hang out in the Hilton and discuss the conference theme of “Hard Times” while the homeless begged outside helped put things in perspective. Because of that, I was struck by Ana Velitchkova’s post at Mobilizing Ideas where she discusses her stay in the Tenderloin district, both a few blocks and worlds away from the conference hotel. She writes, in part:

The hotel reviews depict the place as located in an area where homeless people, drunks, and drug addicts loiter. Some reviewers even report bed bugs, which horrifies a San Francisco friend of mine most of all. While waiting for my room to be ready−I was being treated to a brand new bed [a sigh of relief!]−the manager, who is also a concierge, repairs guy, and anything else that he needs to be, regretfully informs me that “My only problem is the homeless and the drug dealers in front”. Indeed, the place isn’t that bad. The room is large and clean (I am not a fan of the smell of the cleaning products used but I can live with that for a few days, I try to convince myself). It has a bathroom en suite, free Internet, and coffee 24 hours: the traveler’s essentials.

The first morning challenges my poise though. One of the cute little conference outfits I had been so happy to pile in my suitcase makes me feel uneasy when I leave the hotel and walk the one block to Mason street, which separates the “good” part from the “bad” part of the neighborhood. The dark-blue business-casual dress matched with a white cardigan, red flats, and nylons, contrasts flashingly with the baggy jeans, tank tops, and sports jackets of the residents hanging out in the neighborhood. After eyeing me continuously, one man greets me with an exclamation, after I pass by him: “Good morning!” I barely have a chance to respond with a confused “Good morning” back, when a woman looks me over and mumbles something disapprovingly incomprehensible. I try to breathe normally and maintain a fast and steady stride as I make my way through the block. Beyond Mason street, I feel a tension release and realize my body had internalized a sense of fear of the downtrodden. Then, I start to wonder: ‘Who is really more in danger, they or I?’ (But notice the distinction this statement already implies.)

Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing, then consider the ASA’s position (WARNING! Read only the first post on that page, read nothing else! Trust me!) on the difficulty of making the conference more financially accessible even for faculty members and spend some time thinking about hard times.

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links via your news feed among the countless ice bucket challenge videos.

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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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On the heels of the recent petition asking the American Sociological Association to reconsider the timing and location of its annual meetings come a few signs that the ASA does, in fact, (sometimes) listen to its members. First, the ASA responded to efforts to more easily export the annual meeting schedule by providing that option within the online system. Now, it is seeking feedback on the ASA “App” and the ASA website. After years of being terrible, the ASA’s website has recently seen some improvements, so hopefully this will be another step in that direction.

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The other day, somebody started a petition to move the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association. The petition asks that ASA reconsider not only where the meetings are held, but when. Knowing basically nothing about conference scheduling, but assuming that many of the most well-known sociologists (with the resources to attend ASA no matter where it is) would not want to visit Kansas in August, it seems like the request regarding the timing of ASA is more likely to be considered by those who decide these sorts of things. Next year’s meeting in Chicago is scheduled for August 22-25, which seems fairly late. If nothing else, the ASA should make the timing of the conference a part of its consideration of various locations (for example, if Chicago is more expensive in early August than late August, maybe we shouldn’t go to Chicago).

With presidents who serve on a one-year basis, it may be hard for any suggestions to gain much traction within ASA, but I hope that the petition gets the attention of Ruth Milkman, ASA President-elect.

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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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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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Speaking of stupid ideas, the full functionality of the ASA’s website was restored yesterday after its database upgrade. To their credit, this only took one more day than they estimated. Of course, the fact that this work only took one extra day does not excuse the fact that it was poorly scheduled. I guess that we can all resume committing sociology now!

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