Posts Tagged ‘ASA’

When I arrived at my previous institution there was a miscommunication about my moving reimbursement that caused my check to be sent to the moving company instead of to me. Rather than waiting weeks or months for the check to come back from the moving company, I was able to arrange for the original check to be cancelled and a new check was made out to me, which I had in a matter of days. This was my first experience with the potential speed of a small bureaucracy after spending my grad school years at a huge public university where this sort of thing would have been impossible. (I thought I wrote about it at the time but after spending quite a while looking for the post I have to conclude that I didn’t.)

Since starting my new job this fall, I’ve noticed that more money leads to a slightly larger bureaucracy. The biggest difference so far is that there is more paperwork involved in financial reimbursements and it is examined in greater detail. For example, at ASA I split a number of meals with others and noted my portion on my travel receipts. After submitting my receipts for reimbursement I received an e-mail asking about a few receipts that looked like they could have been for more than one person.

In the past five years I had never been asked about my travel receipts, but from a few other conversations it seems like this level of attention is the norm here. I’m not sure if the school pays more careful attention to money because it has more of it coming in and going out or if the administrative assistants have the luxury of paying more careful attention because they aren’t spread as thin. I don’t necessarily mind the scrutiny, and it is definitely worth the increased financial stability of the institution as a whole, but it is interesting and something I’ll have to pay attention to.

*A.K.A. mo money, mo problems

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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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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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ASA Upgrade

When I received notice that my paper had been accepted for this year’s ASA conference in New York, it included the following statement, “As a Program Participant you must pre-register by May 15, 2013 to avoid your paper being removed from the program.” Today, the ASA sent an e-mail to members informing them that “Online access to the member portal, meeting registration, the ASA online bookstore, the TRAILS online database of teaching resources, and the ASA Job Bank will be unavailable from May 6 until approximately May 15” (bold and italics in original!). Visiting the ASA website reveals the same information via the notice above.

Thankfully, the ASA extended the preregistration deadline to May 30 although, since this is the ASA we’re dealing with, the odds that the website will not be functional on May 15 and the preregistration deadline will be further extended are good. Whether the website is back on the 15th or not, is there another professional organization that would schedule to shut down online access to meeting registration during its prime meeting registration time? I would guess that there is not.

For conspiracy theorists, there is also the fact that the ASA announced plans to shut down its website just days after the Canadian Prime Minister warned us all that “this is not a time to commit sociology.” Hmm… I guess that if the database upgrade fails the ASA can always blame Canada!

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In Atlanta last year, the ASA attempted to provide unisex restrooms.  The only problem that I saw with this was that all of the unisex restrooms I saw had originally been women’s restrooms.  In Las Vegas, the ASA tried unisex restrooms again, as seen below:

Again, I appreciate the attempt at progressiveness, and I realize that this is sort of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, but I wonder if anybody actually treated these restrooms as unisex since they were right next to each other.  Did anybody use the restroom (or see somebody using the restroom) that was originally designated for the opposite sex?  If not, I wonder if people would have been more likely to treat the restrooms as unisex if the original signs had been covered.

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Last night, instead of dreaming about my impending trip to Vegas for ASA, I dreamed that it was the first day of class and many of the students were talking amongst themselves instead of paying attention to the details of the syllabus.  When I informed them that they were being disrespectful and that if they wanted to talk to each other they could do so outside of the classroom, most of them left.  I guess that’s one way to reduce class sizes.

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As announced yesterday, this year’s ASA will be held in Las Vegas.  August in Las Vegas.  According to Weather.com, the average August temperature in Las Vegas is 102.  Granted, having everything under the Caesar’s Palace roof will make it easier to avoid the heat, but I don’t typically enjoy the experience of walking outside into what feels like a blast furnace.  Incidentally, the only time I’ve been to Vegas was also in the summer.  If you’ve never been to Vegas and are unsure of whether or not you want to deal with the heat, I have one piece of advice: ignore anybody that tells you that “it’s a dry heat.”  You know what other heat is dry?  Your oven.  Would you claim that it isn’t hot?  Of course not.  102 degrees is hot, period.

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I’ve spent some time criticizing the ASA (and a few of its members) lately, but I actually did accomplish things in Atlanta that made the trip a success.  Some of these were simple things like catching up with friends from grad school and getting up for 8:30 sessions despite late nights with said friends, but I also started to do a bit more to make a name for myself apart from my graduate institution.  Some of my overall satisfaction following this year’s conference may be due to changes in the way I approached session attendance.  In the past I attended a number of sessions with one or two papers that looked interesting and found myself suffering through the other presentations wondering why I was there.  This year I was much more careful about the sessions that I chose to attend and the result was that I attended far fewer sessions that felt like a waste of my time.  Another frustration in the past has been the role of discussants who I saw as taking valuable time away from Q&A.  This year, the discussants that I saw, including the one in my own session, focused on providing feedback that actually seemed relevant and useful, though I still wish there had been more time for Q&A.  In all, the conference seemed to be a success and I’m glad that I went.  I am also thankful for the hamster tubes that allowed me to cover a relatively large area without going outside.

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