June 16, 2015

Police Killings by the Numbers

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

If there has been one dominant, sociologically-relevant story in the news lately, it has arguably been the treatment of African Americans by the police. From Michael Brown in Missouri to Eric Garner in Staten Island to the McKinney, Texas, swimming pool incident, there is a heightened awareness, an ongoing conversation, and a growing sentiment of anger about how race influences policing.

As increasing attention has been devoted to this social problem, and more questions have been raised about it, there have been calls for greater accountability from law enforcement. In particular, many people want to know how many citizens are killed each year by police officers. Unfortunately, because the United States government does not keep a systematic record of these deaths, this data has been either unavailable or unreliable. That is, until now.

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June 12, 2015

Mexican Pointy Boots and Subcultural Theory

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

While looking for videos to share with my Urban Sociology course this past term, I came across a mini-documentary from 2012 on Vice that chronicles the rise of a cultural phenomenon that centers around extremely pointy boots.

Men from the rural town of Matehuala, in San Luis Potosi, Mexico began augmenting their boots to make them pointier with an up-curved slant. While the boots initially were only slightly pointier, the trend expanded and some points increased as high as six feet tall. According to the documentary, the boot trend coincided with the rise of Tribal Guarachero;  a mix of pre-hispanic, indigenous, and Afro-Caribbean sounds, and electronica. According to an NPR piece on the pointy boots, men from Matehuala use the boots in dance competitions and the phenomenon grew from there.

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June 09, 2015

Harassment and Power in the Classroom

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

California law requires that managers and supervisors receive anti-harassment training every other year. As a faculty member, I am considered a supervisor so I have taken this online training course several times now. I actually find it useful and interesting each time and always learn something new about workplace issues in the process.

The course teaches us how to recognize harassment based on state-designated protected categories, such as race, color, religion, national origin, age, health and disability status, gender, gender identity/expression and sexual orientation. Through a number of scenarios, we see what constitutes illegal behavior, what we should avoid doing and what to do if we observe violations. As of this year, the course also provides a very useful number of vignettes about reporting sexual assault if students bring an incident to our attention.

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June 05, 2015

Work and Technology

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

NPR recently ran a story with a fun interactive calculator that estimates the chances that technology will automate or replace people in a specific type of job.

Of course, I had to look up sociologists! The good news is that we only have a 5.9 percent chance of being automated. Whew!

Many sociology graduates use their skills to work in marketing or other types of jobs that require survey research. What are the chances of those types of jobs becoming automated? A bit higher, at 23.1 percent. Sociology graduates often go into social work or counseling of some type.  Those in mental health and substance abuse fields have only have a 0.3 percent of being automated.

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June 01, 2015

Summer Vacation: Who Gets One?

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

As I write, summer break is just beginning at our university. “Have a good summer,” echoes through the hallways as many students and professors say goodbye for a few months. Some students speak of summer jobs, internships, and hanging out with family and friends. A few mentioned exciting vacation plans while classmates look on with envy.

How is summer vacation a sociological issue?

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May 27, 2015

You’ve Graduated! Now What?

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

In the beginning of the spring semester, I asked students in my senior seminar class to write down one word that describes how they are feeling about graduating and then to share those words with the class. Although some students displayed words that I was expecting such as “excited,” “ready,” “pride,” and “relief,” many students were not so giddy about graduating. These students held up signs that read “conflicted,” “nervous,” “confused,” “indecisive,” and one of my favorites, “screaming internally.”

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May 18, 2015

A Super Sweet Quince Economy

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

Growing up in Chicago, there were parts of the city that we’d go to to buy certain products. If we needed shoes or clothing, we’d walk or take the bus over to Maxwell Street to shop at places like Chernin’s, Mike’s, or the open-air market. If we wanted pan dulce (a traditional Mexican sweet bread) we’d go to Eighteenth Street to check out one of the many panaderias located there.  If my parents were looking for a piece of jewelry as a present for someone, they’d head over to Jeweler’s Row in downtown Chicago on Wabash.  

As I got older and had a little bit of pocket money, my friends and I would walk over to Cermak and Western to check out one of the many trendy (and affordable) clothing shops in that area.  Even now, on my trips back home, I often stop by Eighteenth Street in Pilsen to check out vintage items at one of the many second-hand shops, and by Twenty-Sixth Street to pick-up some traditional Mexican food items that I can’t find in Galesburg.

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May 14, 2015

Probability vs. Certainty

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

In a recent class discussion, we talked about the connection between children who have parents who are incarcerated and the likelihood of future incarceration for those children. One student had trouble understanding how all kids in this situation don’t end up in prison someday. After all, don’t we all just follow our parents’ examples?

Children with parents in prison do have a greater likelihood of getting arrested in the future, for a number of reasons beyond the scope of this post. The real issue that this student needed to understand was the concept of probability, or the notion of how likely an event is to occur.

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May 08, 2015

Surrogacy: An International Birth Market

SrBy Sally Raskoff

News about the terrible earthquake in Nepal drew attention to the practice of Israeli citizens using Indian surrogates who give birth to their babies in Nepal. The newborns have been sent home with their Israeli parents, yet these surrogates, along with other pregnant surrogates, were left behind. Many of the news articles mention that 26 newborn babies just went home, some with their new parents, while the remaining 100 pregnant surrogates – and those 26 women who had recently given birth – are left in Nepal. Israel’s Interior Minister has evidently just approved allowing the other pregnant surrogates come to Israel to avoid the earthquake aftermath and give birth to healthy babies.

How do we interpret what’s going on here to make sense of it? Use your sociological imagination, of course! Think of theories, theorists, research, terms, and concepts that can help us make sense of this practice.

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May 05, 2015

How Can Sociology Help Explain the Civil Unrest in Baltimore?

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

On our last day of class for the spring semester, I asked my classes this question, in order to apply what they learned during the semester to help understand the civil unrest in Baltimore in late April.

The events were triggered by the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody on April 12, leading many citizens to public protests. After his funeral on April 27, demonstrations took place, and not all of remained peaceful. The news filled with vivid imagery of clashes with police, destruction of property, fire, and looting. In a video that went viral, a mother shown hitting her son and dragging him away from the crowds received praise nationwide.

What was this all about?

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