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Our meetings are an important step for ASA members to further their careers and share knowledge, especially students representing the future of sociology. I am always impressed when I meet the rare bachelor-level student attending sessions or the graduate student with peer-reviewed publications. So I was amazed to encounter high school teacher Dennis Kass and his students presenting the results of their research at last year’s Annual Meeting [see high school article on page 5]. These students were not graduate students, not even BA level, not well read and researched in the classics, and not coming from top-level sociology schools with funding opportunities. The students were non-white and much lower in socioeconomic status than the average sociologist. They conducted interviews with a sampling strategy and were presenting results. This is an impressive accomplishment with the help and mentoring of Kass.
Unfortunately, these students were unable to register for the meeting due to a lack of economic resources. Dennis and I spoke about this and he implored me as a member of the Student Forum Advisory Board to help him in his efforts. Due to the current registration design, an underprivileged high school student is lumped in with all students in terms of membership and meeting attendance. There is no category for secondary education as the highest degree attained. There is no special fee or fee waiver. Kass contacted the ASA organizational staff and they had nothing to offer his student other than the normal $80 for membership and another $105 for student meeting pre-registration. Finally, Kass was advised to go ahead and just bring the student with him to the interested session.
Should the ASA do something for high school or other non-traditional attendees? Or is the best practice for them to attend without recognition? These students felt very welcomed by ASA members but technically were attending illicitly, which was a little stressful. Dennis cannot afford to pay for several high school students out of pocket. These students live in a world from which many of us are detached. I imagine that someone coming from this background would be an asset to the organization and its annual meetings. My opinion is that such a young student should be able to register and attend for free. If not only underprivileged high school students then all high school students should be allowed to attend at no charge. Now this poses a problem for the institution of the ASA. Giving special status to some, to the chagrin of others, may cause controversy and conflicts. For example, where would the ASA draw the line? What about underprivileged BA students? Or, if all high school students get in free, then why not all BA students? What about graduate students who likely have less support from their parents than BA students? I do not know what the solution is, but I hope to raise awareness. Ultimately, the handful of high school students that would realistically attend our meetings should not make a big difference either way, except for upholding the ASA’s mission to promote equality of opportunity. I thank the ASA for letting me voice my thoughts and hope that you will share your thoughts with me so that I may follow up with the ASA Executive Office.
Nate Breznau; firstname.lastname@example.org