Approximately 300 members attended the ASA Business Meeting on August 9, at 7:00 a.m. Much of the discussion centered on the recent selection process of the ASR Editor(s). A selection of opinion pieces either sent directly to Footnotes or reprinted with permission are published below. They include individual statements as well as a statement from the ASA Publications Committee and a letter from the outgoing editor of ASR. Many of the statements refer to letters from Michael Burawoy, former member of ASA’s Publications Committee and Alejandro Portes, past-President of ASA, published in the July-August 1999 issue of Footnotes.
A message from members of the ASA Publications Committee (posted on various listservs in July 1999)
In response to the many requests for information in the wake of Michael Burawoy’s resignation, the Publications Committee wishes to make public some of its deliberations concerning the editorship of the American Sociological Review.
At our winter meeting on January 8 and 9,1999, the Committee reviewed a number of excellent proposals for editing ASR in the next term. By majority vote, two proposals were selected to be recommended to the ASA Council. In mid-February, however, we were informed that the Council chose to reject both of these candidates in favor of another application. Shortly thereafter, Council’s choice of the team of Charles Camic and Franklin Wilson was made public.
Upon learning of Council’s decision, we began an initial discussion via the internet. When it became clear that Council’s actions warranted a more thorough consideration and response, President Portes offered to convene a special meeting of the Committee to evaluate the situation. We then met in Washington, DC, on May 24 to discuss our reactions to Council’s action and decide how to respond.
We recognize that Council is not formally bound to accept the Committee’s choices. We also understand that our recommended candidates offered different strengths and opportunities for the future of ASR that merited evaluation by Council. Yet the decision to set our recommendation aside altogether is unprecedented. It raises questions about the governance of the ASA and the appropriate relationship between Council and the Publications Committee, both of which are elected bodies.
At our May meeting, we considered these issues and discussed a range of responses. One proposal, which we chose to reject, would have involved an amendment to the ASA by-laws to give the Publications Committee final authority in the selection of editors. Concerned that public discussion of such an amendment would likely result in disclosing confidential information, a majority voted to reject this proposal. As a Committee, we accept proposals from potential editors in confidence, and we consider it our duty to all of the candidates to maintain this confidence. We also believe that, having accepted the responsibility to lead ASR through the next term, the team of Charles Camic and Franklin Wilson deserves our support. We therefore decided not to seek a change in the by-laws at this time.
While we held the principle of confidentiality as a high priority, we also concluded that procedural changes are essential to safeguard the future work of the Publications Committee. The Committee thus voted to make the following recommendations to the ASA Council. We expect them to be discussed at Council’s August meeting and hope they will be passed at that time.
These recommendations state:
Pending the Council’s response to these motions, the Committee decided to take no further immediate action and to reassess the situation at our next meeting. By clarifying our actions at this time, we hope to contribute to an open and productive discussion of these important issues. We look forward to a resolution that ASA members with diverse perspectives can support.
- The Chair of the ASA Committee on Publications, or a duly appointed representative, will present the Committee’s recommendations in person to Council on selection of editors and other matters deemed important.
- If Council rejects the recommendation of the Committee on Publications, Council must return the decision to the Committee with Council’s rationale and alternative proposals.
- In the case of a continuing dispute about editor selection, a subcommittee of the Committee on Publications and Council will be formed to discuss and ultimately prepare a mutual recommendation for Council’s consideration.
Michael Schwartz, Chair; Florence Bonner; Kathleen Gerson; Elizabeth Higginbotham; John Logan; Marta Tienda
. . .
The following excerpts come from a letter from outgoing ASR editor Glenn Firebaugh to members of his editorial board. After thanking them for their service, he then comments on the ASR editorship selection.
Many sociologists – members of the ASR Board as well as others – have asked for my opinion of the Wilson-Camic team. Here it is: I think they will be outstanding editors, and I think it is shameful that anyone would try to use recent events to besmirch their scholarly reputations.
The other ASA journal editors and I reviewed that applications for ASR Editor at the same time that the Publications Committee did. I can say that the Association was fortunate to receive applications from a number of fine scholars. I favored the Wilson-Camic application for three reasons. First, there are two of them (all other applications were for solo editors). Some other, smaller, ASA journals have co-editors, and for the past three years I have argued that the ASR should have co-editors as well. Consider this: The ASR receives almost two-thirds as many manuscripts as the American Economic Review does (500-600 manuscripts per year for ASR, about 900 per year for AER). The AER has four editors. The large volume and the increasing sophistication of manuscripts submitted to ASR together dictate the need for multiple editors.
I favored the Wilson-Camic team, second, for diversity reasons. The standard complaint about ASR—I heard this complaint long before I became Editor – is that the ASR does not include enough qualitative research. Because manuscripts using qualitative research are accepted at the same rate as other types of manuscripts submitted to ASR, the solution is to entice more qualitative researchers to submit their best work to ASR. What better way to do this than to appoint a qualitative researcher as Editor? Charles Camic has a distinguished track record as a qualitative researcher and theorist, and he is complimented well by Franklin Wilson, a quantitative researcher.
Third, I favored the Wilson-Camic team because of their excellent review history for ASR. Professor Wilson has been such a valued member of the ASR Board that in 1998 I asked him to extend his term an extra year. Professor Camic has written careful reviews for ASR. Some of the other applicants also had strong review records, but others were habitually slow in their reviews or did not review at all.
The 12 Editors of ASA journals were nearly unanimous in their recommendation of the Wilson-Camic team to the Publications Committee. So the sequence was: The Publications Committee rejected the recommendation of the ASA Editors; the ASA Council rejected the recommendation of the Publications Committee. To my knowledge, both actions are unprecedented.
Although the selection process was unfortunate, it should not reflect unfavorably on Wilson or Camic or the other two applicants whose names have surfaced. To avoid such situations in he future, I favor the formation of a joint committee to resolve disputes between Council and the Publications Committee, as has been suggested. That joint committee should consist of three members of Council, three members of the Publications Committee, and two ASA Editors. Because we want journal editors who are impartial, broad minded, and punctual, review histories are important when selecting new editors. Because editors alone know the review histories of applicants, it is imperative to include at least two editors on the joint committee.
So now you know my opinions on the Wilson-Camic team and the brouhaha surrounding their selection. Professors Allen, Camic, Jacobs, and Wilson all deserve better.
Glenn Firebaugh, Outgoing editor, ASR, Pennsylvania State University
. . .
Reflections on the Controversy
In the aftermath of the stormy and bitter ASA business meeting over the selection of editors to the ASR, I would like to try to clarify what I see as the central issues in the controversy over Michael Burawoy’s resignation from the Publications Committee and his subsequent decision to make public his reasons for doing so.
The source of the controversy
In his letter in Footnotes concerning Burawoy’s public letter of resignation, Alejandro Portes suggested that Burawoy’s resignation and decision to publicize this was an act of protest against the specific choice of editors for the ASR. While it is, of course, the case that Burawoy—along with the majority in the Publications Committee—supported other candidates, the protest is over how the decision was made, not the decision per se. It is therefore, I believe, a distortion of the conflict to describe Burawoy as part of a disgruntled minority that lost in a democratic process, which is what Portes implied when he wrote in his initial letter to Burawoy (which has subsequently been circulated fairly widely on the internet): “Extensive disagreements can be expected in many important matters . . . . . The fact that an individual or group find themselves in the minority does not entitle them to unilaterally break standing rules established by a democratic process.” This statement suggests that Burawoy raised these issues because of the “extensive disagreements” over the choice of editor and his unwillingness to gracefully accept the status of being a minority in a democratic process. This is simply not the central issue.
What then is the central issue? Burawoy insists that the issue is the problem of substantive democracy. He is not denying that the formal legal rules give the ASA Council the power to choose the ASR editor. If the Publications Committee were simply a subcommittee of the Council and appointed by the Council—a proposal that was defeated by the Association as a whole—then its status as a purely advisory body which could be overridden without serious consultation might make sense. But the Publications Committee is itself a democratically elected body and one with a high level of recently reaffirmed legitimacy because of the referendum’s rejection of the proposal to turn the Publications Committee into a simple arm of the Council. Given this, the action of summarily disregarding the Publications Committee’s choices and selecting an alternative without any sustained consultation and dialogue between these two elected bodies is, prima facie, a violation of the substantive, ethical content of democracy. This violation of substantive—though not formal—democracy is particularly sharp in this instance because the actual vote in the ASA Council on whether or not to accept the Publication Committee’s list was itself very divided: 6 votes for accepting the list, 7 opposed and 2 abstentions (as reported in the 1998-1999 Council Minutes, July/August 1999 issue of Footnotes). But even if the vote had not been almost evenly split, the ASA Council should still have called a special meeting with representatives of the publications committee to attempt to resolve their differences.
Alejandro Portes wrote, in his Footnotes letter justifying the procedures that were followed, that “Existing rules of governance are not an idle bureaucratic constraint. They embody the very spirit of equitable and democratic process.” I agree—as I presume does Michael Burawoy—that this touches on the crucial consideration: what in fact defines the “very spirit of equitable and democratic process?” As every political sociologist knows, formal, legalistic rules of democratic procedure can be used by powerful actors and coalitions to block the arduous process of the formation of democratic consensus and compromise. And, of course, in such contexts, the appeal to the sanctity of “legal rules” becomes the way of legitimating an action that may, at its core, be an exercise of power rather than democracy. Imagine a somewhat analogous situation in an academic department: a department brings five people in for interviews for a professorship and sends two rank-ordered names to the Dean for approval, but the Dean offers the position to a third person on the original list without ever discussing the matter with the department. This would be legal in many universities, but surely would be a violation of norms of a democratic culture.
What does all of this mean in the concrete instance of the present controversy? If the Council found the two nominees of the ASA elected Publications Committee to be unacceptable, the proper procedure from the point of view of norms of democratic conflict resolution would have been to have entered into a serious dialogue over the issues in contention. This would have been time consuming. It would have meant delays. But democracy is hard and takes time. This would have given the ASA Council an opportunity to explain to the Publications Committee why they felt the Publications Committee’s recommendations were unsound, and it would have given the Publications Committee the opportunity to explain the rationales and trade-offs in greater depth. Through such dialogue there is every reason to believe that compromise, if not consensus, would have been possible. And if, after such serious deliberation, a majority of the Council still felt that their choice was sufficiently better than those proposed by the Publications Committee to warrant overriding the Publications Committee’s recommendations, then this could be regarded as the outcome of a substantively democratic process. If such a procedure had been followed, then I have no doubt that Michael Burawoy would have shrugged his shoulders and accepted the decision without fuss, even if he remained unconvinced about its merits.
The circulation and eventual publication of the letter of resignation
A number of people, including Portes in his Footnotes letter, have argued that Burawoy’s decision to circulate the letter of resignation was a serious, unethical breech of confidentiality. I have discussed this matter with a number of my colleagues, and no one thinks that this is really an issue here. The letter does not mention the names of any of the ASR editor nominees of the Publications Committee, nor does it discuss the substance of any of the discussions of the merits or demerits of particular people. Of course the letter does reveal the simple fact that the Council reversed the decision of the Publications Committee and, therefore, that Camic and Wilson were not the on the Publication Committees nomination list. That is an unfortunate by-product of publicly raising an objection to a use of power in the Association, but I do not see how Burawoy had any alternative under the circumstances if he wanted to affirm the importance of “the very spirit of equitable and democratic process”. In any case, the main purpose of rules of confidentiality in situations like this is not to protect the anonymity of failed proposals, but to protect the confidentiality of the committee discussions themselves so that participants in those deliberations will feel free to express candid opinions. Nothing in Burawoy’s actions compromised that kind of confidentiality. I do not think that this controversy need taint the editorship of Camic and Wilson. They were both completely unaware of any special circumstances of their appointment, and this fact is now well known. They will certainly do a superb job as editors, and that should be able to quickly neutralize any ill-will generated by the public revelation of the process by which they were selected. Burawoy, at the end of his letter of resignation, affirmed his own belief that in fact Camic and Wilson will be excellent editors: “I have every confidence that Professors Wilson and Camic will do an excellent job as editors of the American Sociological Review but, through no fault of their own, it will not be one that reflects the Publications Committee’s efforts to carry out its mandate.” I imagine that most people who share Burawoy’s priorities for the ASR also share this opinion. This is another reason why I feel it is important not to frame the controversy as over the people actually selected for the editorship but over the procedure adopted.
What’s to be done?
I think a broad-based discussion both of issue of democratic procedure for these two committees and the issue of the character of the ASR is now inevitable and, in the end, desirable. I personally doubt if the former will end up being deeply contentious: a significant majority of the ASA membership has already affirmed the desirability of a democratically-elected publications committee and I think a majority believe this implies it being a real partner in the editor selection process. The latter issue, in contrast, will be contentious because Sociology, as always, contains rival visions of the discipline and thus of the appropriate character for its leading journals.
In my judgment it would be very desirable for this wide-ranging discussion to be separated from the pragmatics of the present situation and the current editorship. That is, I think it would be a mistake if this general discussion over the ASR became a discussion over the merits of the actual choice made for the current editors. One way to avoid this would be for there to be a frank acknowledgment that while the Council did have the formal power to make this decision, there was an error of judgment in the process: in light of the elected status of the Publications Committee, there should have been serious dialogue and consultation between the two elected bodies before a final decision was reached and that this will be the procedure followed in such instances in the future. With that admission on the table, then I think the discussion can move on to the future rather than dwell on the present editorship.
Erik Olin Wrig .ht, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Wright wrote the biographical statements for Camic and Wilson which appeared in the July-August issue of Footnotes.
. . .
In Defense of Diversity
Sociology has long welcomed diverse voices, and that history makes the controversy surrounding ASR frustrating for many who are also committed to diversity. The dimension of diversity under consideration, however, is not race or gender but, instead, methodological approach.
Some claim ASR is closed to ethnographic and historical-comparative work, and needs to be open to it. Others claim the primary factor driving what appears in ASR are submissions to ASR and that, actually, ethnographic and historical-comparative submissions have higher acceptance rates than does work from other methodological traditions.
The causal factors behind what appears in ASR remain contested, and perhaps empirical analysis might be useful in this regard. Even so, I would argue that diversity has its own imperatives, and that we should honor those regardless of what the empirical research on the factors behind the current compition of ASR shows. And, I submit, diversity requires that the editors of ASR publish ASR in the way it has come to be published; diversity requires that ASR remain as it is.
I reached this assessment after walking through the exhibition hall at the annual meeting in Chicago. During my walk I could not help but notice the lack of diversity. Few authors, and especially few unknown authors, are able to publish books using complex statistical techniques, and by complex I mean something other than OLS regression. But even OLS regression is rare between the covers of published books. If we believe that diversity must be present in every outlet, which is implicit in the critique of ASR, then we must close the exhibition hall to the vast majority of university and commercial publishers who do not publish and often will not consider work composed primarily of statistical analysis.
The critique of ASR forgets that any one journal of the discipline is but one part of a system of knowledge dissemination. Focusing on only one part of the system will produce an inaccurate assessment of opportunities within the field. Instead, one must place the approximately 1000 pages ASR publishes each year beside the thousands of book pages published and the 700 pages of Contemporary Sociology book reviews. Although historically statistical work appeared in book form, for reasons far beyond the field of sociology the vast majority of presses now eschew work that can be published in ASR. Because book publishers have orphaned statistical analysis, it falls to ASR to remain a welcoming place for such work, and by so doing to defend diversity by nurturing those approaches that cannot find an outlet elsewhere. In short, as it is ASR is servicing disciplinary and intellectual diversity.
The influence of ASR is undeniable but falls primarily within the academy; books have influence both inside and outside academia. And, should books provide insufficient access to the wider public, dozens of other outlets for shorter policy and qualitative analyses exist. Every newspaper worth reading will publish ethnographic work. Outlets for historical treatments, policy analyses, and ethnographic work exist as well and reach audiences far larger than decades of ASR circulation. In contrast, were I to submit my logistic regression analysis of changing effects of social background on college entry to any newspaper or magazine, the best I could hope for would be a chuckle from the editor, despite the relevance of the analysis for inequality. These editors would probably argue that even graphs would take too much space to explain. In short, the publishing system prevents statistical analyses from reaching the American reading public.
Despite these conditions, some critics of ASR are attempting to remove one of the few remaining places where sociological issues can be discussed in some statistical complexity using techniques that are justified on the basis of their appropriateness to the question rather than on the basis of the number of people who understand the techniques. If a technique is appropriate to the question, it may be used to address the question, and illuminating insights may be unearthed. ASR at present appears to use that standard. That is a standard that must be maintained.
When this wider context is considered the issue, nay, the crisis of diversity is not as critics of ASR imply. In this environment I see two ways to proceed should we seek to secure diversity. We may protest the refusal of publishers to consider statistical work; one protest strategy is to prohibit presses lacking a record of publishing under-represented (i.e., statistical) work from exhibiting at the Annual Meeting. However, my view is that this strategy would unfairly limit younger scholars’ opportunities to approach editors at the meeting to discuss possible future book publication.
Barring such action, then, we need preserve ASR in its current form. I much prefer this alternative, but of course support informing authors that all work is welcomed, and that should one doubt the competence of reviewers editors might select, one should suggest potential reviewers at the outset. University and commercial presses should similarly welcome all types of research approaches, but until they do ASR needs to remain as is.
Samuel R. Lucas, University of California-Berkeley (Lucas@demog.berkeley.edu; home page: http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~slucas)
. . .
Reflections of a Former ASR Editor
Diversity in ASR, the focus of concern by Council, the Publications Committee, letter writers and speakers at the Business Meeting in Chicago, and many others, has been an issue for many years. When my appointment as ASR editor-elect was announced in 1971, I received suggestions to this effect from several quarters - from scholars whose work was chiefly qualitative in nature, from those whose major interests were in social organization and in special areas not represented in other ASA journals, and from those with varying theoretical orientations. I resolved, therefore, to send a message that ASR was open to all: (1) by appointing to the editorial board scholars with broadly representative interests; (2) by featuring as the lead article of our first issue a fine piece by Murray Wax, “Tenting with Malinowski,” based on extensive ethnographic and historical research; 3) in my statement of editorial policy. The latter noted “the hope voiced by the Editorial Board of the first ASR that it will be ‘one of the most important working tools of American (and other) sociologists,’ and concluded with the following words: “Its function is disciplinary, in the broadest and, hopefully, the best sense. This we take to be our mandate.”
As have ASA editorial staffs before and since, Deputy Editors Lois DeFleur and Lee Freese and I sought as reviewers many scholars whose work was similar in approach and substantive interest to papers that were submitted for publication. We quickly discovered that achieving reasonable consensus on the merits of articles varied greatly among sociology’s many substantive areas, methodological and theoretical approaches. Evaluative criteria for theoretical and qualitative work were more variable than were those for statistical analysis or quantitative methods. Not that they were less rigorous; far from it. Evaluators of theoretical arguments and papers based on qualitative data tended to be more harsh in their evaluations and recommendations than were those to whom we sent papers based on quantitative data and methods. We also received few submissions of qualitative and theoretical papers. The point, of course, is that editors are constrained by what they receive and by the standards of the discipline, which are not always clear or uniform. Moreover, finding editors who have both high standards and a truly catholic view of the discipline is extremely difficult.
As for the other concerns voiced in this most recent controversy, it appears to me that the system is working. The Publications Committee and the Council have both acted with integrity and in good faith. The membership has been widely heard and read, albeit with unfortunate breaches of confidentiality. ASR has a diverse and highly qualified editorial team and further actions are being taken to ensure responsiveness to the membership. It was never intended that Council should accept uncritically all committee recommendations. Council is, as intended, the final authority. ASR remains our flagship journal - not to be read cover-to-cover or at leisure - but as a valuable tool for us all. May it ever be thus.
James F. Short, Jr., Professor Emeritus, Washington State University
. . .
The following message was posted on the Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) listserv after the Annual Meeting and is reprinted here with permission. Roos references the posting of Professor Dill, who spoke at the Business Meeting and wrote up those remarks for various listservs.
I have seen little discussion of Professor Bonnie Dill’s post to the listserv. Indeed, despite voluminous amounts of talking and emails there has been very little actual dialogue, especially about the larger issues of race that were raised in the public and list discussions. To my mind, ASA as an association has not been very successful in having “conversations about race.”
As an insider to the process that produced the ASR flap, I am continually amazed at the caricature of Council and Council’s decision making that has developed and been accepted as “fact.” The demonizing and racist/elitist labeling do not enhance dialogue, but rather intimidate and stifle open and honest discussions about journal visions, diversity as a goal, and race itself.
As elected representatives, Council members must be accountable to the membership. Thus, although painful to participate in, it was important for Council members to hear the anger, vehemence, and hostility at the ASA Business meeting, and in subsequent listserve discussions. Our decisions clearly touched a well of anger in the membership, especially among our African-American colleagues. I think Council heard that anger and responded in an appropriately measured and responsible way, as detailed in Felice Levine’s news release about Council’s August meeting (posted to this list a few weeks ago, and available on the ASA’s home page).
I was not that surprised by the vehemence of the reaction to Council’s decision regarding the ASR editorship, nor by the fact that confidential conversations were leaked (although I find such leaks troubling). There were two potent factors that interacted to make maintaining confidentiality difficult. First, a slim majority of the elected Council disagreed with the recommendation of the elected Publications Committee. And, second, that slim majority disagreed with the Publications Committee’s recommendation to appoint as ASR editor a well-known African-American sociologist.
I think Council has addressed the first factor, voting to institutionalize more dialogue between Council and Publications (see the news release above). This is all to the good. But the second factor reveals a more intractable problem: how to handle decision making when race is part of the equation. Here I come to Prof. Dill’s posting, which summarized her comments at the ASA Business meeting, and added some afterthoughts. While I am very uncomfortable about her decision to publicly release candidate names, her action does allow those of us involved in the decision-making to be more candid than we otherwise could have been. The consequence is that since the business meeting, I have been able to have more open and frank discussions with interested people than I could before, when I felt bound by confidentiality.
Prof. Dill’s comments do not allow for the possibility that people of good will can have different opinions about the qualifications of candidates, including African-American candidates. There are a whole set of factors that go into decision making about editorships. Professor Dill argues that Council’s decision making exemplified “the new face of racism.” The arguments I heard during the February meeting were about the appropriate vision of the journal and especially the editor or editor team best qualified to lead the journal into the next term. That conversation would have happened regardless of the race of the candidates. Accusations of “racism” (or elitism or sexism, for that matter) prevent open dialogue and frank evaluations that are a fundamental part of academic discourse. I do not think anyone on Council disagrees with the notion that more intellectual diversity for the ASR would be desirable, but we did and do differ substantially about how best to reach that goal. To move forward, we need to respect those different visions, and avoid demonizing those who disagree with us. People of good will can agree to disagree.
In the ASR dispute I understand that most of the ASA journal editors (who are no longer official members of the Pub. Comm. but who still have voice in the process) favored the Wilson/Camic team. As well there was disagreement within the Publications Comm. about who the top candidates should be. And, of course, there was disagreement within Council. Ultimately, the majority of the Publications Committee was unable to convince the majority of Council to go along with their recommendation. That does not translate into elitism and racism, but it does mean you have to try again to achieve more consensus.
I also find it troubling to hear and read the constant demonizing of Doug Massey. I have worked with him for a number of years, and have the utmost respect for him. No doubt Doug wishes he had not read his letter, but rather paraphrased it. I understand he has sent around a note, which I have not seen. And I would not presume to speak for him. But I believe he is entitled to offer a substantive appraisal of a candidate that gives his opinion on the merits, as we all are. To argue that Doug Massey—”one white man” as Professor Dill argues—could dictate how a majority of Council should vote does not appreciate the substantive judgments and principled stands other members of Council (and Publications Committee and the ASA editors) took in support of their varying positions. Like the graduate student who eloquently spoke up for Doug at the Business Meeting, I have a lot of respect for him. It is deeply troubling to me that someone who has written and spoken so eloquently about inequality and race in America can be so demonized.
Clearly we need lots more conversations about race, dialogues where both sides “hear” the opposing arguments. Council itself began the healing at last August’s meetings, and heard the anger and distrust voiced by some members. Council also has to “hear” the views of all those who did not choose to attend the business meeting. Without attributing specific words to individuals, I want to close by describing a discussion we had at our August Council meeting. We revisited our February discussion, going over what had happened prior to and during the February meeting. It was really a rather remarkable meeting. People with a variety of perspectives openly and honestly, and with remarkably little defensiveness, described why they held their opinions and why they voted the way they did. Questions were asked and answered, dispelling some of the distrust or lack of knowledge about events that had occurred. Importantly, I did not see anyone change his or her mind, but we did understand each other better. Our meeting was a good one, as we struggled to begin a dialogue about issues that divide us. We made progress. I can only hope that ASA as an association can appreciate how far we have come, and how we can continue to move forward.
I, for one, am hopeful. I had never met Professors Wilson and Camic before August. When I did meet them I came away impressed. At the ASA session where they detailed their vision for ASR, I heard some promising things. The ASA Footnotes article about their editorship praised their intellectual and methodological vision. Let’s add to their workload by giving them more—and more diverse—articles from which to choose. They would be delighted.
Patricia A. Roos, Professor of Sociology & Dean-Social and Behavioral Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University.
Roos is ASA Past-Vice President.
. . .
The following message was posted on the Association of Black Sociologists(ABS) and SWS listservs and is reprinted here with permission.
To my colleagues in the ABS:
The past few months have been very frustrating for me. As I became aware that rumors about my role in the ASR editor controversy were circulating around the profession, I felt unable to address them because of my pledge of confidentiality as a Council member. Now that names and details have been aired at a public business meeting and in other venues, I am no longer bound by that pledge and am relieved to be able to
speak directly. My preference is always to keep lines of communication open.
As you surely know by now, I did not favor Walter Allen’s candidacy for the ASR editorship, based on my evaluation of the materials provided to me with his concept proposal. I was thus one of a majority of Council members who argued against accepting his nomination and eventually voted to substitute the team of Camic-Wilson, who also had submitted a proposal through appropriate channels in response to the ASA Publication Committee’s call for applications.
To make clear that my opinion was not manufactured to block a particular candidacy, at one point in my remarks to Council I quoted a paragraph from an evaluation I had earlier written, without revealing to whom the document was addressed or the date at which it was prepared. My sole purpose in doing so was to underscore the fact that my views were not hastily considered but, in fact, were genuine and had been put into writing on at least one prior occasion. Had I known that this latter act would somehow be seen as a breach of confidentiality (although it revealed nothing not already clear from my broader remarks) I surely would have chosen another means of signaling the sincerity of my views.
In favoring other candidates for the ASR editorship, it does not follow that I sought to disparage Allen’s work or career in any absolute sense. In no way do I wish to cast public aspersions on his contributions to teaching, research, or administration. On the contrary, I believe that anyone who offers their services to the ASA should be commended for their generosity of spirit, and I deeply regret any public discomfort or embarrassment that may have befallen Allen or any of the other candidates as a result of this very unfortunate episode.
I cannot control what others think of me, and if some of you choose to see my actions as racist then I must live with that. I can only say that I have examined my thoughts and actions closely, and believe that I acted without racism and in the best interests of the ASA. Since I am human I must acknowledge the possibility that my judgments may be flawed, but I can assure you they are not malevolent.
You are naturally free to disagree, and I am always open to dialogue to improve communication and understanding. If you wish to discuss this or any other issue, please feel free to contact me at any
time. In the interest of reconciliation, I am sending this letter to ABS President Diane Brown with the message that she may disseminate it in any way she feels appropriate to anyone with an interest in the recent controversy.
Doug [Douglas S. Massey], Professor of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania
Massey is ASA President-Elect.
. . .
A Challenge to Deracialization of Scholarship
This is in regard to the article, “The Underrepresentation of Sociologists of Color and Its Implications” (Footnotes, March 1999.) I agree that we need to take action to increase the representation of minorities in departments of sociology. However, I do not believe that the “deracialization” of scholarship is an effective argument in favor of this. The authors state that as a result of minority underrepresentation in our field, many scholars of color “survive by ‘going white,’” and conducting research that is “indistinguishable” in content and ideological position from that of white scholars. I find this argument to be rather insulting to those minority sociologists who choose to do research in areas unrelated to their race, ethnicity, or gender, and to those whose carefully considered ideological positions are in line with those of many white sociologists.
The authors’ argument is based on the assumption that racial and ethnic minority groups are homogeneous on the basis of research interests and ideology, and that these interests and ideologies are fundamentally different from those of majority group members. This implies that minorities will bring new ideas to the discipline merely because they are minorities, and that white sociologists are not capable of new insights into the study of minority group issues.
I do not believe that majority group members can fully understand the daily realities of belonging to a devalued group in our society. However, I also do not believe that this precludes majority group members from making important contributions to the study of race, ethnicity, or gender, nor do I believe that minority group members should be expected to draw on their experiences as minorities in conducting scientific research. Of course, by excluding entire groups of people from the discipline we are losing the contributions of large numbers of talented people. But we should try to help more minorities obtain advanced degrees not because it will enhance research in our field, but because it is the right thing to do.
Barbara J. Costello, Mississippi State University
“Is This for Real?”
One stares at length and in amazement at the letter of Angela Haddad and Robert Newby, which appears in the May/June issue of Footnotes: “Is This for Real?” Surely, in responding to the March 1999 statement of Richard Tomasson and his co-signers on affirmative action, the authors intended to present a caricature of academic political correctness for the amusement of their colleagues, a bit of light-hearted satire.
Alas, no, they seem to have written this incredible missive with straight faces. For them, sociological research has apparently come to a new dawn, wherein arguments one finds troubling can be disposed of simply by noting the age, race, sex and professional affiliations of their proponents. All we thus need to know is that Tomasson & Co. are, with a single exception, white males, many of whom did their graduate work in the 1940s or 1950s, coupled with the fact that a number of them also belong to an outfit called the National Association of Scholars.
From this, Haddad and Newby deduce that: (1) this is a privileged lot, whose position on affirmative action simply reflects their determination to hold on to power and pelf; (2) because they came of age intellectually when racist attitudes were widely held, they must share them; and (3) those who are NAS members must be “conservatives” who oppose “broadening knowledge” to include minorities or women, and who seek to re-legitimize “all-white institutions.” No evidence is adduced in support of these bizarre declarations, but the authors would probably retort that it isn’t necessary: presumably, their own attributes of race, sex, age or political inclination make them as categorically “right” as their opponents are for the same reasons “wrong.” Race and sex apparently trump everything else, keeping those like Tomasson and his colleagues in perpetual darkness, while bestowing on others automatic enlightenment. Pity any students or colleagues who attempt to challenge Haddad or Newby on some other basis!
And what of affirmative action itself? Is it still open to reasoned debate? Not in the least say Haddad and Newby: “Sociological research offers clear and convincing evidence that affirmative action is a beneficial policy.” We never learn what this “convincing evidence” might be, but since Those Who Know have spoken, we apparently have everything we need. It only remains that honest sociologists should act on this knowledge by supporting the continuation of affirmative policies, and denouncing all opponents as willful racists.
ASA members, one hopes, will continue to examine the goals and methods of their organization and its relationship to public policy, in the measured, civil tones of Tomasson’s letter and some of the other responses which also appeared in the May/June issue. We think they may find this approach preferable to guilt by association, race stereotyping, a priori assertion and name-calling.
Stephen H. Balch, President, National Association of Scholars