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Open Forums at the 2004 Annual Meeting in San Francisco

Learn first-hand accounts about and be heard on . . .

. . . The War on Iraq

Saturday, August 14, 2:30 - 4:10 pm
Organizer: Michael Burawoy, University of California-Berkeley
Presider: Charles Derber, Boston College
Speakers: Medea Benjamin, Global Exchange; Jonathan Steele, The Guardian (Manchester and London)

The two distinguished speakers have been deeply engaged with the war. Jonathan Steele, an eminent English journalist, has reported from all parts of the world as well as being the author of widely read books on South Africa, East Germany, Soviet power, détente, and most recently Eternal Russia. He is the Senior Foreign Correspondent for the English newspaper, The Guardian. Since the toppling of Saddam Hussein, he has spent six months in Iraq, completing his latest assignment just before coming to the ASA meetings. Medea Benjamin is a veteran of the peace movement, Director of Global Exchange, and co-founder of Code Pink, a women’s group organizing against the occupation of Iraq. She has traveled to Iraq on behalf of Occupation Watch and also with a delegation of military families. The speakers will give short addresses on the situation in Iraq and then respond to questions and commentary from the floor.

. . . Same-Sex Marriage

Saturday, August 14, 4:30 - 6:10 pm
Presiders: Nancy A. Naples, University of Connecticut; and Kevin D. Henson, Loyola University of Chicago

    Activist courts have left the people with one recourse. If we are to prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever, our nation must enact a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in America…. The union of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution, honoring, honored, and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith. Ages of experience have taught humanity that the commitment of a husband and wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society.

    — George W. Bush, February 24, 2004

Claiming that “the welfare of children and the stability of society” were at risk, President Bush this year called for a constitutional amendment to “protect” different-sex marriage by explicitly excluding same-sex couples from the rites and rights of the marriage contract. Although his plea was saturated with social science language, many social scientists have challenged the veracity of these claims. What do the social sciences, specifically sociology, have to offer to the discussion? What are the local and global implications of defining marriage in a more restrictive fashion, even as other countries move to expand access to state-sanctioned marriage? What are the implications of the current conflation of religious and civil meanings of marriage in the United States? What are the implications for the women’s and LGBT movements of embracing same-sex marriage as a political issue? What stance should the state take in determining the best interest of children and their families? Should one family form be state-sanctioned above all others? Finally, what role do sociologists have as public intellectuals in the contentious political debates of our current culture wars? This invited panel of sociologists will address different aspects of the debate. Their opening comments will establish a framework for all participants to discuss sociologists’ potential contributions to this nation-wide debate.

. . . Assessment of Sociology Programs

Sunday, August 15, 10:30 am - 12:10 pm
Organizer and Presider: Janet Huber Lowry, Austin College

The ASA Task Force on Assessment seeks input from colleagues who have undertaken assessment strategies for the major (or sociology’s part in general education). What has worked? What can be shared? What are the pitfalls? How can we make assessment a useful tool to understand our programs and improve them? The Task Force is assembling promising practices, examples, and materials to share. Bring your comments, ideas, and materials to this forum.

The Task Force charge includes describing undergraduate assessment, identifying promising practices, reviewing pros and cons of standardized examination, preparing a report suggesting means or the how-to side of assessment, and creating model materials to undertake useful assessments. It considers its work as a companion volume to the recently revised version of Liberal Learning and the Sociology Major, a 1991 report in collaboration with the Association of American Colleges. Among other tasks, the task force reviewed available resources, conducted a survey of assessment needs and desired content and delivery systems, and developed descriptions of models. Those wishing to peruse material ahead of the forum should email Those curious about assessment are also encouraged to attend with their questions.

ASA Task Force members are: Janet Huber Lowry, chair (Austin College); Shirley A. Scritchfield (Rockhurst University); Diane Pike (Augsburg College); Gregory L. Weiss (Roanoke College); Judith Ann Warner (Texas A&M International University); Barbara Trepagnier (Texas State University-San Marcos); Cynthia M. Siemsen (California State University-Chico); Harry Perlstadt (Michigan State University); John P. Myers, (Rowan University); Caroline Hodges Persell, ASA Council Liaison (New York University); and Carla B. Howery, ASA Executive Office Liaison.

. . . ASA Centennial: Ideas for Marking the First Century of American Sociology

Sunday, August 15, 2:30 - 4:10 pm
Organizer: Troy Duster, New York University
Presider: Caroline Hodges Persell, New York University

One-hundred years is a good time for taking stock, and the 2005 Program Centennial Subcommittee has been planning several sessions that will feature specific themes relevant to historical, current, and future concerns of the ASA and the discipline of sociology. While the frame of these sessions is taking shape, there is still room for member suggestions, reactions, and ideas about content. We encourage members to come to this Open Forum to learn about current plans, and engage in an interactive session that will enhance the centennial meetings by broadening participation.

2005 Program Centennial Subcommittee members are: Caroline Hodges Persell, chair (New York University); Patricia Hill Collins (University of Cincinnati); Troy Duster (New York University); Jill S. Quadagno (Florida State University); Sally T. Hillsman (ASA). Representatives from the ASA Section on History of Sociology are Patricia Madoo Lengermann (George Washington University) and Susan Hoecker-Drysdale (University of Iowa).