American Sociological Association

2019 Department Leaders Preconference

Social Science and Social Justice: Navigating Tensions and Exploring Opportunities

Sociologists have been debating the tensions between social science and social justice since our discipline was founded. These tensions have only heightened in a political climate where even scientific knowledge is viewed through a partisan lens. Building on last year's theme on free speech and academic freedom, the 2019 preconference will consider how sociology departments can navigate this rocky political, educational, and intellectual terrain. 

In her annual meeting theme statement, ASA President Mary Romero challenges sociologists to consider how sociology can be used in the pursuit of social justice. Students are often drawn to sociology because of its potential for creating social change (Spalter-Roth, Van Vooren, Kisielewski, and Senter 2012); many graduate students and faculty define themselves as scholar-activists; and sociology investigates the role of power in the production of scientific knowledge. For some, sociology is inextricably tied to social justice. But others argue that a focus on social justice can undermine the scientific legitimacy of the discipline in the eyes of policy makers, potential students, and the public.

Sociology department leaders confront these tensions in big and small ways. How do we navigate the right balance between social science and social justice in the discipline, given the contemporary political climate? How is this balance reflected in undergraduate and graduate sociology curricula, faculty hiring and review processes, and our work with students? Where is the line between social justice and public engagement? Can sociology departments engage in rigorous science while also advocating for social change? Should they? The preconference will help department leaders reflect on how sociology programs can navigate these challenging questions.

For the first time in 2019, we are holding a single preconference for chairs, directors of graduate studies, and directors of undergraduate studies. The preconference will include joint sessions, as well as separate panels and roundtables targeted to the specific needs of each group. The goal is to invite all department leaders to engage with the issues facing sociology departments in the complex landscape of higher education, while also offering opportunities to connect with chair, DGS, and DUS peers across the country that previous participants have found so valuable.

Friday August 9, 2019, New York Hilton, Second Floor, Nassau West

Tentative Schedule:

8:30 – 9:00 a.m.Check-In and Continental Breakfast
9:00 – 9:15 a.m.Welcome
9:15 – 10:25 a.m.

Opening Keynote: Professor Aldon Morris, Leon Forrest Professor of Sociology and African American Studies, Northwestern University, on "Lessons on Leadership from DuBois: How to Bridge Social Action and Social Science in Sociology Departments." Professor Morris has argued that W. E. B. Du Bois and his colleagues were the founders of scientific sociology in the U.S. and that theirs was an emancipatory sociology committed to social change. How can this historical context inform today’s debates on the relative balance of science and social justice in the field? Professor Morris will share lessons that will help chairs and directors of graduate studies navigate these contemporary challenges in their departments.

10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Roundtables Session I:

Table 1: Support for First Time Chairs and Undergraduate Directors, Edward L. Kain

Table 2: Do Difficult Faculty Members Think They're Difficult? Strategies for Managing Department Dynamics, Diane Pike

Table 3: Withstanding Challenges to Sociology Programs, Mita Banerjee

Table 4: Intersectionality and the Achievement Gap in Higher Education, Nancy Lopez

Table 5: Preparing PhD Students for Employment in Practice Settings, Matt Rafalow

Table 6: Online Graduate Programs, Meredith Redlin

Table 7: Professional Development for Graduate Students, David Cort

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Breakout Panels 

1.    Integrating Science and Social Justice in the Undergraduate Curriculum
Kerry Greer, Undergraduate Chair and Instructor, University of British Columbia
* Deborah Perkins, Associate Professor and Director of the Social Justice Research Initiative, Coastal Carolina University
* Diane Pike, Professor and Former Chair, Augsburg University

2.    Integrating Science and Social Justice in the Graduate Curriculum
Stephanie A. Bohon, Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Social Justice, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
* Shannon N. Davis, Director of Graduate Programs, George Mason University
* Jennifer A. Johnson, Chair, Virginia Commonwealth University

12:30 – 1:30 p.m.Lunch
1:30 - 1:45 p.m.Mini-Session: Midday Check-In
1:45 – 2:45 p.m.

Roundtables Session II

Table 1: Leading Multidisciplinary Departments. Edward L, Kain

Table 2: Do Difficult Faculty Members Think They're Difficult? Strategies for Managing Department Dynamics, Diane Pike

Table 3: Partnering with High Schools to Recruit and Engage Students, Chien-Juh Gu

Table 4: Intersectionality and the Achievement Gap in Higher Education, Nancy Lopez

Table 5: Sociology and the MCAT, Kim Davies (with Melissa Powell-Williams, Elizabeth Culatta, and Lorraine Evans)

Table 6: BA-MA Accelerated Programs, Howard Lune

Table 7: Teaching Graduate Students to Teach, Mary Nell Trautner

Table 8: Preparing PhD Students for Employment in Practice Settings, Matt Rafalow

2:45 - 3:00 p.m.Break
3:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Panel: Public Engagement in Faculty Hiring, Tenure, and Promotion
* Marisol Clark-Ibáñez, Chair, California State University, San Marcos
* Gregory Squires, Professor, George Washington University
* Leslie McCall, Professor and Associate Director, CUNY Graduate Center

4:00 – 4:30 p.m.Closing


Registration is $150 for Department Affiliates and $180 for non-Affiliates. Cost includes breakfast and lunch, as well as preconference materials. You can add the preconference when you register for the Annual Meeting or add it to an existing meeting registration by logging in to your "My ASA" portal and selecting 2019 Meeting Registration.

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