sociology professor

Photo Credit: Zoe Fu | Daily Texan Staff

Rather than learn how to make money, students in sociology professor Pamela Paxton’s undergraduate studies class learned how to give theirs away.

Paxton’s class, called “Philanthropy: The Power of Giving,” allowed students to carefully research, vet and debate different nonprofit organizations to donate toward, with six finalists eventually being chosen. On Friday, the class presented these finalists with donations from their $85,000 budget, courtesy of Fort Worth-based organization The Philanthropy Lab.

“We have a lot of classes on how to make money at this University and hardly any to on how to give it away,” Paxton said. “Not only will [this class] help [students’] own giving in the future, but they will be a resource to their friends and family, and I think it invigorates their own desire to give.”

The six finalist chosen by the class include Mercy Ships, a global charity that operates hospital ships providing medical care for underdeveloped countries; Project C.U.R.E., a nonprofit organization that is the largest provider of medical and relief supplies for developing nations; Charity: Water, an organization dedicated to creating water wells for underserved regions; Pencils for Promise, a for-purpose organization that builds schools and trains teachers in areas with little educational access; the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which furthers research and treatment for those living with multiple sclerosis; and Any Baby Can, an Austin-based organization that serves pregnant women and children in poverty throughout Central Texas.

Courtney Horm, major gifts manager for Any Baby Can, said the contribution would allow them to expand their efforts across the city.

“We serve over 8,000 kids a year,” Horm said. “And it means so much that we are able to expand our capacity and reach more of the kids.”

Horm said the concept behind the class impressed her.

“I’m blown away at the work they put into it, and the process of this class to put the kernel of philanthropy in their mind at a young age,” Horm said. “I thought it was an awesome experience.”

The Philanthropy Lab, which is behind the class, started seeding philanthropy classes at 10 universities around the nation in 2011, including Harvard, Yale and UT. The organization donates a set budget for each class and mandates students decide how to give the money away in the most effective manner. This requires students to carefully evaluate charities and debate among themselves to determine the six organizations best suited to receive funding.

Undeclared freshman Maya Lenox said the class has taught her to be careful with her donations.

“If you don’t know some of the background things about the organization you could end up giving to something you don’t really agree with,” Lenox said. “Or they could be claiming to donate to a cause when in actuality they’re donating to themselves.”

Paxton said the class has been successful since she began teaching it three years ago.

“It’s been a huge success every year,” Paxton said. “A lot of the students describe it as a life-changing class.”

Randall Collins, sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, speaks at the College of Liberal Arts on Friday afternoon over the collapse of capitalism. Technological development and the weakening of the middle class, he argues, will lead to the demise of capitalism by the year 2045.
Photo Credit: Chris Foxx | Daily Texan Staff

Technological development and the weakening of the middle class will lead to the demise of capitalism by the year 2045, said Randall Collins, sociology professor at University of Pennsylvania.

In a lecture on campus Friday, Collins said capitalism has historically used five “escapes” — new technology, globalization, financial industry expansion, government investment and educational credential inflation — to prevent the collapse of the system. These escapes are no longer viable, he said.

“Capitalism depends on having an income-earning population that can buy its products,” said Collins. “Displacement of workers by machinery is the formula for the self-destruction of capitalism.”

Higher levels of educational attainment will no longer serve an as “escape” because the marketability of a particular educational certificate in a job market declines when more people obtain them, Collins said.

“In the U.S., the high school diploma was comparatively rare before World War II. Now high school degrees are so commonplace that their job value is worthless,” Collins said. “University attendance is now over 60 percent of the youth core and is now on the way to the same fate as the high school degree.”

According to Collins, this phenomenon could become an endless cycle, as workers seek further education as “the best response” to the diminishing value of their previous degrees.

Collins said educated workers from other countries who are willing to work online are another factor increasing the competition for middle class jobs in the U.S.

“The Internet creates a much wider pool of workers who can access available jobs, especially if they do not have to move to a distant place of work,” Collins said.

Sociology associate professor Alexander Weinreb disagreed with Collins’ theory of the collapse of capitalism because it “glosses over” cultural and national economic diversity. 

“Capitalism may look different in 30 years, but it ain’t gonna be dead, and it ain’t gonna smell funny,” Weinreb said. 

Government professor David Edwards also said the current “anti-government” political culture seems to undermine Collins’ theory because it does not allow for a strong public sector to form after the private sector collapses.

“Most of what [he] said about the possible way out of this depends on a dramatic growth in the role of government. But what’s most striking about discourse today is the strength of the anti-government movement, which has infected some of the left, as well as most of the right,” Edwards said.

Sociology professor Debra Umberson speaks about marriage Friday afternoon. According to Umberson, men receive more emotional benefits from marriage than their partners do.
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Marriage is linked to health through sociological, behavioral, psychological and physiological “pathways,” according to sociology professor Debra Umberson. 

Women performed more “emotional work” in relationships compared to men, and men generally benefit from marriage more than women, Umberson said. Umberson presented her preliminary research Friday during a lecture hosted by UT’s Population Research Center.

Umberson said that although the labor force has become significantly more diversified, and more and more people opt out of marriage, women are still at more of a disadvantage in marital relationships than men. 

“If you look at things like inflammation and immune function, it looks like marriage is way worse for the health of women than for men,” Umberson said. “I think we also have to take into account that all things are not equal, that there is this relative disadvantage — this baseline disadvantage that women are providing more emotional support, providing more emotion work and social control and experiencing more relationship strain.”

Umberson presented anecdotes collected from a study on women and men who experienced severe stress, such as one partner’s diagnosis of a chronic illness, as a couple. Umberson said women still bore the brunt of relationship stress, putting their health second to their partner’s — even when they themselves were suffering.

“Women do emotion work whether they are the sick partner or the caregiver, whereas men don’t,” Umberson said.

Both partners in a marriage can challenge each other to maintain better health habits, according to Umberson.

“Partners influence each other’s health habits in various ways that then translate into better health,” Umberson said. “[When] your spouse is telling you, ‘Don’t eat so much,’ you’re pouring out the whiskey bottles or watering it down. Women do that to men more than men do that to women.” 

LBJ doctoral fellow Jaehee Choi said Umberson provided useful personal insight into marriage and health.

“I think I can apply this to my own relationships in the future,” Choi said. “It’s like a life lesson, and she’s actually studying it academically.”

Sociology graduate student Letisha Brown said Umberson’s work deserved more recognition.   

“This project is not getting as much attention as it should get, considering the changing dynamics of America,” Brown said. “Thinking about how this research is coming out of Texas … it’s amazing, and I think it’s going to be great.”

Kenneth Land, sociology professor at Duke University, speaks as part of the “Brown Bag Seminars.” Land’s research focuses on the impacts of various social indicators.
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Kenneth Land, sociology professor at Duke University, discussed the social indicators movement during a lecture at the Population Research Center’s “Brown Bag Seminars” on Friday. 

According to Land’s research, “The Sociology of Social Indicators,” social indicators include unemployment rates, crime rates and measures of subjective well-being as a whole. Land, co-director of the Center for Population Health and Aging at Duke, said he wanted to use feedback from the lecture to further his new research, which he hopes to have published next year. 

“When ‘Social Indicators’ was published in 1966, it came out during the time of the space race,” Land said. “During all of this, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences worked with NASA to detect and anticipate the consequences the space program could have on society. Because of the lack of data at hand, this helped develop the idea of indicators.”

Land also discussed the general development of social indicators by showing their impacts in the different decades.

“During the ’70s, you have lots of data systems being initiated,” Land said. “In the ’80s, there was a concern that the field was dying. By the 1990s and the 2000s, there is a revival and
expansion.” 

Part of the reason for the expansion is because of the study on the quality of life, according to Land. From that idea, Land said social indicators can now be measured through the Human Development Index, also known as HDI. The index most commonly measures the human life expectancy after birth, years of schooling and living standards.

Land said economists are finally accepting the impact of people’s happiness on the economy.

Land also discussed the negative consequences that developments such as technology and the top-1 percent can have. The impact of the top-1 percent is an important aspect in his current research.   

Jim Walker, director of sustainability at UT, said he enjoyed the lecture.  

“I thought this was a good turnout,” Walker said. “I thought it was interesting how Land was able to take the University research and implement it into the community.”    

Sociology professor Robert Hummer said Land’s work has helped provide specific information on social changes.

“It was a great and interesting lecture,” Hummer said. “In terms of what Land has done for our field, he has shown how to better understand, measure and assess social changes. In his research, I would like to see Land really bring out the extreme wealth and show the broad measure on society.”

Sociology professor Keith Robinson will be speaking at a symposium held at the White House on Wednesday.

Robinson and Duke University professor Angel Harris will discuss their new book on children’s education at the Symposium on Transformative Family Engagement, held by the U.S. Department of Education and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation at the White House, which starts on Tuesday night and ends on Wednesday.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for professors,” Robinson said. “It’s not something we ever really anticipate happening in our careers.”

Robinson and Harris’ book, “The Broken Compass,” addresses the impacts of parental involvement on children’s academic success.

In his research, Robinson examined the academic performances of children in K-12 across varying ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds over a period of time. He looked at how the children were doing in school and recorded their parents’ behavior. He later measured any changes in the children’s academic performances.

According to Robinson, parents expecting their children to go to college had an effective impact on their children’s academic performance, regardless of ethnicity and socioeconomic backgrounds. But Robinson said he also found parents help their children with homework was ineffective.

“I started becoming aware of the counterintuitive finding,” Robinson said. “There’s something about the way parents help with homework that’s not effective.”

Regarding his “counterintuitive finding,” Robinson said he was only able to record what parents were doing, but he was not able to test how they were doing it.

“Telling parents to be more involved won’t work,” Robinson said. “It needs to be directed on how we’re telling the parents and customized based on ethnicity, socioeconomic backgrounds and grade levels.”

Sociology professor Jennifer Glass speaks on the happiness of U.S. parents in a lecture Friday. According to her research, parents in the U.S. are statistically unhappier than non-parents. 

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Being a parent in the U.S. doesn’t make you any happier in life, according to sociology professor Jennifer Glass. 

Glass’s research shows that parents in the U.S. are unhappier than non-parents by the largest margin almost anywhere in the world. 

In a talk on campus Friday, Glass spoke about why some parents are happier than others, and how parenthood influences happiness in different countries around the world.

Glass said there is a widespread cultural belief that parenthood improves adult wealth and happiness. 

“If you go ask parents, they’ll tell you, ‘Being a parent is great. I love my kids. It’s best thing I’ve ever done,’” said Glass. “Then you go to the empirical data, and find that all types of parenthood have negative effects on happiness and mental health.”

Glass said one reason for this difference might be that parents derive fewer emotional benefits from parenting than they do from their other adult social roles.

“Employment and marriage provide you with money and social status,” Glass said. “Parenthood doesn’t provide you with either of those and exposes you to more stress, which either cancels out or exceeds the emotional rewards of having children.”

Glass used social surveys to determine levels of self-reported happiness for parents and non-parents around the world. After comparing these levels to the amount of institutional support each country provides for parents, she found the gap in happiness between parents and non-parents varied in different countries, with the two biggest factors contributing to parental happiness being the cost of child care and amount of vacation or sick leave provided to employees.

Sociology professor Bob Hummer said he agreed with Glass’s hypothesis. 

“When kids are young, [parenting] is stressful and difficult, and the U.S. doesn’t provide a lot of support [for parents],” Hummer said. “My kids are 21 and 16, and as kids get older, it’s a different kind of stress, but it’s still there.”

Glass said countries such as Norway and Denmark have higher levels of support for parents than the U.S. through benefits like longer maternity leave or cheaper child care.

“Things are terrible in the U.S. relative to other countries,” Glass said. “The gap would be lessened if we had institutional support intended to reduce parental stress.”

Sociology graduate student Amanda Bosky said Glass’s research wouldn’t affect her personally.

“I don’t think it would have any effect on my personal decision about whether or not to have children,” Bosky said. “It does make me wish I lived in countries like Norway, though.”

Rene Zenteno looks at biographies of Latino women before speaking at a workshop on migration and border issues sponsored by the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies. Zenteno, Mexico's Undersecretary of the Interior, was one of four presenters at the workshop on Monday.

Photo Credit: Jorge Corona | Daily Texan Staff

Eighteen-year-old Esequiel Hernandez Jr. was shot and killed by a Marine while tending to his family’s livestock in Redford, Texas, near the U.S.-Mexico border. The corporal who fired the shot believed he was killing an enemy involved in drug trafficking, but instead, he slaughtered an innocent young man, said sociology professor and immigration expert Timothy Dunn.

Instances like this were covered in “Contested Terrain: Undocumented Migration and Enforcement at the U.S-Mexico Border,” a workshop presented by the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies and the Mexican Center. The workshop was introduced by two sociology professors and featured presentations by professors from various universities and experts on the topic.

Dunn, a sociology professor at Salisbury University in Maryland, told Hernandez‘s story to highlight issues that have risen out of the border conflicts.

“The enforceability of human rights has been very difficult,” Dunn said. “Border patrol has harassed many Latino citizens and legal residents.”

Dunn talked about Operation Blockade/Hold-the-Line, an operation to deter illegal aliens from crossing the border in El Paso and the lawsuits that followed to limit the abuses of legal citizens. His talk introduced a human rights perspective of patrolling the border that is sometimes overlooked in favor of reports on battling drug cartels and keeping the border secure.

“We’re primarily interested in this situation to make policy suggestions,” said sociology professor Bryan Roberts. “It’s unfortunately gotten very mixed up with the drug issue.”

The workshop also featured talks by Rene Zenteno, an author and editor of many books on Mexican migration, Jennifer Correa, an assistant sociology professor at the Unversity of Wisconsin-Parkside who researched construction of the U.S. border fence and David Spener, a sociology professor at Trinity University and author and editor of books about the border.

Monday’s workshop was preceded by several unfortunate and unexpected events along the border last week, including the deaths of two Mexican men in the San Diego area who tried to enter the country illegally via the ocean, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The article said 14 others on the same boat as the men killed were chased down by Border Patrol agents in an effort to keep them from entering the country.

Last July, 25 suspected members of the La Familia cartel were arrested and four of those arrests were in Austin and Pflugerville, according to another Statesman article.

Sociology professor Nestor Rodriguez said Austinites should be paying attention to border issues because of our close proximity to the border.

“We live near the border. Many things that happen actually affect Austin,” he said. “The border region is like our neighbor.”

Printed on October 11, 2011 as: Speakers discuss border control

Today is in no way the golden age of African-American participation in athletics because of negative stereotypes in the media and dwindling numbers of athletes, said Harry Edwards, sociology professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Legal scholar Arthur Miller moderated a discussion Thursday at the LBJ Auditorium, where athletes, professors and sports reporters gathered to discuss the relationship between sports, media and race.

African-American participation in most sports — except football and basketball — has been on a steady decline since 1973, Edwards said. This year, 8 percent of major league baseball players are African-American, compared to 23 percent in 1973, he said. The Dodgers only had one African-American on the roster last season, the same amount as they had when Jackie Robinson was playing in 1947.

Dwindling numbers and the media’s portrayal of black athletes as lacking sportsmanship have contributed to the phasing out of African-Americans in athletics today, he said.

“Black athletes are either a clown or a criminal, there’s nobody in between,” he said. “There is no white Ochocinco. The reality is, I’m less concerned about T.O. and Ochocinco than I am about the media that projects and portrays them, and the fact that so many people in society want to see these things.”

But African-American athletes have never truly controlled the problematic image, which has been shaped largely by the white team owners, sponsors and media, Edwards said.

Out of 300 U.S. newspapers, African-Americans made up only 6.2 percent of sports writers, and only five out of 300 sports editors were black, according to a June 2006 study by the University of Central Florida.

As today’s sports have become less about talent and more about business, the public and sponsors are favoring showmanship, said radio-television-film professor Craig Watkins.

“We don’t like to think of it this way, but sports are also theater and performance,” he said. “When we see something as being less civil or less sportsmanlike than it should be, we need to recognize that the camera is on, the lights are on, they’re going into prime time and they’re going into character.”

Former WNBA player Fran Harris said professional football players such as Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco are rewarded with reality shows and media exposure mostly for their bombastic personalities.

“If you’re civil towards each other and there’s no showmanship, you don’t get the reality show,” she said. “Right or wrong, it doesn’t matter. Those are the rewards and perks of being an athlete today.”

Journalism sophomore Hannah Shea said the idea of any race or nationality being excluded from sports in America is appalling.

“If you appreciate sports, you have to appreciate everyone who’s involved and who shows their skill,” she said. “Right now, I think there is a big racial divide.”