Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Duties of Professors, including Sociology Professors

I find that I often have to explain to students, as well as many other people, what exactly professors do. Here is a nice explanation of the duties of college and university professors by a geology professor at the University of Georgia. Particularly remarkable is that we regularly write extensive, free (uncompensated) reviews of book and article manuscripts for for-profit presses and for-profit journals, as well as regular reviews of grant proposals for agencies and foundations located in the US and abroad. From Professor Railsback:

A member of our Board of Regents once calculated the amount of time that professors spend in the classroom. He used that number, and his assumption that professors only work at the front of a classroom, to conclude that professors of higher education only work about 200 hours a year. 
I was surprised that anyone charged with oversight of an academic institution (or any institution) would have so little idea what their employees were doing. His remark prompted me to make the following list of things that college and university professors are required to do outside the classroom...The point: Just as it takes months to make a two-hour movie or to prepare for a day-long courtroom appearance, the work behind the scenes at academic institutions goes far beyond what happens at the front of a classroom.

The Duties of Professors at Colleges and Universities
Work directly related to classroom teaching:
Prepare lectures for classes
Prepare syllabi for classes
Prepare labs for classes
Grade class assignments
Prepare exams
Give make-up exams
Grade exams
Calculate grades
Meet with students outside class for help
Integrate new learning into existing classes
Develop new classes

Other work related to teaching:
Supervise and evaluate graduate student teaching
Evaluate teaching by colleagues
Lead field trips
Attend department colloquia

Service to students:
Advise students regarding course selection
Counsel students on careers opportunities and choices
Write letters of recommendation for students seeking jobs
Write letters of recommendation for students applying to graduate schools

Teaching and supervision of graduate students:
Supervise graduate student research
Help graduate students with their research
Read, make suggestions to improve, and evaluate graduate student thesis proposals
Read, make suggestions to improve, and evaluate M.S. student theses
Read, make suggestions to improve, and evaluate Ph.D. student dissertations
Read and evalute written Ph.D. comprehensive exams
Participate in Ph.D. oral comprehensive exams
Participate in graduate student defenses

Research Activities:
Write grant proposals for submission to funding agencies
Do ground-breaking verifiable and publishable scholarly research
Monitor spending from grants obtained from funding agencies
Maintain laboratories for faculty and student research
Write papers for publication in academic journals
Present research at meetings of scholarly societies to promote the University
Give presentations at other institutions of higher education
Read scholarly journals to keep abreast of new developments

Service to one's field of study:
Edit academic journals
Review papers submitted to academic journals
Review grant proposals submitted to funding agencies
Serve on review committees of funding agencies
Serve on committees and in elected positions of scholarly societies

Service to one's college or university:
Participate in departmental faculty meetings
Serve on departmental committees
Participate in departmental retreats
Serve in departmental administrative positions
Participate in or host faculty searches
Serve in Faculty Senate
Serve in University Council
Respond to information requests from administrators
Serve on university committees
Participate in University convocations
Participate in Commencement exercises

Service to the public:
Respond to public queries in faculty areas of specialization
Perform public service in faculty areas of specialization
Give public lectures
Oh, and by the way, teach.

The point: Just as it takes months to make a two-hour movie or to prepare for a day-long courtroom appearance, the work behind the scenes at academic institutions goes far beyond what happens at the front of a classroom.

Bruce Railsback (
Back to Railsback's main page

Monday, January 20, 2014

The number of households in DC basically unchanged since 1960

We hear lots of talk about the currently increasing population in DC after decades of decline. What was declining over those decades? The blue line below shows DC's population increasing, with its peak in 1950, after which DC's population does decline. However, the number of actual households in DC (the red line) has remained pretty steady since 1960: 

So, the main trend is not a decrease in the number of households in DC, but rather a decrease in family or household size. Those large families that could leave DC for larger houses in the suburbs left. In some cases, large households' homes were destroyed by urban renewal, and families were divided into smaller households in public housing, leaving grandparents to live separately from their grandchildren, etc. The large households were replaced by smaller families with professional breadwinners. 

In Georgetown, this change happened with the arrival of New Dealers in the 1930s, who displaced a wide range of large families. With the Second World War and the immense growth of the federal government to wage war, DC's population grew quickly, which can be seen from 1940 to 1950, its peak population size. By 1950, 14.3% of DC households were one-person households. On Capitol Hill, the gentrification process was well underway in the 1970s replacing a whole range of large families with small-sized households headed by professionals. By 2010, 44% of DC households were one-person households. 

Since 2000, we do see an increase in both population and the number of households. Next step: from the Census, who are the main groups fueling these increases? 

(1) The data in this post comes from (p. A-45) and (p. 10).

AU Panel: Displacement and the Changing Significance of D.C.

This should be very interesting. All are invited to attend.

Building Bridges Between Places that Matter: 
Displacement and the Changing Significance of D.C.
AU, SIS, Abramson Founder's Room
Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Moderator: Donald Curtis, Center for Community Engagement and Service

Charles Wilson, R.E.E.L.
K. Nyerere Ture, AU Anthropology
Dominic Moulden, ONE DC
Phyllissa Bilal, Barry Farm Study Circle
Katharine Kravetv, Washington Semester Program

Friday, January 17, 2014

When did the failed city mindset emerge in DC?

Today's Post announced that "Most D.C. residents give public schools low ratings in poll" and published this interesting chart (below). This month, 38% of residents rated DC public schools as excellent or good, while 51% rated them not so good or poor. Since 1996, more residents have generally approved or at least decreased their disapproval of the DC public schools. However, look at May 1990 at the bottom of the chart:

In 1990, 24 years ago, fewer residents (36% then vs. 51% now) were negative about the DC public schools and an equal proportion of residents (38%) found the DC public schools excellent or good as now.

I theorize that sometime between 1990 and 1996 -- long after white flight, long after the 1968 riots, at some point after Marion Barry left office (and before he returned again) -- a new mindset arrived to DC. This narrative argued that the city was a failure, the city was in chaos, the city had been destroyed. This was a new narrative held by DC residents themselves (not by those who had left the city). Maybe it is similar to The Wire's worldview? When did this mindset arrive? Why did it arrive at this time? Why did it sink in? 

Monday, January 13, 2014

1974 AIA Architecture Tour: Potomac Gardens

In 1974, the Washington Metropolitan Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) published its architectural guidebook with "Twenty Walking and Motoring tours of Washington and the Vicinity." Within its Southeast Washington tour, you could start at the Navy Yard and Marine Barracks, go by the Maples (the old Friendship House), St. Mark's Church [as well as other sites], Eastern Market, Philadelphia Row, Potomac Gardens, and finish up at the Congressional Cemetery.

Yes, along with Eastern Market, Philadelphia Row, and the Congressional Cemetery, Potomac Gardens public housing project is worth a visit for the architecturally interested:

The text reads:
Potomac Gardens Apartments
1225 G Street, S.E.,
1967 -- Metcalf and Associates.
There are 352 low-rent apartments in 14 buildings; 144 of the units were designed especially for the elderly. The project includes recreational, administrative and geriatric facilities.
In fact, in 1971, the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the regional business association, gave its Award for Excellence in Architecture to the builder, Edward M. Crough, Inc., and the architectural firm, Metcalf and Associates, of Potomac Gardens. The Edward M. Crough Center for Architectural Studies at Catholic University is named after Potomac Gardens' builder.[1]  

Maybe we can return to the 1974 perspective and take a new look at Potomac Gardens as an architectural asset.

P.S. Thanks to our neighbors Sandy and Barry for finding this book and its reference to Potomac Gardens!

[1] I wrote about this on the Potomac Gardens Wikipedia page

Monday, January 6, 2014

Marion Barry -- "the only one who ever looked out for the people"

Last month, Petula Dvorak wrote about DC residents' diverse mayorial preferences in her Post article "Do you occupy Fentyville, the Gray Area, Barrytown or Loathemburg?" Regarding Barrytown, Dvorak reported:
But even if Skyland gets a Walmart, Richard Butler won’t have the mayor he wants most. Butler, 50, learned to cook while he was locked up. He’s now doing well as a line cook in one of the city’s new restaurants. Have any of the recent mayors made his life better? "All I want is Marion Barry," said Butler, who is African American and a permanent resident of Barrytown. "He’s the only one who ever looked out for the people, always said the right things to us."
The internet is full of various condemnations of Barry. I decided to listen to Councilmember Barry speak. I found a couple of recent videos of him speaking. The debate between Barry and this Fox newscaster is really painful to listen to, especially for those who don't often listen to this type of "news," but it is short. Barry does seem to be looking out for low-wage workers, not treating them paternalistically as objects of charity or as in need of more discipline and sacrifice (as in the "politics of respectability"), but as citizens and constituents. I particularly found his discussion at the end quite convincing.

In the short Post video below, Councilmember Barry refers to "the Sage of Anacostia," Frederick Douglass, who said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

At least in the Fox video, Councilmember Barry does make a demand for his constituents in the face of powerful forces, powerful forces who provide only two options: 1) Walmart jobs at wages that require workers to be on some form of state welfare or 2) no Walmarts and no Walmart jobs.

Are there other politicians in office who look out for people like Richard Butler mentioned in Dvorak's article? 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

What is Neoliberalism?

Neoliberalism is one of the most popular terms in sociology these days. Most people probably have never heard of it. Others likely have found it a confusing and useless concept. Recently, I wrote a short two-page article on neoliberalism for a popular sociological magazine, explaining the basics about neoliberalism.

I then received an email out of the blue from a sociology grad student in Iran, who told me that he had translated my article into Persian/Farsi and published it in a reformist newspaper called ETEMAD (Trust). He added his own introduction arguing that neoliberal policies were also being implemented in Iran, so, in his letter to me he wrote, "the content [of the article] was very enlightening and I found it very important [regarding the] sociological features in Iran's context." I must say that this publication in a newspaper has probably made my work more well known in Iran than it is in the US, etc. The beginning of the article in Persian/Farsi: 

So, does DC have neoliberal policies? 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Introducing the Blog Index

Thanks to the reader who suggested that I create a Blog Index! The Blog Index lists all (or nearly all) of my posts in relevant categories, so it is now much easier to find posts. You can see the Blog Index tab above. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Urine and Early Forms of Gentrification

A couple of days ago, I went to the Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. In the 1860s, Marville was hired by the city of Paris to document the massive transformation of Paris implemented at that time by Emperor Napoleon III and his urban planner Baron George-Eugene Haussmann. Haussmann created broad avenues, restored public monuments, and built new uniform, larger buildings, replacing, in the words of the exhibit panels, the "labyrinthine" working-class neighborhoods of old Paris with "a cleaner, straighter, and altogether grander version of itself." In the urban studies literature, the Haussmannization of Paris is considered one of the early forms of gentrification. Why did the National Gallery of Art show this exhibit today in Washington, DC? 

A urinal in the New Paris, 1876. Photo from NPR/NGA
The exhibit makes no reference to DC, but there are interesting similarities with gentrification here today. The exhibit repeats the 1860s view that old Paris was "notoriously filthy and frequently full of raw sewage," using the same legitimating language as today's pro-gentrification commentators. Marville's photos are filled with dry, immaculate streets, at times with a small amount of water flowing by the curb. The only place that urine seems somewhat filthy is in a photo of the new public urinals (photo to the left) installed by Haussmann, suggesting that urine in the streets is not the real issue. As I discussed in "Smells like Gentrification," when one talks about dirt or, in this case, urine and filth, one is actually arguing that the social order has been disrupted and must be reestablished, possibly in some new way. The perception of urine smells reflects a desire to 'purify' the city. The reference to urine and, in more extreme cases, sewage is a long-running strategy to legitimate displacement.

The exhibit makes clear that Haussmann removed the working class from the center of Paris and left them to live in shantytowns in the outskirts of the city -- a perfect case of gentrification. The exhibit does not make clear that this displacement was part of an ongoing war. Haussmann worked for the relatively new Emperor of France, who sought to destroy the social world that supported the 1848 revolution and who implemented a wide range of authoritarian measures to restore order, sweetened with new sewage systems, new buildings, and "modernization" in general. Haussmann said, "We ripped open the belly of old Paris, the neighborhood of revolt and barricades, and cut a large opening through the almost impenetrable maze of alleys, piece by piece..." 

In the urban studies literature, this destructive displacement involves "revanchism." The wonderfully insightful CUNY geographer Neil Smith described the new attitude of cities and professionals moving to cities in the 1990s, a vengeful ("revanchist") attitude against those who were perceived as destroying the city or even destroying "civilization": African Americans, the working class, the poor, recent immigrants, and so on: “The rallying cry of the revanchist city might well be: ‘Who lost the city? And on whom is revenge to be exacted?’” In Paris, the working class had destroyed the city in the eyes of Emperor Napoleon III, Haussmann, and others. In DC, this revanchism continues today, as demonstrated by a Ward 6 neighbor living near Hopkins public housing who commented on my blog:
Those who own homes near these projects have learned that public policy, well-wishes, and policing have utterly failed to solve the noise, drugs, and crime, so the only thing left is removal of the epicenters of them: the projects themselves. Contrary to what nostalgic non-residents seem to think, this has only somewhat to do with a desire to raise property values and a lot to do with decent homeowners who would like to live decently. 
When the culture of a city - not a racial group, a city - changes as DC's has in the past 20 years, then fighting to preserve a clearly outdated way of life is reactionary and anti-progressive; Populism with rose-colored glasses firmly in place. Sorry, but that's a valid way of looking at it. The city is moving in another direction and as painful as that is to see, sometimes, it's not appropriate to try to hold back the tide through flimsy sociological assertions that fly in the face of visible, tangible evidence. 
As in Haussmann's vision of Paris, for my neighbor certain people do not have a place in the "modern," "progressive" city. Colonial officials too saw themselves as modern and bringing progress, in the face of those they declared "primitive" and living either deep in the past or even outside of time itself. Time is political. 

Where once different classes and, in many cities, races, lived in relatively close proximity, the divided city emerges as certain classes and races are displaced to the periphery. Away from the new, modern Paris, the working class lived in the shantytowns that sprung up in the 1860s and 1870s (see photo below).
"Top of the rue Champlain," 1877-1878. Photo from NPR/NGA
On one of the exhibit panels, someone from 1870 remarked that Paris became two cities: "quite different and hostile: the city of luxury, surrounded, besieged by the city of misery." The exhibition panels discuss the isolation and loss felt by those displaced. Furthermore, in this newly non-democratic environment, one contemporary wrote, "Paris no longer had citizens, only inhabitants." 

Considering DC's embrace of historic preservation and new urbanism's embrace of Jane Jacobs, as well as popular calls for deeper democracy, it is strange that the National Gallery's wall panels seem to side with Haussmann, Emperor Napoleon III, and homogenizing planning. In his review of this exhibit in the Post, Philip Kennecott also seeks out some other, more critical politics in Marville's photos: "the viewer will encounter photographs that are simply too fine to be the hackwork of a man making work to order, stuffing the archives with data or dutifully documenting the march of progress." I agree. As I discussed in "Why does Jane Jacobs matter?," the history of DC has demonstrated that homogenizing construction can easily work together with historical preservation in surprising and gentrifying ways.