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SOAN Professor Alicia D. Simmons on Her New Article in *Social Forces*

By Chris Henke on September 12, 2017


This post submitted by Prof Alicia Simmons.

I am a social psychologist studying the intersections of media, race, and politics in the United States. My scholarship focuses on the nature of Americans’ racial attitudes toward blacks and their opinions about public policies that obviously or tacitly invoke race. I further explore how these attitudes are created, triggered, altered, and reinforced by exposure to the news media. One branch of my research uses surveys and experiments to investigate the nature and causes of racial attitudes and racialized policy preferences.

My latest publication, “Cultivating Support for Punitive Criminal Justice Policies: News Sectors and the Moderating Effects of Audience Characteristics,” appears in Social Forces. It proposes and tests a model describing how news exposure might shape support for punitive criminal justice policies. Instrumental theories of punitiveness propose that opinions are the result of individuals’ perceptions of crime. In contrast, expressive theories suggest that punitiveness is a socioemotional response to the unsettling processes of modernity; in other words, people support punitive crime control measures as a way to reestablish social order in a world undergoing transformation. I argue that news exposure might affect instrumental and expressive concerns, and thus audience members’ punitiveness. I further propose that this process varies based on audience members’ characteristics. Using data from an original, nationally representative survey, I replicate previous research demonstrating that expressive concerns outweigh instrumental concerns in predicting punitiveness. I further show that local, cable, and radio news exposure are positively associated with punitiveness, and print newspaper and Internet news exposure are negatively associated with punitiveness. Moreover, I demonstrate that these relationships hinge on audience members’ characteristics. Although news exposure shapes whites’ punitiveness, it has no impact on non-whites’ attitudes. In addition, news exposure generally decreases punitiveness among liberals while increasing it among conservatives. I discuss the results in the context of the social construction of reality, highlighting the interplay between experienced and vicarious sources of knowledge, and in terms of selective exposure, emphasizing that audience members’ news outlet choices have profound implications for their worldviews.

Professor Kristin De Lucia’s Xaltocan Archaeology Research

By Department of Sociology and Anthropology on July 26, 2017

This wonderful article titled “Xaltocan Found Traces that Would Have Celebrated the New Fire” appeared in the newspaper Cronica from Mexico.  Professor of Archaeology Kristin DeLucia spent 8 weeks in the town of Xaltocan, located in the municipality of Nextlalpan, State of Mexico, where she worked on excavations this summer. The article appears originally in Spanish and features De Lucia who is entering her second year of teaching this fall.   The Colgate Scene is doing an article on this project as well.  Below is the original article which you can read in Spanish, and the translated version enjoy!!

The Spanish Newspaper version is here.

The English translated version is here.

Tim Englehart ’18 studies patterns in student volunteerism

By Department of Sociology and Anthropology on July 26, 2017

Tim Englehart is a Sociology major from Newburyport, MA.  He has been working hard this summer in the 4th floor Alumni Hall resource room doing research with Professor Janel Benson.  Tim is looking at patterns in student volunteerism at Colgate and across selective liberal arts colleges and universities.

Read about Tim’s research here.

SOAN Student Awards 2017

By Chris Henke on June 16, 2017

SOAN is incredibly proud of our student award winners in the Class of 2017, including our Award for Excellence in Anthropology, Award for Excellence in Sociology, and the Ramshaw Service Award.  Our Awards for Excellence in each discipline recognize the students who attained the highest scholarly achievement in their majors; this year the award for Anthropology was earned by Hope Di Paolo, and Julia Taibl earned the award in Sociology.  Our Ramshaw Service Award is named after SOAN Professor Emeritus Warren Ramshaw, and the award recognizes our students who have excelled both in academics as well as through community service.  This year Sociology majors Sally Langan and Alison LePard were awarded the Ramshaw Service Award.  In addition to these awards, several other SOAN majors and minors also bagged important campus awards this year, and we are very proud of them all.

Congratulations to all our seniors and best wishes for postgraduate life!

SOAN students winning awards include (l to r) Chelsea Mohr (Upstate Institute Award), Alison LePard (Ramshaw Service Award), Sally Langan (Ramshaw Service Award), Hope Di Paolo (Award for Excellence in Anthropology), and Julia Taibl (Award for Excellence in Sociology, not pictured).

A Message to SOAN Students and the Campus Community

By Chris Henke on May 8, 2017

Dear SOAN students and friends,

This week, following the “active shooter” Campus Alert, has been difficult for our community.

While the administration has taken preliminary action, many of our students voice despair, exhaustion and concern that this will be “swept under the rug” or forgotten in the excitement of graduation and the lull of summer. We feel compelled to issue this commitment to you and to ourselves as a community.

We all have obligations to each other and to society. As those trained to think and act critically about issues of injustice and inequality, we are deeply troubled that certain bodies were imperiled, that whole communities were multiply traumatized, often in ways that others cannot fully grasp. Although we are encouraged that President Casey and many others are responding swiftly and concretely, we are once again reminded that our institution has a lot of urgent work to do. This event was not the result of one or a few individuals. We must work together to dismantle white supremacy on our campus. Colgate’s sociologists and anthropologists pledge to press our teaching, our curriculum, and our other activities on campus to this task, in every way we can imagine.

We ask that our administrators continue with, and scale up their efforts to address real change on this campus.  We ask that Colgate faculty and students continue to interrogate and resist injustice, violence, exclusion and dehumanization in the spaces we occupy across campus and in our communities. All of us have a responsibility to work against arrangements that divide community members from each other and enforce intersecting hierarchies of oppression.

In solidarity,

Members of the SOAN Department

SOAN AA Karen Austin Wins Oak Award for Sustainability!

By Chris Henke on April 18, 2017

Many congratulations to SOAN Administrative Assistant Karen Austin, who was recognized with Colgate’s Oak Award last week at the annual Green Summit.  The Oak Award is given to those members of the Colgate community who are outstanding champions for the cause of sustainability.  When presenting the award, student Dominic Wilkins read the following citation for Karen: “This Oak Award goes to an outstanding member of Colgate’s staff who has dedicated a lot of time and effort to sustainability over the last year. This person serves on Colgate’s Sustainability Council and as a Chair of the Administrative Assistants Best Practices Group. They have been a leader in sustainability among the Administrative Assistants and the greater Colgate community. Please join me in recognizing the 2016-2017 Staff Oak Award Winner, Ms. Karen Austin.”

Congratulations, Karen, and thanks for all you do to green the SOAN Department and Colgate!

Karen Austin, winner of the Oak Award, for “outstanding contribution to sustainability” at Colgate.

Sociology Honors Seminar Hosts Research Poster Session

By Chris Henke on April 17, 2017

On Thursday, March 23, eight Sociology majors in the Honors Thesis Workshop (SOC 495) presented their research projects via a poster session held in the SOAN Lounge.  The students have been working with Prof Carolyn Hsu on their projects since the Fall 2016 semester in a year-long honors seminar, and each was on hand to speak with interested attendees.  Participants in the seminar include: Emi Foster, Angela Jang, Sally Langan, Alison LePard, Sydney Parker, Kayla Robinson, Zoe Smith, and Chandler Wood.  The posters are still up and available for viewing in the SOAN Lounge, on the fourth floor of Alumni Hall, so please stop by and take a look!

Students in the Sociology Honors Seminar (2017): Zoe Smith, Emi Foster, Chandler Wood, Sydney Parker, Angela Jang, Alison LePard, Sally Langan, and Kayla Robinson.

SOAN Students Have Ambitious Research Plans for Summer 2017

By Chris Henke on March 28, 2017

This post submitted by SOAN Prof Janel Benson


The SOAN Department is pleased to announce that 10 SOAN students will be conducting independent and faculty-supported research this summer.

Hannah Post, Emily Kahn, Audrey Swift, and Cameron Pauly will be conducting research with Dr. Kristin De Lucia and her colleague Enrique Rodríguez-Alegría (University of Texas-Austin) on their NSF supported archaeological project in Xaltocan, Mexico.  Just outside of Mexico City, Xaltocan was a major regional center prior to the rise of the Aztec Empire and was conquered by Cortes upon his arrival into the Basin of Mexico. This summer they will be excavating colonial and Aztec contexts, including the courtyard of Xaltocan’s 16th-century church and an Aztec house. Students will gain training and experience in archaeological excavation, survey, and laboratory analysis of artifacts.

Farrin Saba ’19 and Hailey Biscow ’17 will be working with Dr. Santiago Juarez on the Noh K’uh Archaeological project in Chiapas, Mexico.  Near the Southern border of Mexico, Noh K’uh is an ancient Maya city that is located within one of the last remaining rainforests known as the Selva Lacandona. This summer they will be charting new archaeological the remains of a city that dates as far back as 800 B.C., during a period when the Maya were first constructing cities.  Students will gain training and experience in archaeological survey, and laboratory analysis of artifacts.

Vanessa Escobar and Jolene Patrina will be working with Dr. Elana Shever on her project examining how people in the United States today are using dinosaurs to think about what it means to be human. The students will be helping Professor Shever process and analyze the interview and participant-observation data she has been collecting over the last few years.

Hunter Filer ’17 and Tim Englehart ’17 have received funding to conduct independent research this summer. Hunter Filer ’17 received funding from the Lampert Summer Fellowship to travel to Denmark to investigate the integration of immigrant children within the Danish educational system. Tim Englehart ’17 received funding from the Division of Social Sciences to examine the role of selective colleges in producing graduates committed to altruistic good. Professor Janel Benson will serve as the faculty sponsor for both projects.

Why Don’t Sociologists (or Anthropologists) Have a Larger Role in Policy Making?

By Chris Henke on March 18, 2017

A recent article in the New York Times makes a great case for putting sociologists and the insights of sociology in a more prominent role in the policy making process. Why aren’t sociologists and anthropologists asked more frequently for advice about policy matters?  It’s a good question.  While the SOAN blog often highlights the impact that our faculty and students are having on, say, the global response to Ebola or climate change policy and environmental justice, we don’t often see a “chief anthropologist/sociologist” in the highest levels of government, think tanks, or NGOs.  My theory: the explanations that we provide for many questions of societal import challenge existing conventions and structures, meaning that, while our explanations and data might be valid, they are hard to incorporate without larger conversations about power and inequality.  What do you think, SOAN community?  Comment here or email me to share your ideas.

SOAN Professor Chandra Russo Co-authors Book Chapter on Climate Policy and Environmental Justice

By Chris Henke on March 17, 2017
submitted by SOAN Prof Chandra Russo

For those concerned with climate change, environmental sustainability, and the needs of the most vulnerable communities, the new administration has offered little in the way of hope. The New York Times classifies the new President’s views on these matters to be “combative, conflicting and confusing.” Trump has promised an “open mind” on climate change yet has proffered statements and actions that suggest he is firmly in league with other climate change deniers. For instance, Trump has promised to get rid of the Clean Power Plan and pull us out of the Paris Agreement. (Without the former, the US cannot meet the Paris Agreement’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.) Scott Pruitt, newly appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ignored the overwhelming scientific consensus when he argued that we reopen debate as to whether climate change is anthropogenic (caused by humans). Mustafa Ali, longtime head of the EPA program on environmental justice (protecting the most vulnerable from harmful environmental ills), just resigned in response to Pruitt and Trump’s budget cuts and stated priorities. The national horizon for environmental justice indeed looks grim.

Yet the national horizon is not the only one upon which environmental activists, scholars and policy makers have been seeking change for the past several decades. In fact, even before these newest, draconian and ill-conceived federal maneuvers on climate change, a stalemate on real substantive policy change was a feature of politics in the US. In a new chapter on environmental justice, “The pitfalls and promises of climate action plans: transformative adaptation as resilience strategy in US cities,” authors Chandra Russo, in SOAN, and Andy Pattison, in Colgate’s Environmental Studies Program, argue that we should have a distinct interest in city level policy. In the absence of leadership from the United States federal government, cities and states have long been the foremost means for addressing climate change. Some of the most cutting edge ideas and actions being taken by US cities are still in their relative infancy. For this reason, Russo and Pattison argue that there is great potential for such strategies to incorporate social equity objectives in consequential ways, especially if grassroots efforts are present and vocal. This chapter is not about putting on rose colored (sun)glasses, as Russo and Pattison point out real shortcomings and challenges that these cities, and others wishing to follow suit, are going to have to address. The piece does, however, point to some exciting developments and indicates that local and state politics are important for transformative change even in times of massive national setbacks.