EXACTLY the time to commit sociology

This is what I said to my methods students this morning:

“I hope you will understand that I cannot lecture today, but I do need to say a few things. It’s been a tough semester, and I’ve been distracted – I apologize for that.

It’s been a tough semester for you all, for numerous reasons – the projects haven’t worked out as planned, the response rates haven’t been terrific, it’s been difficult to get and use some of the data. It’s difficult to run your tests, understand them, and write about them. I want you to know those things ARE extremely challenging, and I’m proud of you for trying.

What I also want you to know is that what you’re doing is of fundamental importance.

More than ever understanding empirical reality matters. This is true of the physical scientists, who let us know about environmental degradation, rising sea levels and climate change – very real, documented, and getting worse. We in the social sciences do the same thing to solve public policy issues – poverty, discrimination, etc. From my perspective now more than ever it’s important to understand how to collect and analyze social data that is fair and accurate. There is no other path to understanding social facts and improving the world around us.

All four of our projects contribute to that. Two of our projects are about disenfranchised people without resources — some without legal aid, some without a place to live, and some without both. Our project based on UMW data will help us have a campus where students feel safe and appreciated rather than harassed and discriminated. The last project, intentional communities, looks at people who are trying to envision and create a better way to live and a better planet.

It might seem like your role here is small. IT IS NOT.”

And then I broke down and blubbered like a baby. It was 10 am, and it had been a whole day.

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