About David Yamane

Sociologist at Wake Forest U, student of gun culture, tennis player, racket stringer (MRT), whisk(e)y drinker, bow-tie wearer, father, husband. Not necessarily in that order.

levels of racism: individual, organizational, institutional, and systemic

Really helpful disaggregation of the way that supra-individual racism works. Going to be using this in my Intro Soc classes this summer and fall.

scatterplot

Discussions of racism tend to get tangled up in issues of level of analysis.1 Sociologists (e.g. Bonilla-Silva) and critical race theorists (e.g. Haney-López), among others, have long argued that we need to understand racism as something that works “beyond” or “above” the individual, building on arguments that go back to Stokely Carmichael’s distinction between individual and institutional racism. In talking through these ideas with friends and students, I’ve found that the terminology can be confusing – in part because sociologists (and non-sociologists) have used terms like institution and structure to mean so many different, overlapping things. In this post, I outline my idiosyncratic terminology for characterizing different levels of racism when trying to explain these interwoven concepts. For me, it’s been useful to break down racism into four levels that are at least partially nested: individual, organizational, institutional, and systemic.2


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July Message to Intro Soc Students about Class in Fall 2020

This week Wake Forest University is unveiling its new fall course schedule and students will have the opportunity/be forced to re-register for courses depending on their personal preferences/circumstances and availability of courses in different modalities.

Faculty were given the opportunity to teach in one of four modalities: online, blended (traditional and with an online pathway), or face-to-face (descriptions follow). Like many faculty, I wanted to steer a middle course between fully face-to-face and fully online so opted for blended-traditional.

But just two days before students are to re-register, I do not know whether I can be assigned a classroom for my Introduction to Sociology courses that will fit half of my class (35 students total) safely. So, I recorded a video message to my students addressing the current situation as clearly as possible.

Wake Forest’s Our Way Forward site describes teaching modalities as follows:

  • Online: All content and learning activities take place online with no required on-campus activities. All content and learning activities may be delivered synchronously (during any of the pre-existing scheduled class times), asynchronously, or some combination of these.
  • Face-to-Face: All regularly scheduled class meetings occur in-person/on-campus for all students in the class.
  • Blended-Traditional: Core content is delivered online, asynchronously, and is complemented/augmented by in-person/on-campus sessions for faculty-student engagement. All enrolled students participate in all asynchronous online aspects of the course. In smaller cohorts, students also participate in in-person sessions, with these live sessions taking place during regularly scheduled class periods.
  • Blended-With Online Pathway: Core content is delivered online, asynchronously, and is complemented/augmented by a combination of in-person and synchronous virtual sessions for faculty-student engagement. All enrolled students participate in all asynchronous online aspects of the course. In smaller cohorts, students also participate in regular “live” sessions. Blended-online pathway courses must include both in-person/on-campus small cohort sessions and synchronous online small cohort sessions (with the latter constituting the “online pathway” for a cohort of students who cannot be on-campus).

Small Teaching Online Book Summary

Over the past three weeks I have participated in a Wake Forest Center for the Advancement of Teaching summer reading group led by Director of Educational Development Dr. Kristi Verbeke.

Over 30 faculty (IIRC) read and discussed Small Teaching Online by Flower Darby and James Lang.

What follows is my reading notes and reflections on the book as originally posted in a long thread on Twitter.

This book applies the original “small teaching” insight of James Lang to online teaching. Basic premise: make small, manageable changes based on learning science rather than major but unsustainable overhauls to our teaching.

Ch 1: Surfacing Backward Design

Begin at the end: Where are we going (learning outcomes)? Then ask: How do we know we have arrived (assessment)? And last: What do we need to get there (work)? Useful but common advice.

In online education especially it is important not just to build these connections but to make them very explicit, surfacing not just the what/how of each activity and assignment but the why in relation to learning outcomes. This gives online students understanding, motivation, and direction.

Example of result of backward design from my Introduction to Sociology class

Ch 2: Guiding Learning Through Engagement

Darby highlights how much PROCESS we focus on in face-to-face classes that is harder to convey in online classes. Online we need to be more intentional about how we guide learning.

Breaking down tasks into discrete parts & even (occasionally) conditioning later tasks on completion of earlier ones helps. But my main takeaway from this chapter is that teachers have to make a point of being there for their online students. This takes time/energy. Darby: online teachers need to be attentive to students in forums & discussions, looking for cues that we would normally pick up in class. And responding “early and often.” “Look for every opportunity to help students know how they are doing in the class.”

Ch 3: Using Media & Tech Tools

First tip here echoes 99 Tips for Creating Simple and Sustainable Educational Videos by Karen Costa. Create SHORT lecture videos: <6 mins long and informal (rather than professionally produced) are ideal for student learning.

Because online students are often busy outside of classes, it helps focus their attention & structure their priorities to give short graded assessments after each required video lecture. Don’t look at creating engagement this way as pandering to student “consumers.” Grades help guide priorities.

In addition to video lectures, spontaneous (or planned) video updates can be used to respond to issues emerging from the video lectures & related assignments. At Wake Forest we are transitioning to Canvas LMS which makes it easy to record videos inside the LMS or link to YouTube.

Also, do not feel you are shirking your responsibilities by drawing on other available media resources. Curating course materials is an important part of our job as teachers. E.g., Tanya Golash Boza of UC-Merced has put together some amazing videos on race/racism.

Last, remember the book’s premise: small decisions & actions are key. Don’t swing for the fences and strike out, especially making our students collateral damage by turning our tech struggles into their tech challenges. As Darby writes, “First, do no harm.”

Ch 4: Building Community

Online courses are sometimes treated like old-time “correspondence courses” that each student completes as a solitary individual. But the “Community of Inquiry” model highlights the importance of community for student learning (p. 79).

Of the three “presences” (cognitive, social, teaching) at the core of the Community of Inquiry, the social is the hardest for many to achieve online (p. 80). Darby and Lang argue that teachers can facilitate social presence by helping students see us and each other as human beings.

Strategies for doing this include creating structured opportunities for students to interact with us and others. I.e., “discussions.” I and other faculty dread trying to create discussions online, often only knowing the “post once, comment twice” structure that seems so rote. An alternative is proposed by John Orlando: Require “one or two original thoughts” rather than an original post + replies. After all, a reply could be more substantive, interesting, and productive than an original post. And it encourages group interaction as much as individual action.

A real challenge for faculty teaching online will be requirement that we “show up for class” if we want to build community, because class is no longer clearly delimited in time/space. We can’t treat our online classes like slow cookers (“set & forget”). Rather, we have to be present “on a very regular basis” (p. 87). In a F2F class, we facilitate good conversations. Online teaching arguably requires more facilitation. This may be all the more important for under-resourced and/or underserved students.

Monitoring and being involved in online discussions allows us as teachers to foster cultural inclusion and suppress exclusionary practices. Darby and Lang highlight the Critical Multicultural Pavilion EdChange project as a resource.

Last, it doesn’t hurt to “cultivate and demonstrate genuine caring for your students” (p. 104).

Ch. 5: Giving Feedback

Some good Pedagogy 101 items in this chapter. E.g.,

  • recall the difference between SUMMATIVE and FORMATIVE assessments
  • learning requires assessment with timely feedback
  • focusing on justifying our grades is a “common trap” (pp. 110-11).

We need to give students both summative AND formative assessments. We can use labels like “This Time” and “Next Time” and/or “Strengths” and “For Improvement” (p. 112). These labels don’t just help students, they help US remember what we are giving feedback for.

Giving feedback “face-to-face” can be more effective (& even efficient). Reach out to meet with students who are struggling early. Rebrand the potentially often off-putting and little used “office hours” as “happy hours” or “coffee breaks.” Be inviting!

Ch 6: Fostering Student Persistence & Success

Following the small teaching philosophy, this can be something as simply as a “nudge” – an email to a struggling student with advice/encouragement that can have a big impact.

I think there are some things I may do online that I wouldn’t F2F. Like giving “mastery quizzes” as a prerequisite for moving on in a module. In a F2F class students can better gauge whether they are “getting it”; online a simple, ungraded quiz can give needed feedback & direction.

Scaffolding may be more important online, so thinking about ways of giving students easy wins early on to build their confidence both with the material and the technology/LMS. As always, this will be all the more important for less advantaged students.

Ch 7: Creating Autonomy

This chapter argues that students are more motivated if they have some agency/autonomy in courses. Although “we can’t give people agency” we can “provide the conditions and support for it to flourish.” Online courses require students to take more responsibility. We can facilitate this by taking some responsibility ourselves as teachers for guiding students without becoming dictatorial.

This chapter includes a good discussion of Linda Nilson’s specifications grading as a way to reward students for taking responsibility for doing the work of learning. I do this some, though without appreciating all of the benefits. Will def incorporate more online.

Ch 8: Making Connections

This chapter stresses the importance of helping students connect ideas both within and between classes, as well as connecting class ideas to their own experiences. I do the latter pretty explicitly, but the former varies by the class I am teaching.

We can encourage connections with the abundance of material available in the world outside our classes by, e.g., assigning students to “curate” and evaluate a collection of digital materials that illustrate a particular concept. This type of assignment can be set up in ways that facilitate learner autonomy (recall Ch 7).

Ch 9: Developing as an Online Instructor

This chapter is a bit of preaching to the choir. Anyone who has made it this far in the book is already doing this, though of course more can always be done. The chapter provides some direction on the more that can be done: taking online courses, seeking out exemplars, accessing books/blogs/podcasts.

Suggestions provided in “Small Teaching Online” include (tho not limited to):

Which leads to a final important point: take advantage of your local teaching/learning pros. Teams at WFU CAT and Wake Forest’s Office of Online Education have been working incredibly hard to bring 1,000 teachers at Wake Forest up to speed given the reality of at least some online ed this fall.

Actual final point from “Small Teaching Online”:

“Embrace the challenge of becoming an excellent online instructor. Reflect on the moral obligation to help these learners succeed” (p. 218).

I didn’t sign up for online ed, but neither did my students. Bottom line: do right by them

Choosing Adventure: Safe Travel in Dangerous Places book by Greg Ellifritz

As one of Greg Ellifritz’s Patreon supporters, I received an electronic version of his new book Choose Adventure: Safe Travel in Dangerous Places as a benefit of patronage. But Greg was good enough also to send me a hard copy when it became available recently.

At first glance, I am not the natural audience for a book about traveling in dangerous places. Although I love to travel (I have been to every state in the US except North Dakota and Alaska), I have not traveled outside the United States very often. My few international trips have not been to the kinds of “dangerous” places Ellifritz writes about (i.e., the “third world” or “developing world”).

Having gotten into Choose Adventure over the past week, it is now clear that I am a natural audience for this book. So is anyone who wants to travel safely, whether your destination is Kansas, Korea, Kazakhstan, or Kenya.

I love seeing new places, but I also have a strong aversion to uncertainty. Although a fundamental principle of the book is choosing adventure not routine, going into global travel with my eyes wide open does reduce some of the stress of the unknown.

Choosing Adventure is an amazing guidebook to making good decisions while traveling — or in the case of some topics Greg covers like prostitution and drugs, making better bad decisions. Advice about dealing with scam artists and criminals, surviving natural and human disasters (e.g., riots), and using travel and improvised weapons are applicable in 200 countries on 7 continents from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

Even something as basic as food is treated very astutely here. If I had read this book prior to my trip to Mexico, I would have likely avoided getting food poisoning in a restaurant in Mexico City. And if I had read it before going to Ghana, I would have been able to enjoy some of the amazing street food that I assiduously avoided while there.

Photo of Greg Ellifritz courtesy of Greg Ellifritz

Greg Ellifritz is not only a very experienced traveler, he is a student of the magic that the world has to offer. This shines through brightly in Choosing Adventure.

If you want to get a free taste of Greg’s travel insights, he posts occasionally about his travels on his blog. Of the dozens of posts I have read over the years, one of my all-time favorite was the account of his trip to Jordan last year.

Greg Ellifritz at the Temple of Hercules in Jerash. From https://www.activeresponsetraining.net/back-from-jordan

Misrepresenting Science in the “Plandemic” Video

Greg G. Wolff, a little known epidemiologist at Wright Patterson AFB, is all of a sudden quite a sensation. His article on influenza vaccination and respiratory virus interference was cited in the “Plandemic” video going around. Wolff’s article in VACCINE (currently the most downloaded article from the journal) is open access so I had a look to see how the Plandemic video used the truth to distort the truth in a very subtle way.

Plandemic notes that Wolff’s study found that those who received an influenza vaccine in the 2017-2018 flu season were 36% more likely to test positive for coronavirus than those who were not. This is true. 7.8% of those vaccinated tested positive for coronavirus and 5.8% of those not vaccinated tested positive. As you can see in Table 5 produced here, the odds ratio (OR) is *1.36* (subtract 1 and you get the % increase in likelihood of the outcome) and statistically significant at the <0.01 level (P-value). (It also increases the odds of contracting metapneumovirus, OR = 1.51, p <0.01.)

However, consider the potential consequences of not being vaccinated for influenza also shown in Table 5. Any odds ratio (OR) below 1 means a vaccinated person has lower odds of having contracted the virus relative to a vaccinated person (P-values less than 0.05 indicate a statistically significant association in this sample). The rest of the story:

  1. Receiving the vaccine lowered the odds of all of the following respiratory viruses: Influenza A, H1N1, H3N2, Influenza B, Influenza B Yamagata, parainfluenza, RSV, and non-influenza virus coinfection.
  2. Receiving the vaccine does not increase the odds of contracting adenovirus, bocavirus, or rhinovirus/enterovirus.
  3. Receiving the vaccine increases the odds of there being no pathogen detected (by 59%, p. <0.01).

An additional “however” relative to the increased odds of contracting coronavirus in this particularly study, which Wolff also notes in the paper: Another published study found NO EFFECT of influenza vaccine on coronavirus: “Detection of a noninfluenza respiratory virus by multiplex RT-PCR was not associated with influenza vaccination status over a period of six influenza seasons. . . . There was no association between influenza vaccination and detection of RSV, adenovirus, human metapneumovirus, human rhinovirus, or coronavirus.”

So, always be careful when someone invokes a “study,” even a published study. Consider the source as well as the citation. And, as always, diversify your bonds.

In Honor of My Textbook Co-Author Keith A. Roberts

On December 31st, I submitted the revised manuscript for the 7th edition of Religion in Sociological Perspective. I am Keith Roberts’ co-author on this textbook.

Keith brought me in to do the revisions for the 5th edition over a decade ago. This was wonderful for me because I had always wanted to do a textbook, but the prospect of writing one from scratch was daunting. Through 2 revisions, I was able to build on what Keith started and learn from him in the process.

Unfortunately, Keith died in July 2018. What a loss.

When I submitted the manuscript at the end of 2019, it was overdue. The publisher, SAGE, wanted it available for fall 2018, but with Keith battling cancer beginning in 2016, I couldn’t motivate myself to work it. When he died, I wanted nothing to do with it.

I actually asked 2 younger colleagues if they would come on as a 3rd author. Thankfully, they both said “no” (or perhaps “hell no”). Working on the revision has become a way for me to honor Keith Roberts’ legacy and contributions to the discipline of sociology.

RSP Book CoverKeith and I first met on the editorial board of the journal Teaching Sociology. His profound commitment to teaching and learning and professional service were evident then. Shortly thereafter he won the American Sociological Association’s Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award.

The same year our 1st co-authored edition of Religion in Sociological Perspective was published, 2012, Keith won the J. Milton Yinger Award for Distinguished Lifetime Career in Sociology by the North Central Sociological Association, which was appropriate because Yinger profoundly shaped his thinking about religion

Also at the start of our collaboration Keith had co-founded a teaching/professional development award program with SAGE Publications that provides funds for grad students & jr faculty to attend the ASA Sec on Teaching & Learning pre-ASA workshop each year. The award is funded by a portion of royalties given by Sage textbook authors. It is now known as the SAGE Publishing Keith Roberts Teaching Innovations Award.

Keith was not only a wonderful citizen of our profession but also of his own college. Many of us strongly connected to our professional associations often neglect this work. He served 15 yrs(!) as department chair and was also a Faculty Marshall and Parliamentarian at Hanover College.

Keith thought globally and acted locally. But he also acted globally for social justice as part of human rights delegations to Central & South America. He had hoped to do more of this work in his “retirement,” which sadly did not last long enough.

Keith remained a deep thinker and active learner to the very end, authoring a book subtitled A Theologically Trained Sociologist Reflects on Living Meaningfully with Cancer. It was published just months before his death.

I can’t say that I knew Keith Roberts well. I wish I had the chance to know him better. But by all accounts he was a good human being.

So while I hope my professional colleagues think the 7th edition of Religion in Sociological Perspective reflects well on our field, I hope even more that Keith Roberts is proud of my effort to keep his considerable legacy alive.

Bibliographic Reflections on the Sociology of Religion

The manuscript for the 7th edition of my textbook, Religion in Sociological Perspective, is due to Sage Publications by the end of 2019. Which is just days away. One of the the last major tasks I had to complete was the bibliography. This was no small task. Including the 269 new citations I added for this edition (almost 20 per chapter) and all of the old citations (many of which would eventually be deleted), the bibliography ran to 136 double-spaced pages.

Because I don’t use citation management software (to be remedied for the 8th edition for sure), I had to cross-check every citation in the 600 manuscript pages of text against the bibliography (with considerable assistance from my spouse!). In the end, the final bibliography runs 87 double-spaced pages. (A 51 page single spaced version is available as a PDF document here.)

Although time consuming (it took 6 hours), doing this by hand rather than by machine allowed me to observe some interesting patterns in the bibliography.

A core idea of the textbook is that the sociology of religion as a field involves an ongoing conversation among scholars in dialogue with existing scholarship and the social world. The field is constantly evolving as more and new voices enter the conversation and new aspects of the social world emerge or are discovered.

My textbook’s bibliography reflects my particular view of that conversation. This can be seen in those scholars I cite most, those who are up and coming, and those who have largely been excised from this edition of the text.

Most Cited

  • Pew Research Center – 21 reports cited plus 7 “Factank” blog posts covering every possible aspect of individual religiosity in the US and globally.
  • Rodney Stark – 18 citations (11 of which he is first author, dating back to the 1960s, and 6 of which are co-authored with Roger Finke).
  • Mark Chaves – 15 citations including essential work on secularization theory, women’s ordination, congregations, and religious trends.
  • Christian Smith – 12 citations on a range of topics from evangelicals to social movements to youth.
  • Robert Wuthnow – 9 citations from his work on new religious movements in the 1970s, the restructuring of American religion in the 1980s, small groups and spirituality in the 1990s, and global religion in the 2000s.
  • Darren Sherkat – 9 citations. I was a bit surprised by this at first, but his work is very empirically sound, approachable, and addresses issues that are very central to the field in a number of areas.
  • Robert Bellah – 7 citations. The number doesn’t fully reflect his influence on me as his work on religious evolution is really foundational to my understanding of religion.
  • Phil Gorski – 7 citations. One of Bellah’s students, who was a TA for Bellah’s sociology of religion course when I took it as an undergrad at UC-Berkeley, Gorski ended up serving on my dissertation committee at Wisconsin. If Bellah highlights the Durkheimian side of the Durkheim-Weber nexus that informs his work, then Gorski highlights the Weberian side.
  • Nancy Ammerman – 7 citations. If you could only read one person on congregations, start and end here.
  • Michael Emerson – 7 citations, all but one of which addresses the struggle for racial integration in religious organizations. It is that big an issue.

Up and Coming (Alphabetical)

Here I list not the TOTAL number of citations to each scholar, but the number of additional citations added in the 7th edition (which may but does not necessarily equal the total number of citations).

  • Amy Adamczyk: +3 citations on religion and LGBTQ-related issues
  • Orit Avishai: +4 citations on religion and gender
  • Kelsey Burke: +3 citations on religion and sexual behavior
  • Ryan Cragun: +5 citations on nonreligion/atheism and sexual/gender minorities
  • Kevin Dougherty, Mitchell Neubert, Jerry Park: +5 citations on religion, work, and entrepreneurship
  • Gerardo Marti: +5 citations. His 8 total citations actually puts him on the “most cited” list but I put him in the up and coming section because of the large number of new citations in this edition.
  • Samuel Perry: +4 citations on 3 different topics (pornography, bivocational clergy, and Christian nationalism)
  • Landon Schnabel: +3 citations on gender and sexuality
  • David Smilde: +3 citations on research programmes in the sociology of religion
  • J.E. Sumerau: +3 citations on the cisgendered reality of contemporary religion
  • Andrew Whitehead: +3 citations on sexuality and Christian nationalism

Missed Friends

Not really an analytic category, but I was surprised when I was surveying the changes to the bibliography and saw that some old friends of mine didn’t get as much play as they deserved in previous editions. The following individuals had +2 new citations added to this edition of the textbook: Joseph Baker, Courtney Bender, Tricia Bruce, Lynn Neal, Melissa Wilcox, Melissa Wilde, Richard Wood, and Bradley Wright.

Excised from the 7th Edition

Looking back at previous editions of this textbook (the first of which was published in 1984) is like looking at time capsules of the field at different points in time. To avoid bloat, I deleted about one old reference for every new reference I added to the bibliography.

Rather than naming names, I will indicate what subjects I have scaled back on considerably in this edition of the textbook. In no particular order:

  • Sects: Sect-formation, sect-development as part of church-sect theorizing
  • Mystical/ecstatic/religious experience, including the paranormal
  • “Why conservative churches are growing,” the “circulation of the saints,” and related debates
  • The changing shape and future of mainline Protestantism
  • Promise Keepers, Satanism, violent cult stuff
  • 1950s/60s era racial prejudice work
  • Televangelism
  • Magic (as distinguished from religion)

Some of these deletions are not because I find the areas unimportant, but simply because it is impossible to fit everything into a single textbook. The material on religious experience is a case in point.

Excluded from the 7th Edition

If the sociology of religion as a field is like a mighty river roaring by me, this textbook reflects my attempt to pull a bucket of water out of it.

I have consciously attempted to diversify the content of the 7th edition, including trying to get beyond Christianity, congregations, beliefs, borders, and even beyond religion itself. I do this to the extent possible given limitations on my time, energy, and intelligence, and existing scholarship, but know I can do better.

If you look at the bibliography for the 7th edition, who and what am I missing? Revisions for the 8th edition start on 1/1/2020.

 

A justification as to why a leave is essential to complete the proposed project

I am completing an application for a university funded one-semester research leave at full pay to work on a book related to my ongoing research with Katie Day on church security (generously funded by the Louisville Institute).

As much as I enjoy teaching, I am grateful for the opportunity to take a leave from teaching periodically in order to focus my complete attention on research and writing. At the same time, our teaching responsibilities at Wake Forest are 9 courses every 4 semesters with no graduate student advising on top of that. Which leaves plenty of time for research and writing under normal circumstances.

Because of this reality, as I was working on my leave application this past Saturday, one of the pieces of information requested rubbed me the wrong way. Although I subsequently re-wrote my response to remove the snark, below is what I originally wrote.

(4) A justification as to why a leave is essential to complete the proposed project, included justification for the timing of the leave relative to the proposed project.

Of the 27 semesters I have completed at Wake Forest, I have had 2 semesters of research leave. During that time I have published two books, completed two revisions of my sociology of religion textbook, edited a major handbook in the sociology of religion, served 7 years as editor and associate editor of leading journals in my field, published 15 articles and book chapters, and written countless reviews and other occasional pieces.

Clearly, a leave is not “essential” to completing this project or any productive faculty members’ projects. I will complete the project with or without the support of a research leave. However, there is no question that without the gift of time and space a research leave provides it will take longer to complete, create more opportunity costs in terms of other work I can do as a teacher-scholar, and (perhaps most significantly) extract a greater toll on my personal health and relationships.

Letter of Support to Parents and Loved Ones of Wake Forest Students

Although the university’s response to threatening emails sent to 7 individual faculty and staff associated with the sociology department and 5 other units on campus was slow, the response of our department was not. In addition to the email noted in my previous post, drafted by our department chair Joseph Soares, our newest faculty member, Brittany Battle, took it upon herself to write a letter of support to parents and loved ones of Wake Forest students.

I am grateful that she did. The letter appears below.

As a two-time parent of Wake Forest undergraduates (including one currently), I was happy to co-sign.

The early morning sun rakes across the side of Kirby Hall, on the campus of Wake Forest University, Friday, January 11, 2019. Photo by Ken Bennett

Dear Parents and Loved Ones of WFU Students,

Over the past week, the university has been experiencing the aftermath of hateful emails sent to members of the university community. We have spoken with many students and many have described their fear and anger. We can completely relate to those feelings, which are shared by many associated with the university, including parents. As faculty and staff members at Wake, we want to assure you that we are here on campus to support your children and to advocate for their safety and security. We are committed to making sure that the most marginalized students on our campus–students of color, LGBTQ+ students, first-generation students–have faculty in their corner who are speaking on their behalf. We are committed to doing our very best every day to make them feel welcomed and valued here. The most rewarding part of our job is teaching and supporting your children, a job that we all hold in the utmost regard. We know you trusted the university in sending your child to get their education at Wake, in many cases hours away from home. We hope that knowing your child has the support of faculty and staff, across departments and individual backgrounds, provides you with some comfort.

In Solidarity,

Brittany P. Battle, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Saylor Breckenridge, Associate Professor of Sociology

Hana Brown, Associate Professor of Sociology

Amanda Gengler, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Amanda L. Griffith, Associate Professor and Associate Chair of Economics

Kristina Gupta, Assistant Professor, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Marina Krcmar, Professor, Communication, WFU Parent (‘17)

Jayati Lal, Visiting Associate Professor, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Jieun Lee, Assistant Professor, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Tanisha Ramachandran, Associate Teaching Professor, Department for the Study of Religions

Don R. Shegog, II, Instructional Technologist for Economics, Politics and Sociology Departments

Robin Simon, Professor of Sociology

Joseph A. Soares, Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology

Alessandra Von Burg, Associate Professor, Communication, WFU Parent (‘14)

Ron Von Burg, Associate Professor, Communication, WFU Parent (‘14)

David Yamane, Professor of Sociology and Wake Forest Parent (‘17, ‘22)

Mir Yarfitz, Associate Professor, Department of History

Tanya Zanish-Belcher, Director—Special Collections & Archives, ZSR Library

Sociology Department Response to Hostile Emails Sent to Wake Forest Faculty and Staff

My academic home, Wake Forest University, is not innocent of the open and blatant racism of the past or the more hidden and subtle racism of the present. Many on campus, including members of my home department (sociology), have pressed for the university to address this.

Recently, Wake Forest became the target of open and blatant racism (and homophobia and anti-Semitism), particularly members of the sociology department. As has been reported in the media, sociology faculty and staff received 7 of 12 hateful emails that were recently sent by an (as yet) unknown sender.

Although the university was slow in its official response, the department responded more quickly in an email to our majors and minors. That email, written by our department chair and co-signed by the members of our department, is copied below.

An exterior view of Wait Chapel, on the campus of Wake Forest University, Thursday, August 29, 2019. Photo by Ken Bennett

Dear Sociology Students:

This letter comes to you from the entire department of sociology, faculty and staff, because we believe you have a right to know the truth about the hate emails that were sent to members of our community last week.

Wednesday, September 11, the University Police told you that there were “investigating reports of inflammatory emails [sent out Tuesday night] with racist, homophobic, and discriminatory content sent from an unknown source … to various faculty and staff members.” That’s true. But what wasn’t spelled out is that the only individuals who received these emails were faculty and staff in our department. Seven people who work in our department were singled out for a hate email that praised the white male founding fathers, dismissed our undergraduates with ugly vile language, and called for our land to be “purged” of people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community.  We take this hate email as being not just racist, homophobic, and misogynistic but also as a threat of violence. The call to “purge” categories of persons, is a white supremacist call for genocide.

The safety of everyone in our community is our top priority, but we also promise you transparency and the truth. We live in a society plagued by racism, sexism, and gun violence. We will do all we can to carry forward our scholarship, teaching, and our public engagement for social justice.  And we will do all we can to keep you and us safe from harm.

All classes will be canceled for the rest of this week to enable us to fully organize our security. Our building will have for the foreseeable future a police presence and all classrooms will be on auto lock. Only faculty will be able to unlock classroom doors.

If you have questions, reach out to your faculty.  If you have information, reach out to the Wake police.

Sincerely,

Joseph Soares

With Brittany Battle; Ken Bechtel; Saylor Breckenridge; Hana Brown; Rob Freeland; Amanda Gengler; Steven Gunkel; Catherine Harnois; Robin Simon, Erica Talley; Ian Taplin; Ana Wahl; and David Yamane.