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Even wonder why so few men enter the child care profession, especially as caretakers for very young children?  In Germany, the government is spending (a lot of) money to recruit men into the profession.  In that country men are in high demand because many parents don’t want their children looked after exclusively by women and about one third of mothers and fathers prefer day care facilities that have male staff. In the U.S., the situation is somewhat different; male childcare workers often have to explain themselves and why they do their job.

In the following piece, a guest blogger Lata Murti, contemplates a situation in her child’s daycare center involving a male childcare worker.  We invited sociologists Christine Williams, Barbara Risman, and Andrew Cognard-Black to comment and discuss some of the issues surrounding men who work in the childcare profession.

One remarkable development, just aired live on line, concerning the administrative turmoil at the University of Virginia: the university’s board has relented, admitted its procedural misstep in ousting President Teresa Sullivan, and unanimously voted to reinstate her. She will therefore retain her position as President of the University. Terry is known to many of us as an accomplished sociologist of work and a visionary administrator. She will now have the ability to continue on in her appointed role. As I type, Sullivan is making a statement about this whole series of events and her hopes for the university in the coming years.

Obviously, this whole episode has raised any number of issues about the future of higher education: the bearing of institutional traditions on administrative decision making;  the right of various constituencies (students, faculty, deans) to participate in critical decisions about university strategy; and the relation between business thinking and the ideals of the liberal arts today. It also draws attention to the threats that higher education faces so frequently today, with Cassandra-like calls for urgent restructuring in ways that are sure to limit the space on which critical inquiry depends.  Had UVA students, faculty, 33 department chairs, and 10 deans not formed common cause in support of their institution’s mission, an autocratic process would surely have prevailed. To my mind, the threats facing American universities would have grown that much more pronounced.

There will be much coverage and commentary about this event; see the Washington Post for further reporting. Feel free to post comments on this whole affair –and on the changes convulsing your own institution.

UVA Faculty Senate convene in an emergency session, June 17, 2012

Many of us in OOW study the social organization of higher education, the emergence of the knowledge economy, or the growing influence of corporate logics on university campuses. So it is particularly ironic that we face a highly significant case involving the dismissal of the most administratively accomplished sociologist of work in the United States. I’m referring of course to the ouster, eight days ago, of Dr. Teresa Sullivan, a sociologist and a leading administrator. As the former Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Texas Austin, former Provost at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Sullivan brought a distinguished record into her term as President of the University of Virginia. All of us who know her, however obliquely (as in my case) perceive a razor sharp intellect, a self-effacing human being, and an inspiring instructor. (She continued to teach the sociology of work even while serving as UVA President.)

All of which would have provided the basis for pride –that is, until June 3rd, when UVA’s Board summarily announced Sullivan’s resignation. In truth, she’d been forced out under highly questionable circumstances, sending the campus into a roiling controversy ever since. The upshot? Powerful donors have called for an end to gift giving unless those who ousted Sullivan are sent packing. The university Senate held an emergency meeting on June 18, for the purpose of taking a no- confidence vote against the leaders of the University Board (in Virginia parlance, the Rector and Vice-Rector). Thirty-three department chairs wrote a letter to the Rector, protesting Sullivan’s summary dismissal and asking for her return. Even the sitting Provost of the university publicly distanced himself from the Board’s actions, expressed his ethical distaste for the process they invoked. Much if not most of the public commentary and debate has involved demands for Sullivan’s return and indignation at the treatment she and the institution have endured.

So why should non-Virginians care? The answer lies in the clash of visions that led to Sullivan’s ouster. Though the details are still somewhat murky –the Board has refused to give any account of the issues that led to their actions—some clarity is beginning to emerge, partly thanks to the Washington Post’s detailed coverage of this case, partly from leaks and statements of UVA faculty (see the insightful article by UVA scholar Siva Vaidhyanathan, in Slate magazine), and partly from the strategic vision memo that Sullivan wrote roughly six months ago. What all of this material suggests is that UVA has been the site of an intense organizational struggle for the soul of the modern public university. Those who forced Sullivan out –a billionaire hedge fund manager and a wealthy real estate developer— seem to hold a vision of the university that relegates the liberal arts to the periphery of the campus, while placing market-friendly organizational logics at the core of UVA’s operations. For her part, Sullivan sought to strengthen the historic foundations of the university, adapting its long-standing commitments in ways that comport with 21st century realities. Here, in other words, was a clash between two opposing entities: On the one hand, a small group of aggressive and ambitious businesspeople, appointed by yet another right-wing governor, seeking to remake UVA in their own image; and on the other hand, a staunch advocate of the liberal arts tradition that has served UVA so well for generations.

Questions abound. Is this higher education’s Wisconsin moment? Can the Board of Visitors prevail, in spite of growing opposition from students, faculty, donors, and alumni? If so sudden and arbitrary a change in an institution’s core mission can happen at the University of Virginia, what does that portend for less well endowed and less privileged institutions? What will happen to our own workplaces, in other words, if so venerable an institution can be lurched in a direction that is alien to its mission?

Sociologists of work organizations who wish to express their views of this case might want to send messages directly to Dr. John Simon, the Provost at UVA (jwt5z@virginia.edu). And of course, please feel free to post a comment on this case directly to the OOW blog, especially as these events unfold.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan, the only U.S. President who had also been a union president, fired 10,000 air traffic controllers. As Joseph McCartin argues in his new book Collision Course, “No strike in American history unfolded more visibly before the eyes of the American people or impressed itself more quickly and more deeply into the public consciousness of its time than the PATCO strike. No strike proved more costly to break. And no strike since the advent of the New Deal damaged the U.S. labor movement more” (pg. 300).    Read More

Happy new year from the OOW blog team. We took a little break over the holidays, but now we are back. We’ve got two posts coming up this week – one from Carolina Bank Muñoz on warehouse work and another from Julie Kmec on employment for veterans – and much more to follow in the coming weeks and months.

To briefly recap 2011 for the blog: Our first posts were on October 12, 2011. In our first three months, we managed 32 posts, which received over 7,200 views. We are quite happy with that. This year we hope to get even more analysis and commentary from a wider range of sociologists and, of course, we hope that there will be many more readers beyond the academy who find the blog useful.

If you are a general reader, then please feel free to contact us about issues you would like to us to cover. If you are a sociologist, please contact us if you have any ideas for topics to write on.

Here’s to a new year, which will hopefully bring more sociological analysis to mainstream discourse.

Best,

Matt, Steve, Chris and Adia

In a recent article on TomDispatch.com, Andy Kroll documents some real changes that have resulted from the OccupyUSA movement. To begin with, the Occupy movement has changed the political discourse. Research by Politico shows that “Mentions of the phrase ‘income inequality’ in print publications, web stories, and broadcast transcripts spiked from 91 times a week in early September to nearly 500 in late October.”

But the effects have not been limited to discourse. As Kroll argues, based on his own journalistic research in Ohio, the OWS movement was instrumental in generating support for the referendum that voted down governor John Kasich’s anti-union law, which would have severely limited the collective bargaining rights of 350,000 public workers.

The anti-union bill had been reframed in terms of the language of the 99%. According to many organizers Kroll spoke with, the heightened sensitivity to income inequality and the energy of the Occupy movement were critical for building support to defeat the bill. Read Kroll’s article here.

Sociologist Annette Bernhardt recently published a short article on Alternet describing how the Faux Economic Recovery is Primarily Low-Paying Jobs.

“In this article she describes how “During the Great Recession, the jobs we lost were concentrated in mid-wage occupations like paralegals, health technicians, administrative assistants and bus drivers, making $15 to $20 an hour.  But so far in this weak recovery, employment growth has largely come from low-wage occupations like retail workers, office and stock clerks, restaurant staff and child care aids.”

Annette has been at the forefront of empirical research on low-wage work in America. She and her colleagues have made critical contributions to our understanding of low-wage work, including Low-Wage America, which she co-edited, and Divergent Paths: Economic Mobility in the New American Labor Market, which she co-wrote. In Divergent Paths, she and her colleagues compare a cohort entering the labour market in the mid-1960s with one entering in the early 1980s,. They find that low-wage careers have doubled from the earlier cohort to the more recent one, from 12.2 per cent of workers to 27.6 per cent.

For the past eight years, we have  been working to address an important question: Why has the gender revolution seemed  to stall?  Our review of data from a  range of sources  suggests that during the 1990s, our society’s substantial progress toward general gender equality was indeed slowed, stopped, or even reversed on any number of fronts, including  employment, earnings, occupational and educational segregation, gender attitudes, housework, and political office holding.

We, along with others, have documented and commented on these trends in several places (see links below). One issue we have addressed is the complexity of these trends: While some of the indicators show signs of a “rebound” in the 2000s, other indicators do not.  But what we have struggled with most may well be the timing of these trends. Why did the equalizing trend of the 1970s and 1980s give way to stalled progress beginning in the 1990s?  The pattern is all the more puzzling, in that one might have expected the slowing to have occurred during the Backlash/Reagan-era 1980s rather than the 1990s.

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