This post is by Leslie R. Hinkson, Outgoing Chair, Dissertation Award Committee, and Zulema Valdez, Incoming Chair, Dissertation Award Committee
The deadline for nominations for the ASA Dissertation Award is fast approaching (January 31). As the outgoing and incoming Chairs of the Dissertation Award Committee, we exhort our colleagues to help us increase not just the number of submissions this year and in years to come but the number and variety of institutions that do so, as well as the diversity of the types of questions, methods, and theoretical frames that inform the work of the applicant pool. To be clear, we are not commenting on the past winners of the Award. Their work has contributed greatly to the field of sociology and has inspired newer generations of scholars. However, we are concerned, given the prestige of the award and the weight it gives to the work of these emerging scholars, that only the work of a small, elite group of young sociologists from the same institutions are being given the opportunity to help shape our discipline. Consider the following facts:
In the last 6 years, there have only been 122 submissions to the awards committee. The average number of submissions per year is 20. Lowest number: 16 in 2011.
Highest number: 25 in 2012.
In the last 6 years…
- 16% of submissions came from IVY League schools.
- 37% of submissions came from PRIVATE schools.
- 41% of submissions came from TOP 10 schools.
- 62% of submissions came from TOP 25 schools.
- 31% of submissions represent a one-time submission by a school.
- Six schools are responsible for 35% of all submissions.
In his 1963 presidential address to the American Sociological Association, Everett Hughes asked, “Why did social scientists – and sociologists in particular – not foresee the explosion of collective action of Negro Americans toward immediate full integration into American society?” To be clear, there were sociologists who’d anticipated the Movement and the social upheaval that ensued. But in ignoring and marginalizing their voices, sociology as a discipline failed to predict the Civil Rights Movement. Have there been similar social events and movements that we as a discipline have failed to predict because certain topics, theoretical frames, institutions, and viewpoints continue to be ignored by sociology?
Our plea comes at a time when the American Sociological Association is emphasizing a need for greater inclusion and diversity (see #inclusiveASA for a Twitter chat on this topic). This year, we hope that more of our colleagues will nominate their students for the Dissertation Award. Not only is it our job as advisors and mentors to actively champion the work of our students, we also owe it to the discipline to ensure that high quality work from diverse perspectives and traditions of knowledge production are given opportunities to help shape the future of the field.