academia

Cross-posted at the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, and BlogHer.

In an Op-Ed article on hookup culture in college, Bob Laird links binge drinking and casual sex to sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, confusion, low self-esteem, unhappiness, vomiting, ethical retardation, low grades and emotional inadequacy. “How nice of The Times to include this leftover piece from 1957 today,” snarked a reader in the online comments.

Fair enough, but Laird is more than out of touch. He also fundamentally misunderstands hookup culture, the relationships that form within it and the real source of the problems arising from some sexual relationships.

Laird makes the common mistake of assuming that casual sex is rampant on college campuses. It’s true that more than 90% of students say that their campus is characterized by a hookup culture.  But in fact, no more than 20% of students hook up very often; one-third of them abstain from hooking up altogether, and the remainder are occasional participators.

If you do the math, this is what you get: The median number of college hookups for a graduating senior is seven. This includes instances in which there was intercourse, but also times when two people just made out with their clothes on. The typical student acquires only two new sexual partners during college. Half of all hookups are with someone the person has hooked up with before. A quarter of students will be virgins when they graduate.

In other words, there’s no bacchanalian orgy on college campuses, so we can stop wringing our hands about that.

Laird argues that students aren’t interested in and won’t form relationships if “they are simply focused on the next hookup.” Wrong. The majority of students — 70% of women and 73% of men —report that they’d like to have a committed relationship, and 95% of women and 77% of men prefer dating to hooking up. In fact, about three-quarters of students will enter a long-term monogamous relationship while in college.

And it’s by hooking up that many students form these monogamous relationships. Roughly, they go from a first hookup, to a “regular hookup,” to perhaps something that my students call “exclusive” — which means monogamous but not in a relationship — and then, finally, they have “the talk” and form a relationship.  As they get more serious, they become more sexually involved (source):

1

Come to think of it, this is how most relationships are formed — through a period of increasing intimacy that, at some point, ends in a conversation about commitment. Those crazy kids.

So, students are forming relationships in hookup culture; they’re just doing it in ways that Laird probably doesn’t like or recognize.

Finally, Laird assumes that relationships are emotionally safer than casual sex, especially for women.  Not necessarily. Hookup culture certainly exposes women to high rates of emotional trauma and physical assault, but relationships do not protect women from these things. Recall that relationships are the context for domestic violence, rape and spousal murder.

It’s not hooking up that makes women vulnerable, it’s patriarchy. Accordingly, studies of college students have found that, in many ways, hookups are safer than relationships. A bad hookup can be acutely bad; a bad relationship can mean entering a cycle of abuse that takes months to end, bringing with it wrecked friendships, depression, restraining orders, stalking, controlling behavior, physical and emotional abuse, jealousy and exhausting efforts to end or save the relationship.

Laird’s views seem to be driven by a hookup culture bogeyman. It might scare him at night, but it’s not real.  Actual research on hookup culture tells a very different story, one that makes college life look much more mundane.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

An anonymous professor has started a tumblr humorously characterizing life as a college professor… with gifs!  Here are some of my favorites but, if you’re a professor or want to know what it’s like to be one, and you can handle a bit of snark, you should definitely go on over!

Arriving Late to My Friend’s Panel

1

When Academics Attend Conference Presentations

6

When Tenure Track Faculty Hear About a Course Release

2

Revise and Resubmit

3

Fourteenth Week of the Semester

4

At the Department Party, When My Chair “Asked” Me to Join the Assessment Committee

7

When Someone Says, “You only teach two classes? What do you do all day?”

5

Thanks to Ben C. for the tip!

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

While the stereotype of the college professor might still be an elbow-patched intellectual cozied up in an office, it might be more accurate to place him in his car.  A new report from the American Association of University Professors finds that more than 40% of college instructors are part-time, often driving from campus to campus to cobble together enough classes to enable them to pay rent.  These types of employees far outnumber tenured and tenure-track faculty, who make up less than a quarter.

1

This data suggest that the term “precariat” applies well to a significant proportion of college and university professors. Coined by economist Guy Standing, the term is meant to draw attention to the economic fragility of many lower wage workers in today’s labor market.  It’s a combination of the word “precarious” and “proletarian,” a word that is used to refer to the working class under capitalism.

Part-time faculty count as part of the precariat because their jobs are contingent (renewed semester to semester), low paid, and bring little or no benefits.  Let me put it this way.  I just finished my first year as a tenured professor after six years on the tenure track.  I teach five classes.  An adjunct at a public research university would have to teach more than twenty-three classes to earn my salary (average pay is $3,200/class); someone teaching at community colleges would have to teach more than thirty-three (at $2,250/class).  Of course, my salary also reflects research and institutional service, but my hourly wage is obviously far out-of-proportion to that of part-time faculty.  Plus I get a wide range of benefits; adjuncts usually get nothing.

When government funding of higher education shrinks, colleges and universities respond by cutting corners where they can.  Hiring adjuncts is one way to do that.  It’s important to remember, then, that funding cuts hurt not only students; they also hurt jobs.

See also How Many PhDs are Professors?

Via Jordan Weissman at The Atlantic. Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

In the 3-minute video below, sociologist Jennifer Lee explains her research on “stereotype promise,” the idea that being viewed through the lens of a positive stereotype can act as a performance booster and enhance outcome. You can imagine how it might be applied to African Americans and certain sports like track or basketball, or how it might facilitate men’s acquisition of math ability.

Lee’s research is on Asian Americans and academic performance. Asians, she explains, are stereotyped as “smart, high achieving, and disciplined” and this might help explain why they are so academically successful.

1

It can also, however, have harmful effects.  She discusses the way that some young Asian Americans will say that an A- counts as an “Asian fail,” an example of how much pressure stereotype promise can bring.  She also notes that Asian Americans are often disadvantaged in college admissions because of an assumption that a school can have “too many” Asians and, accordingly, accept only students with the most extraordinary academic credentials.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Cross-posted at PolicyMic, Huffington Post, BlogHer, and Pacific Standard.

Writer Peg Streep is writing a book about the Millennial generation and she routinely sprinkles great data into her posts at Psychology Today.  

Recently she linked to at study by Net Impact that surveyed currently-enrolled college students and college-graduates across three generations Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers.  The questions focused on life goals and work priorities.  They found significant differences between students and college grads, as well as interesting generational differences.

First, students have generally higher demands on the world; they are as likely or more likely than workers to say that a wide range of accomplishments are “important or essential to [their] happiness”:

In particular, students are more likely than workers to say it is important or essential to have a prestigious career with which they can make an impact.  More than a third think that this will happen within the next five years:

Wealth is less important to students than prestige and impact.  Over a third say they would take a significant pay cut to work for a company committed to corporate social responsibility (CSR), almost half for a company that makes a positive social or environmental impact, and over half to align their values with their job:

Students stand out, then, in both the desire to be personally successful and to make a positive contribution to society.

At the same time, they’re cynical about other people’s priorities.  Students and Millennials are far more likely than Gen Xers or Boomers to think that “people are just looking out for themselves.”

This data rings true to this college professor.  Despite the recession, the students at my (rather elite, private, liberal arts) school surprise me with their high professional expectations (thinking that they should be wildly successful, even if they’re worried they won’t be) and their desire to change the world (many strongly identify as progressives who are concerned with social inequalities and political corruption).

Some call this entitlement, but I think it’s at least as true to say that today’s college youth (the self-esteem generation) have been promised these things.  They’ve always been told to dream big, and so they do.  Unfortunately, I’m afraid that we’ve sold our young people a bill of goods.  Their high expectations sound like a recipe for disappointment, even for my privileged population, especially if they expect it to happen before they exit their twenties!

Alternatively, what we’re seeing is the idealism of youth.  It will be interesting to see if they downshift their expectations once they get into the workforce.  Net Impact doesn’t address whether these are largely generational or age differences.  It’s probably a combination of both.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Hint from Dmitriy T.C.: he probably wears shorts to work.

Here’s the infographic, sent in also by sociologist Michael Kimmel, revealing the highest paid employee in each state.  Yellow, orange, and green states are all ones in which the most money goes to an athletic coach.  More details at DeadSpin.

1

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

I absolutely love this photograph of a collage on the wall of an activist in the rather new national movement to hold colleges and universities accountable for sexual assault.  Referencing Title IX and the “bigger picture,” it documents cross-college efforts to use the amendment to ensure that sex crimes on campuses don’t interfere with women’s rights to equal access to education.

1

What is exciting is that this is a national movement. The many college names pinned to the board are just some of the schools that have filed, are filing, or will file Title IX complaints with the Office for Civil Rights. “Oxy” is my school.

I’ve been somewhat involved with Oxy’s role in this movement — the credit goes to Drs. Caroline Heldman and Danielle Dirks and the dozens of survivors who, as part of the coalition, have publicly and confidentially shared their stories — but I’ve had the pleasure of talking to journalists about our case.  Regarding the national movement, they often ask me “Why now?”

Why Now?

This is a tough question to answer and, first and foremost, credit goes to the extraordinary people at the center of this fight, such as Annie Clark, Andrea Pino, Dana Bolger, and Alexandra Brodsky at Know Your IX.  As Margaret Mead famously said:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Screenshot_2

Importantly, though, the efforts of this small group have been greatly enhanced by the internet and, specifically, social networking sites.  Students (and sometimes faculty, staff, and administrators) are no longer confronting these issues alone.  They are reaching out across campuses and talking with each other; they are teaching each other how to file federal complaints; they are building and sharing templates; they are sharing stories of institutional foot dragging and spin and developing effective resistance and protest strategies.

For example, Annie Clark, who filed federal complaints against the University of North Carolina, helped Profs. Dirks and Heldman at Occidental College file their complaints: “Over the past few months,” she writes:

I have spent countless hours with them on Skype and the phone in order to share information and help the[m] write their complaints. Yet, six months ago, I had never even heard of Occidental College — and many of the 37 women there who filed had not yet heard about Title IX protection against gender discrimination beyond athletics.

These coalitions are creating both activist networks and fast friends. This is a picture of students at Swarthmore (Swat) showing their love for students at Occidental (Oxy). Both campuses filed Title IX complaints on the same day:

1

As Prof. Dirks explains, this collaboration is a big deal:

[L]earning the stories of other survivors who are actively pushing their colleges and universities to create safe and equitable learning environments has opened the floodgates of what students now feel empowered to do.

This is all possible, of course, because the internet is still at least a somewhat democratized technology. You and I are equals on the internet, at least in principle.  So we all have the opportunity to produce content.  In contrast, other forms of media — TV, radio, movies, magazines, books — typically offer us only the opportunity to consume.

The activists in this movement have a platform and a megaphone, then, metaphorically speaking.  The technology — and our regulation of it in ways that preserve its democratic nature — is helping enable this movement.  Just as the TV made a huge difference in shifting popular opinion about the Civil Rights Movement.  Accordingly, we need to remember this when corporations fight to own and control the internet and its distribution.  For reasons like this one, we should be fighting back with the goal of making the internet a public utility.  Democracy depends on it.

Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post and Pacific Standard.

Sociologist Alexandria Walton Radford has some new research that is rather disheartening.  Radford was interested in the college choices of ambitious and high-performing high school students from different class backgrounds.  Using a data set with about 900 high school valedictorians, she asked whether students applied to highly selective colleges, if they got in, and whether they matriculated.

She found a stark class difference on all these variables, especially between high socioeconomic status (SES) students and everyone else.  Over three-quarters of high SES valedictorians (79%) applied to at least one highly selective college.  In contrast, only 59% of middle SES and 50% of low SES valedictorians did the same.  Admission and matriculation rates followed suit.

2

Interviews with a smaller group of these valedictorians shed light on why we see such dramatic differences in the application choices of low, middle, and high SES students.  Radford explains that most students applied to schools with which they were already familiar. High SES students were much more likely to know people who had attended highly selective colleges, so they were more comfortable applying.  They also felt more confident that they’d be successful at such an institution; less affluent students were more intimidated by these schools.

Radford concludes by arguing that it’s a mistake to leave decisions about whether and how to apply for college admission to families.  Doing so, she writes, “allows the advantages (and disadvantages) of one generation to be passed on to the next generation.”  School-based college guidance would go some way towards evening out the differences and making higher education admissions more meritocratic.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.