Category Archives: Around the Web

David Pettinicchio: History matters for understanding the future of disability rights

David PettiniccioDavid Pettinicchio is a faculty member at the University of Toronto, with undergraduate teaching responsibilities at the Mississauga campus. His research focuses on discrimination based on disability and disability rights. Professor Pettinicchio recently wrote and published an essay in Policy Trajectories, the blog of the American Sociological Association’s Section on Comparative and Historical Sociology. The beginning of the essay is pasted below. You can read the full piece here.

History matters for understanding the future of disability rights

In 2000, Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s pick for Attorney General, argued before the Senate that disability rights in education “created a complex system of federal regulations and laws that have created lawsuit after lawsuit, special treatment for certain children, and that are a big factor in accelerating the decline in civility and discipline in classrooms all over America.”

This is a longstanding view of Sessions, who in the late 1990s and early 2000s focused his efforts in educational policy around school safety and discipline while also proposing an amendment striking activities related to hate crimes from national training and education programs. With so-called “Ed-Flex,” Sessions and other Republicans in 1999 argued that arrogance on the part of the federal government acting as a “super school board” – thinking they know better than local communities about how to educate their children – only creates headaches.

To many critics, an Attorney General Sessions signals an era of rollbacks in civil rights and disability rights policy. Distressingly, his is not an anomalous viewpoint.

Sessions’ comments highlight the kinds of deeply held beliefs among powerful segments of society that federal disability rights policy interferes with local and/or private interests. Detractors have successfully created significant obstacles for effective policy implementation by framing equal rights and antidiscrimination provisions as unnecessary regulation causing unintended harms.

The fight for equal rights in education has been an integral part of the disability rights struggle. Policymakers and activists sought to establish key educational civil rights laws demanding that the government make good on its promise to enforce antidiscrimination and equal rights provisions enacted by Congress in the early 1970s and again in the early 1990s.

Read the full essay.

Black and Blue: Akwasi Owusu-Bempah in U of T Magazine

owusu-bempah-5x7portProfessor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah is a faculty member at the University of Toronto, Mississauga with expertise in the area of race and policing. U of T Magazine featured an interview with him in the Winter 2017 edition. The entire interview is available here and includes a link to the TEDxUofT talk that Owusu-Bempah and Scot Wortley, Professor of Criminology, presented in 2015.

Black and Blue

Like many Canadians, Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, a sociology professor at U of T Mississauga who studies policing, has been following the spate of police shootings of unarmed citizens, mostly south of the border. U of T Magazine editor Scott Anderson recently spoke with Owusu-Bempah about these incidents and how relations between police and racialized communities in the U.S. and Canada could be improved.

What strikes you when you hear the reports of unarmed African-­Americans being shot by police and the social unrest that follows?

The unrest in places such as Ferguson and Baltimore is partly in response to police violence, but it also reflects the frustrations that many African-Americans feel over the failed promise of the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of equality is still just a dream for many black Americans. Police violence often acts as a spark for social unrest. But there are a lot of underlying issues that motivate people to get out into the streets and protest.

How does policing in Canada differ from the U.S. with respect to people of colour?

I prefer to look at the differences between racial groups within each country. What we see in Canada is that, compared to whites, black and Aboriginal people are more likely to be victims of police violence. Blacks in Canada may fare better than blacks in the United States but they don’t fare better than whites here.

You’ve said that Canadians have some “blind spots” when it comes to race and policing. What are you referring to?

For one, we don’t have readily available policing data disaggregated by race. While the police gather race-based data in their investigations, it’s not made public, as it is in the U.K. and the U.S. As a result, we either think we don’t have a problem or we look to other places, such as the U.S., to see how we’re doing. Let’s also not forget that Canada has done a good job of erasing its racist history. The apartheid government of South Africa borrowed from Canada’s reservation system. We had slavery. We had segregated schools until almost the end of the last century.

Read the rest of the interview.

Ping-Chun Hsiung’s “Lives and Legacies”provides interactive instruction in qualitative interviewing

ping-2016Teaching the skills needed for qualitative interviewing poses particular challenges. Students need to learn how to frame and ask questions, how to practice reflexivity, and how to analyze interview data. Such skills cannot be learned simply by reading about them in a textbook.

Recognizing that practice provides the best way to learn the skills involved in qualitative interviewing, in 2010, Professor Ping-Chun Hsiung developed an interactive on-line guide to provide help for those seeking to teach (and learn) qualitative interviewing. Drawing on a dataset of original interviews conducted in 1993 under the supervision of Professor Nancy Howell, Professor Hsiung worked with a web developer to prepare Lives and Legacies, an open-access piece of courseware designed as a resource for learning or improving qualitative research skills.

The courseware consists of lessons on interviewing, reflexivity and analysis and in each case uses examples from a study of immigrant families. The guide provides shared data from an archive of qualitative interviews to demonstrate the methods for interviewing and analysis. It highlights both exemplars in interviewing and “informative mistakes” and provides eighteen interactive exercises.

Many instructors have found Lives and Legacies to be an invaluable resource. According to Google Analytics, the guide has been accessed almost 4,000 times since it was posted in 2010. Professor Hsiung has also heard from colleagues in Canada, US, and UK who describe the website as “fabulous” and “incredible.” They applauded the courseware for its contribution to the teaching qualitative interviewing, and have incorporated it into their own teaching practice.

Professor Jooyoung Lee talks gun on 107.7 Pulse FM

Professor Jooyoung Lee recently spoke with Kash Heed on 107.7 Pulse FM talking about gun violence, mental health and the victims of crime. Pulse 107.7 is a radio station located in the Fraser Valley in British Columbia. The Kash Heed show is a public affairs morning show. Professor Jooyoung Lee teaches sociology and criminology at the St. George campus at the University of Toronto. His current research focuses on the victims of gun violence.

The interview is available here:

Scott Schieman on BNN: rethinking work-life balance

schieman-media-photoProfessor Scott Schieman was recently interviewed by the Business News Network on a segment about Work-Life Balance. In the segment, Professor Schieman draws on findings from his CIHR-funded national study into work-life stress among Canadians. Professor Schieman is currently the Chair of the St. George Campus Department of Sociology and he is a Canada Research Chair in the Social Contexts of Health. You can watch the full interview here. BNN also includes a summary on their website.

From the BNN Website:

Traditional approach to work-life balance isn’t ‘realistic’, warns U of T researcher

As many Canadians prepare to change their routines with New Year’s resolutions, some will shift their sights to achieving a greater work-life balance.

However, a researcher from the University of Toronto told BNN on Tuesday that the idea of work-life balance itself may be unattainable.

“Our research shows when people think about balance, they think about work on one side of a scale — with its demands, time, attention, energy — and the other side should be equally balanced. That’s often not feasible or realistic,” University of Toronto Canada research Chair Scott Schieman told BNN. “So what it does is it makes people feel like the problems are more personal rather than putting them in a more strategic position and a more realistic position to negotiate their needs in terms of work and family.”

One of the keys to making the work-life balance goal more realistic, according to Schieman, is shifting the idea away from a perfect balance between personal time and workplace obligation and more toward finding a better fit for each within one’s own life.

“If you’re thinking about New Year’s resolutions, people look for meaning in their [lives] and one of the ways they look for meaning is they identify the main source of pleasures and rewards in their roles but also how the stressors and demands of those roles take a toll on them,” Schieman said.

“When people switch to the idea of fit, they get themselves out of the mindset that’s quite harmful which is: ‘I need to balance everything and I need to feel balanced.’ Often – if you’re working full-time or working more than full-time – that’s just not feasible.”

Watch the interview here.

Does Diversity Work?

UTM Sociology Professor Ellen Berrey was recently profiled on the UTM Research News page. The full story is available on their website. We have pasted the beginning of the piece here:

Does ‘diversity’ work?

Ellen Berrey
Wednesday, December 14, 2016 – 2:31pm

The concept of diversity has been celebrated and supported at major organizations and public institutions since the 1980s. It’s a widely supported ideal in contemporary society, but what if its unintended consequence is to perpetuate social and racial inequality? That’s the thorny question at the centre of UTM sociology professor Ellen Berrey’s research.

“Decision-makers in many social domains endorse diversity with an emphasis on the payoffs for everyone – it’s good for learning and good for business – rather than the goal of equality,” says Berrey, who arrived at UTM this summer from the University of Denver. She examines what she calls “the promises and pitfalls” of promoting diversity in environments such as universities, corporations and courtrooms. “I’m interested in organizational and legal efforts to remedy problems of inequality, and how these efforts actually play out on the ground,” she says.

While the term “diversity” covers many differences – including religion, sexual orientation and ability – Berrey says that race is the default assumption when people talk about diversity. “The language of diversity comes directly out of race issues in the United States, especially the black-white divide.” Most of Berrey’s research focuses on the U.S. context.

There have been some important social reforms implemented in the name of diversity, she says, but they have been small and incremental. “Diversity communicates a shared commitment to the social good across differences that divide us. Yet there’s much more of an appearance of change than actual demonstrable change. The movement for diversity hasn’t undone some of the deeper, institutional conditions that reproduce inequality.”

In her 2015 book The Enigma of Diversity: The Language of Race and the Limits of Racial Justice, Berrey explores some of those entrenched discriminatory conditions in employment, university admissions and housing. Drawing on six years of fieldwork in a Fortune 500 company, a major American university and a Chicago neighbourhood, she argues that the public embrace of diversity hasn’t accomplished the social change required for racial justice.

Continue reading.

Disability and the Trump Administration

David PettiniccioProfessor David Pettinicchio is a faculty member at the University of Toronto, Mississauga with expertise in the area of political sociology and social policy and particular research interests in the area of policy and disability. He currently has a SSHRC-funded research project investigating employer discrimination against persons with disabilities. He recently published an editorial piece in The Hill, a US political newspaper. The full article is available here. We have included the beginning of the piece below.

Disability and the Trump Administration – What’s Next?

In unprecedented fashion, disability-related issues were prominent in this last electoral cycle. During the primaries, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush and John Kasich promised to address persistent economic inequalities confronting people with disabilities, as well as address the occupational ghettoization of workers with disabilities into dangerous, lower-paying employment.

Clinton, who spent a great part of her adult life helping members of historically disadvantaged groups that include people with disabilities, moved from a narrow focus on expanding social and health services to a broader platform addressing deep-rooted inequalities that keep people with disabilities down.

Had Clinton won the election, we would no doubt demand that her campaign promises about helping people with disabilities be translated into policy. What might we expect from the Trump Administration?

Trump’s plans for the country are anyone’s guess right now. Much of the post-election anxiety is the result of the vague, sometimes conflicting, and often blustering rhetoric by the president-elect across an array of policy areas. To say that Trump’s platform lacked policy specificities is an understatement. In that vein, Trump has made little mention of disability-related social policy.

Rather, Trump’s association with disability in the campaign came by way of his mocking Serge Kovaleski, the New York Times reporter with arthrogryposis.

 

Continue reading.

Nathan Innocente profiled in UTM Medium

Professor Nathan Innocente is an Assistant Professor (Teaching Stream) of Sociology and teaches at the Mississauga undergraduate campus. He was recently profiled in the Medium, UTM’s student newspaper. The full article is available on the Medium’s website. Here’s a short excerpt:

The face behind the popular SOC100

Sociology assistant professor Nathan Innocente’s current research focuses on white-collar crime

Have you or your friends taken SOC100? How many of them are pursuing a major or minor in sociology? Until I mentioned it to him, Nathan Innocente, an assistant professor at UTM’s Department of Sociology, never thought of himself as one of the few professors who can claim to have taught nearly every UTM student, as a result of teaching Introduction to Sociology.

Last week, I sat down with him to discuss his journey to academia, as well as the remarkable popularity of SOC100. Surprisingly enough, I have not taken SOC100.

Innocente describes his journey to academia and becoming a professor as “accidental” and “serendipitous.” He began as an undergraduate in criminology with hopes of pursuing law enforcement as a police officer or an RCMP member.

After about a year and a half in, Innocente’s career plans changed. He considered applying for law school, various government positions, and even contemplated a career in the military. Innocente credits one of his professors for suggesting the idea to pursue graduate school instead.

“I came to U of T to do a Masters in criminology, and then I ended up getting a job at a criminal justice sector NGO, so I was doing criminal justice research. At that point, I had still considered academia, but I liked the job that I had,” says Innocente. “I decided I would pick up some extra courses in the sociology department because they had so many methodology courses that criminology didn’t have at the time, like statistics and field methods, [and] survey methods. Then, almost by accident, I ended up getting another Masters in sociology. I liked sociology quite a bit, so I decided to apply for a Ph.D. and move into academia full time.”

Innocente has taught SOC100 for four years at UTM. When Innocente joined the UTM faculty, he consulted with professor Jayne Baker to learn how to run the course… Read the full article