Plowing Under Rural Sociology
| Peter Klein |
From Randy Westgren:
The aggie world, and to a lesser extent, the sociology world, is reacting to a decision by Washington State University to dissolve its Department of Community and Rural Sociology. There is a great deal of rancor developing about this type of budget-cutting strategy, as opposed to making everyone suffer equally. If one looks closely at the budget documents made public by WSU, the ag school is getting a smaller cut (5% teaching + 8% research) than many colleges, including the B-school (13%, 12 vacant positions). The budget plan can be found here. It looks like the Dean’s decision, rather than the CEO’s (The Dean is an agricultural economist).
I was stunned to see a comment to a piece written in Inside Higher Education on this battle from an engineering prof — well, not actually stunned, more like chagrined.
“As for the rural sociology department, while I can sympathize with their plight in Pullman I do not see the loss as intellectually serious. As a member of an engineering faculty at a major university for more than 25 years, I’ve known quite a few sociologists. Most of them publish little stories that are not much sounder empirically, and usually less interesting substantively, that a good fiction writer. With very few exceptions, sociologists I know and have known are mathophobes! The few who have some ability in math use it on their omnibus snapshots of human populations taken at widely spaced intervals and then try to figure out from those “data” what happened and why. Ridiculous! Continuous observation is probably not possible, but you need closely spaced observations that focus on the specific processes that are the point of your investigation! If you have continuous-time observations, you need calculus in order to analyze your data. If you have closely spaced discrete-time observations, you need something more than shotgun regressions to analyze your data. Most of what sociologists publish is a waste of time and money.”
Obviously, this scholar has not followed the closely reasoned defense of fuzzy, ill-defined concepts at orgtheory.net.
Teppo and Brayden, if you are watching, ask Dave Whetten about his take on the Chancellor of SUNY Albany who undertook a similar department-cutting strategy during the New York State budget difficulties of the late 1970s.