Hola! Today is my first day back in Madrid after attending the Eastern Sociological Conference in Philadelphia. As a senior, I was given the opportunity to present my research and listen to the projects of other researchers in the northeast. But before I go into detail about the conference, I often get the question: what is sociology? Sociology is the study of society, different social groups (in terms of race, class, gender, etc.) and how they exist in a larger societal context. After taking a course entitled “Race, Ethnicity, Class, and Gender,” I fell in love with sociology and have since completed two main projects I am proud of. The first is a literature review comparing grief between humans and elephants, the second is my research paper. My research used 2004 data and looked to see if people in the United States who thought foreign culture (foreign films, music, and books) damage our national and local cultures would also be less supportive of increasing immigration. After controlling for political affiliation and educational attainment, this held true.
The Eastern Sociological Conference is an event for undergraduates, graduate students, professors, and researchers to present their work and see the work of others. Everyday there were different sessions and I sat in on 12 presentations. My favorite was research entitled, “Police Accountability: Pursuing Racial Equality in Policing.” Some key points the presenter gave was that stop and frisk has only a success rate of 2%, but 51% of the people being stopped are blacks, and blacks are 2.5x more likely to be killed by the police when they don’t have a weapon. This is all to say that the police are biased towards blacks as potential criminals. To tackle this, the researcher used computer science students to make a virtual reality decision making program that could measure heart rate in a virtual world. Not surprisingly, he found an implicit bias towards blacks, and suggests that we should redistribute civil payouts and hold police officers responsible when they make these types of racial errors. While all of the talks were interesting, this study stood out to me the most because of its clever utilization of another department (computer science) to help answer broader social questions.
As mentioned before, I was not only a listener, I was also a presenter. I was a research assistant for a professor who studies the underreporting of sexual assault on college campuses. Sexual assault is more likely to occur when there are fraternities and when the college offers NCAA Division sports. Victims are typically females and first year students, and the likelihood of sexual assault increases when there are no staff members around and when there is high alcohol consumption. There are more complexities to my professor’s work but these are important takeaways. I also presented my own research in the poster presentation along with my peers from Skidmore.
Overall I had an incredible experience being with my sociology friends and spending time learning more about what I love. I am sad to be a senior but I felt like everything led me to this conference and it was the culmination of my undergraduate experience. Thank you to the Skidmore Travel Fund and to the Tufts-Skidmore Spain program for helping me make this happen!
Naomi Roter, student blogger primavera 2020