Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The American Sociological Association Annual Election

I just spent close to an hour voting in the annual ASA election. I take all voting seriously as a general rule, so I never just choose people that I know and like, unless I can't make a distinction between candidates using another criteria.

For the national-level elections, my reasoning goes a little like this:

  1. My first criterion (and I will not budge on this): I do not vote for people who do not take the time to write a personal statement. I don't care how well I know you, how much I admire your body of scholarship, teaching, or service record, or whether you're kind of cute in your picture. I figure that if you don't have the time to sit down and tell the electorate why you think you would make a good candidate (in several sentences - I'm not looking for a speech), then I should give my vote to somebody who does take the time to do so.
  2. This does not mean that I vote for everybody who writes a personal statement. The statement earns you my attention, but then I actually take the time to read what you wrote. If you write something vague (e.g., "I want to increase diversity within the ASA.") I'm less likely to take you seriously than if you write something with more substance (e.g., "I am concerned that the leadership in ASA has represented 4-yr., doctoral granting institutions, and that the voices of ASA members at liberal arts, community colleges, and non-academic institutions are getting lost. I hope to use my position to increase institutional diversity within the ASA.").
My reasoning differs for the section-level elections. For the section-level elections, only institutional affiliation, educational credentials, publications, and service are included - that means there's no personal statement (or picture). I find this much trickier. Here's a snapshot of this process, but this is less a "first/second" list than a "conglomeration of things I look at" list:

  1. Fortunately, I am more likely to be familiar with the scholarly work cited by the section candidates than national candidates, so sometimes I'm able to discern between people based on first-hand experience with their work.
  2. Educational credentials by themselves don't tend to impress me, but I am impressed when somebody has won teaching or research awards, especially for certain positions.
  3. As a last resort, when I know absolutely nothing about the candidates in question, I resort to looking at research and professional accomplishments and choosing the candidate who I think is doing interesting work. This is not my preferred method, but it's the best one I have in extreme situations.
In the end, a lot of this process ends up being subjective. The ASA is a large organization, and it's impossible to have first-hand knowledge of all nominees. How do you choose your ASA representatives?

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