[2022 Spring] POL-UA 595 – 001 Diversity & Society

Course meeting time: Fri 11:00AM-1:30PM

Location for in-person sessions: 25 W4 Room C-12

Zoom link for when not in-person: [link]

Syllabus and course policies: [pdf]

Office hours sign-up information: [link]

Sessions

Week 1: Intro

Syllabus overview and introductory examples.

Week 2: Underrepresentation Pt. 1, group meetings

Meet together as a group some time between Tuesday and Thursday and work together to define and choose 2 specific “problems” under the broader theme of “underrepresentation of groups in positions of power” that you would like to consider as options for your group project. Be sure to meet early enough so that you can complete the tasks listed below before Friday. Divide tasks among members of the group.

For each of your group’s problems, you will have to search online to try to find some basic data to characterize the nature and extent of the problem. Then, in preparation for your group meeting with me on Friday, have the following ready as bullet points for each of the problems:

Statement of the problem, defining the groups identities and the positions of power.

Basic data that characterizes the extent and nature of the underrepresentation.

Your normative justification for why it is a problem that people should care about.

In our group meetings with me, I will help you to decide which of the two problems you will use for your project and then how to go about building up a presentation for the following week.

Each group will meet with me for 25-30 minutes in class on Friday. You only need to be present in class during your group’s meeting time.

Here are the meeting times for the groups:

Time Group
11:00am-11:30am 1
11:30am-12:00pm 2
12:00pm-12:30pm 3
12:30pm-1:00pm 4
1:00pm-1:30pm 5

Week 3: Underrepresentation Pt. 1, presentations

Format: As discussed, your entire group should have one combined presentation that runs at most 10 slides and about 20 minutes in length. We want to have some time for Q&A during the 25 minutes. As a guide, you can have 2-3 slides that give illustrative examples or anecdotes from journalistic sources, then 2-3 slides that look at either scholarly work or work from organizations that use some data to characterize the extent of the problem, and then maybe 1 or 2 slides that provide the normative basis for considering this a “problem” that we should seek to understand better.

Active listening: When you are not presenting, I would like everyone to actively listening. For each presentation, I will ask that each group have someone to write into the Zoom chat 1 thing that they really like about the presentation, and then 1 thing that they think requires more clarification or explanation. So, for example, when Group 1 is presenting, I want at least one person from each of Groups 2, 3, 4, and 5 to write in 1 thing that they like about Group 1’s presentation and 1 thing that they think needs more clarification. That will generate a stream of feedback that the Groups can use to refine their projects. As a group you could decide to take turns in meeting this requirement. This is a way to teach you active listening in a scholarly context.

Week 4: Underrepresentation Pt. 2, group meetings

In the Part One of the group project on underrepresentation, you made an argument for why the problem on which you are focusing is one that we should take seriously. You used a combination of empirical data and normative claims to justify your argument.

For the next presentation, your goal is to come up with an argument for where we should focus our attention on trying to address the problem. Here are the steps you should work through:

  1. Propose alternative mechanisms that sustain the problem: You want to first propose at least two alternative mechanisms that might explain the persistence of the problem and therefore serve as options for where we should focus our attention. A “mechanism” for a social phenomenon is the causal process through which a set of conditions or individuals’ beliefs translate into a pattern of behavior that gives rise to the phenomenon. See Elster, 2015 for more on this concept. For example, it could be that underrepresentation in an organization comes from a mechanism through which hidden barriers, like the prejudice among gatekeepers, prevents members of underrepresented groups who are actively seeking to advance are blocked from being able to do so. To check for the relevance of this mechanism we would want to compile evidence on (i) interest by members of underrepresented groups to try to advance themselves, (ii) indication of prejudice among gatekeepers, and (iii) indication that such gatekeepers are relatively free to act on such prejudice. Or, another possible mechanism is that members of underrepresented groups are, whether for good or bad reasons, simply uninterested in pursuing opportunities in that organization in the first place. Most of the problems we are studying can be broken down in similar sorts of ways, whether on the basis of “supply” vs “demand” type mechanisms, “top down” vs “bottom up” mechanisms, etc. Think about your problem and try to find a way to separate out at least two different possible mechanisms that might contribute to why it persists.

  2. Define ways to test for the relevance of the proposed mechanisms: Next, come up with an empirical strategy to use data or existing studies to assess the relevance of your proposed mechanisms. What empirical patterns should you see if a mechanism is relevant? How can you check for such empirical patterns? When you do so, what do you find? It is possible that all of the mechanisms that you propose are valid to some degree. If none of the mechanisms that you propose seem to have any empirical backing, then you need to think some more so that you can find something that gives you explanatory leverage. Your empirical strategy could be a statistical test using primary data (for example, data from surveys or administrative sources), or it could be based on your interpretation of qualitative or quantitative empirical work that has already been done by other scholars or organizations.

  3. Make an argument for focusing on one particular mechanism: Finally, you need to make an argument for focusing attention on one of the mechanisms. The mechanism should appear to be important on the basis of your empirical analysis. If you found empirical support for multiple mechanisms, then you could argue for focusing on one of them because the empirical support is stronger, or maybe because it is a mechanisms that might be easier to change. (The reason that I emphasize the latter is because ultimately, your goal in the last part of the group project will be to propose an intervention.)

For the group meetings on Friday, we will discuss your plans on the basis of these instructions. Come into the meeting with at least two proposed mechanisms and proposed empirical strategies to test for the relevance of each of the mechanisms.

Group meeting times (you only need to be present in class during your group’s meeting time):

Time Group
11:00am-11:30am 1
11:30am-12:00pm 2
12:00pm-12:30pm 3
12:30pm-1:00pm 4
1:00pm-1:30pm 5

Week 5: Underrepresentation Pt. 2, presentations

We will reverse the order of presentations this week:

Time Group
11:00am-11:30am 5
11:30am-12:00pm 4
12:00pm-12:30pm 3
12:30pm-1:00pm 2
1:00pm-1:30pm 1

Same guidelines as before:

  • Format: Your entire group should have one combined presentation that runs at most 10 slides and about 20 minutes in length.
  • Active listening: When you are not presenting, each group has someone to write into the Zoom chat 1 thing that they really like about the presentation, and then 1 thing that they think requires more clarification or explanation.

Week 6: Underrepresentation Pt. 3, group meetings

Below are instructions for part three, which we will be discussing at group meetings on Friday. The group meetings will be in person in class, and the schedule will be as follows:

Time Group
11:00am-11:30am 1
11:30am-12:00pm 2
12:00pm-12:30pm 3
12:30pm-1:00pm 4
1:00pm-1:30pm 5

Here are the instructions:

You have now completed the first two parts of your group project: (1) define, motivate, and substantiate a problem, and (2) propose and scrutinize mechanisms that might sustain the problem. Your analysis in part 2 was also supposed to lead your group to choose one of the mechanisms on the basis of there being evidence to suggest that it is indeed relevant to sustaining the problem and that it might be amenable to some kind of intervention. I know that some groups had not yet made this choice by last Friday, but at this point you need to do so.

Now for part three, your goal is to propose an intervention that might work to disrupt the mechanism that you chose. The idea is to think of a plausible way to bring about changes to make the problem less severe. Remember from the example that I presented at the beginning of the class (by the way, Roxanne was part of the group that developed that example!) that the group proposed taking students to a museum as an intervention. Other forms of intervention include changing policies, providing incentives, etc.

It is up to your group to be creative here. Here is what you should cover in your presentation:

a. Remind us which mechanism you are selecting as the one that you want to disrupt via intervention.

b. Describe the intervention. Give us some details about what the intervention involves. Explain what people the intervention would be targeting. Explain what changes or new activities, incentives, information, rules, etc. this intervention would be introducing to these people. Explain what you hope the intervention will accomplish.

c. Explain why you think this intervention might be effective in disrupting the mechanism. Back this up by referring back to the evidence you used in part two, with theoretical logic, or with examples of this kind of thing seeming to work elsewhere.

d. Finally, propose a way to test the effectiveness of your intervention. I want you to use what is called an “A/B test”. An A/B test sets up one group of people who are exposed to the intervention (group A) and compares them to another group that is in a “control” condition without the intervention (group B). Usually the people in the control condition are just going about their business according to the status quo. Sometimes we might introduce “placebos” or other things to help refine the analysis. Explain what people are doing in your control condition (i.e., whether they are just subject to the status quo or whether there are any placebo interventions, etc.). Explain what outcomes you want to track to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention.

If you were in graduate school, we would take this exercise further by having you specify the test in more detail. For example, A/B tests are usually run as randomized controlled trials, where people are randomly assigned to group A or group B. We would have to define an outcome measurement protocol and validate the measure. We would do a power analysis to ensure that the experiment has enough statistical power to detect meaningful effects. For the purposes of this class, you do not have to worry about all of those details.

Week 7: Underrepresentation Pt. 3, presentations

We will have the group presentations for the final component of the Underrepresentation projects coming this Friday. Continue with the same format for the presentations, trying to keep them to 12 slides max and about 20 minutes. As for the ordering, we will proceed as follows:

Time Group
11:00am-11:30am 3
11:30am-12:00pm 4
12:00pm-12:30pm 5
12:30pm-1:00pm 1
1:00pm-1:30pm 2

We will meet in person but we will also have the Zoom on for the chat and also for those that need to call in. We will use the Zoom link from the Brightspace.

On April 1, we will launch our next unit on “Intergroup prejudice and mistrust.” I want to adjust the format for the April 1 class so that we have an opportunity to all talk together for a bit before we go into the group meetings. We will meet all together as a class for the first hour (11am-noon) to brainstorm on specific problems that arise in the area of “Intergroup prejudice and mistrust.” We will then do short (15 min) group meetings for the remainder of class to get each group going on the first part of their projects.

Week 8: Prejudice Pt. 1, brainstorm and group meetings

We will meet all together as a class for the first hour (11am-noon) and I will lead a structured brainstorm about examples of specific problems that arise in the area of “Intergroup prejudice and mistrust.”

We will then do short (15 min) group meetings for the remainder of class to get each group going on the first part of their projects (defining and motivating a specific “problem”).

The schedule for the group meetings would be

Time Group
12:15-12:30 3
12:30-12:45 4
12:45-1:00 5
1:00-1:15 1
1:15-1:30 2

Week 9: Prejudice Pt. 1, presentations

For the presentations on Friday, your group’s job is to motivate the problem that you have selected as your focus.

In case you need some clarity on elements to include in your presentations, here are some tips:

Themes:

  • What group identity is being stigmatized or the basis of prejudice (whether current or past) in your case?
  • What consequences have followed in terms of mistreatment, denial of rights, cycles of mistrust, or conflict?
  • Using quantitative or historical evidence, what has been the extent or trend of such prejudice or consequences?
  • What kinds of justifications or stories do people tell each other to sustain this way of treating outgroups?

Of course, you can include additional things that are important for characterizing the issue and motivating its importance.

The presentation schedule will be as follows:

Time Group
11:00am-11:30am 5
11:30am-12:00pm 4
12:00pm-12:30pm 3
12:30pm-1:00pm 2
1:00pm-1:30pm 1

We will run things in the usual way: presentations should be about 20 min (so about 10-12 slides), and we will use the Zoom chat (with the Brightspace Zoom link) for groups to each offer at least 1 thing they like about the presentation and 1 thing for which they would like more clarification.

Week 10, Prejudice Pt. 2, group meetings

For the next session we will doing group meetings to discuss part 2 of your projects on prejudice and mistrust. Having characterized the nature of the problem that your group is focusing on, part 2 is about proposing potential mechanisms that sustain the problem and that one could potentially disrupt through intervention. So we will discuss your group’s ideas about the mechanisms.

The order will be 1,2,3,4,5. So the schedule will be

Time Group
11:00am-11:30am 1
11:30am-12:00pm 2
12:00pm-12:30pm 3
12:30pm-1:00pm 4
1:00pm-1:30pm 5

For those joining through Zoom we will use the usual link through the Brightspace.

Week 11, Prejudice Pt. 2, presentations

Tomorrow we will have our group presentations on part 2 of the prejudice unit. We will go in the order of group number, as follows:

Time Group
11:00am-11:30am 1
11:30am-12:00pm 2
12:00pm-12:30pm 3
12:30pm-1:00pm 4
1:00pm-1:30pm 5

We will have the usual Zoom link (from Brightspace) active as well.

Guidelines for the presentations are the same as for part 2 of our first unit (on underrepresentation). That is, the presentations should include the following:

Propose at least two alternative mechanisms that might explain the persistence of the problem and therefore serve as options for where we should focus our attention.

Examine existing studies and data to assess the relevance of the proposed mechanisms. It is possible that all of the mechanisms that you propose are valid to some degree. Or, you might find after consulting existing evidence that some of your mechanisms do not appear to be very relevant. I want to stress that this is okay! In fact, proposing something that seems logical, but then finding evidence that it is not so important means that you have really learned something new! So, don’t shy away from presenting findings that go against a proposed mechanism; they are just as important as findings that support them.

Finally, make an argument for focusing on one particular mechanism. This should be a mechanism that your previous assessment demonstrates to be relevant. Then, it should offer some entry point for intervention. Remember that your goal in the last part of the group project will be to propose an intervention.)

Week 12, Prejudice Pt. 3, group meetings

This week we will have group meetings to plan part 3. Recall that for part 3, your goal is to propose an intervention that might work to disrupt the mechanism that you chose. The idea is to think of a plausible way to bring about changes to make the problem less severe.  The components you want for your final project are the following:

a. Remind us which mechanism you are selecting as the one that you want to disrupt via intervention.

b. Describe the intervention. Give us some details about what the intervention involves. Explain what people the intervention would be targeting. Explain what changes or new activities, incentives, information, rules, etc. this intervention would be introducing to these people. Explain what you hope the intervention will accomplish.

c. Explain why you think this intervention might be effective in disrupting the mechanism. Back this up by referring back to the evidence you used in part two, with theoretical logic, or with examples of this kind of thing seeming to work elsewhere.

d. Finally, propose a way to test the effectiveness of your intervention through an A/B test.

The order for meetings will be as follows:

Group Time
4 11:00-11:30
5 11:30-12:00
1 12:00-12:30
2 12:30-1:00
3 1:00-1:30
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