My thoughts go out to our colleagues at Shaw University in my hometown of Raleigh. They suffered significant damage in the tornadoes on Saturday and had to end their semester early. Shaw has educated generations of African-Americans; in fact, it is the oldest historically Black college in the South, founded in 1865. However, like many HBCUs, it has many aging buildings with high maintenance costs and, I suspect like many of the rest of us in private higher education, does not have a large financial safety net. I hope that Shaw is able to rebuild and rebound quickly.
An interesting piece in Slate yesterday: What’s the Matter with Sociology? Written by a senior sociologist at Columbia and prompted by a new book from one of the country’s great sociologists (Suhir Venkatesh and Elijah Anderson, respectively) it is a nice summary of one of the main problems of the social sciences generally and sociology in particular (although political science could tell a very similar story): the tension between trying to draw generalizable conclusions about human behavior versus recognizing the particularities of individual situations (or, as is sometimes alleged, simply telling good stories.) I believe I have noted earlier in this blog one of my favorite quotes from the great economist and economic historian Charles Kindleberger: “The answer to every question in the social sciences is “It depends.” The article also touches on the positive vs. normative tension as well. A good read.