April will be the cruellest month

…especially if I have to keep reading four blogs to stay current on a single topic! Here’s hoping that the sociology bloggers addressing the proposed dues hike will consolidate posts to a single forum. I feel like I have web whiplash. Here’s a brief version of what happened today:

1. Kieran posted a truly magnificent post at OrgTheory (and his own site) comparing ASA dues to peer organizations, zooming in on fees for student and retired members. A list of the publication packages offered to members of each organization closes his post. What do we learn? In the proposed fee structure, ASA members reporting an income above 70K will pay more than members of any peer organization, for access to fewer journals. Unemployed ASA members pay less than members in peer organizations, but our students really get (relatively) screwed. Seven peer organizations charge at least 17% less, and only the AAA (that’s Anthropologists) pay more.

2. Jeremy responded to the original comment posted by Don Tomaskovic-Devey (discussed in my entry, below). Toward the center of his response, Jeremy reports that his back-of-the-envelope calculations reveal DTD’s estimates of the potential revenue from the dues hike are low. What do we learn? Jeremy estimates that ASA stands to make at least $300K from the change, much more than the $100-200K figure DTD reported. But other figures seem a bit off–the audit report from the ASA suggests that dues contribute to income much less than DTD reported; publications make more revenue than dues (contra DTD); and the relative contribution of dues and annual meeting fees to income seem to be mis-specified.

3. Gabriel (at Code and Culture), wrote about the irony that critics of the dues hike have not only supported a progressive tax, but urged reforms to make the ASA more progressive, and yet haven’t gotten a response from ASA leadership. DTD rings in with some description of the deliberative process where fee raises are concerned and notes that child care costs at the meetings remained stable for years. What do we learn? That the job bank needs to be reformed. The ASA charges departments $200 per month to list their open positions. There is some circumstantial evidence that this is a price barrier to employers outside sociology, looking to hire a sociologist. One net effect of the price barrier is fewer employed sociologists. Moreover, many sections within the association refuse to post job advertisements on their list servs (perhaps under pressure from the ASA who see this as lost revenue). Again, fewer employed sociologists. Jeremy posted about this issue in July, and OW notes in the comments to Gabriel’s post that she tried, but never got a response from ASA to her query about whether the restriction on list servs was real, or legend.

4. And now the doozy. As we know, DTD posted a comment simultaneously on Scatterplot and TDS that got this whole second act rolling (the one I responded to, below). In the thread of comments at TDS, he added the following:

If you take out your trust excel spreadsheet and try to increase progressivity without increasing dues income this is what happens. The only way to do this mathematically, without giant reductions in income, is to add categories but increase dues more at the bottom then the top. My first forays into dues restructuring where exactly along these lines, but if you add high income dues categories and constrain to no dues increase it can only be done by having small differences across categories and raising the rents on the lowest paid members. This is particularly true because our membership distribution is bi-modal.

Big mistake. What do we learn? Some sociologists are better at math than others. Following this comment, and in a second post on the topic at TDS, this claim (“the only way to do this”) is soundly refuted. Multiple options are offered that allow our dues structure to be more progressive, without producing an increase in dues income.

As far as I know, that’s what’s going on. I’m trying to contribute this little digest service today in case you needed it all sorted out. After all, you’ve already got a full time job (and more than one, if you ask me). I sincerely hope that by tomorrow, or before anything else happens, we’ll get some kind of e-location going to host digest posts (or just original ones).

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