Sociology is a safe investment for students

UVic sociology department chair refutes Tom Fletcher column

Re: Swapping sociology for socket sets (B.C. Views, Sept. 26)

Tom Fletcher’s column presents a number of misguided claims designed to lend rhetorical support to the provincial government’s intention to invest in trade and technical school facilities.

Fletcher argues that the government’s emphasis on shop upgrades in trade and technical schools implies that “dead-end programs dear to the hearts of last year’s Occupy campers will feel the pinch.”

He singles out sociology and women’s studies as examples of “aimless study” leading to unemployment (and social activism).

Fletcher’s concern seems to be that today’s students need to select courses that ensure a “safe investment” for themselves, their parents and society at large.

Sociology is a safe investment.  Sociologists have always focused on and provided necessary insights into relevant contemporary issues.

Sociologists at the University of Victoria are addressing some of the biggest questions facing government today. For instance, UVic sociologists are helping the province design health care policy on older adults living in long-term care facilities – policy shaping the lives of our parents and grandparents.

They are conducting research on increasing barriers placed on access to information and the right to know what government is doing. UVic sociologists are conducting policy research on crime control strategies, incarceration and prisons.

Last but not least, sociologists at UVic are providing training in research design, quantitative reasoning, objective data analysis and policy-relevant issues that dominate government agendas.

When a student majors in sociology, she studies a core curriculum aimed at developing competent research skills applicable to today’s world (and labour market).

Rather than relying on stereotypes and rhetorical nonsense to incite populist indignation, sociology students learn how to enact explanations that are informed by and based on clear evidence. To be sure, sociologists are passionate about and deeply committed to their research pursuits focused on maternity care, aging, dementia, blood donation, depression, weapons use and international human rights.

Passion and commitment, combined with sound research skills, are the hallmarks of all scientific pursuits.

The evidence indicates that sociology is one of the safest investments available to ensure social policy informed by evidence and sound research.

Sean Hier

chair, Sociology Department University of Victoria