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Sociologist to present first talk in provost's series on the public university

10.3.2012

By Dateline staff

Photo: Sociology professor Michael Burawoy, teaching outside at UC Berkeley

Sociology professor Michael Burawoy, teaching outside at UC Berkeley, is the first speaker in the Provost's Forums on the Public University and the Social Good. After decades of studying industrial workplaces, Burawoy has turned his attention to his own workplace.

The inaugural program in the Provost’s Forums on the Public University and the Social Good is scheduled for next week. The speaker is UC Berkeley sociology professor Michael Burawoy, on the topic: “Universities in Crisis: A Global Perspective.”

The forum, free and open to the public, is scheduled from 3 to 4:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 12, in the AGR Room at the Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center. A reception will follow at the same location.

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter, in cooperation with Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, developed the series to contribute to the campus’s ongoing discussion of “The Future of the Public University,” sparked by sharply diminished state support for the UC system.

On "The Future of the Public University" Web page, Hexter writes: “Inevitably, determining the right ways to respond to this more austere economic climate has proved a formidable task — as well as a source of passionate debate within the UC system and beyond.

“At the center of the debate is the question of what the University of California — and any public university — should and can be in the 21st century.”

Burawoy, who joined the Berkeley faculty in 1976, developed the extended case method that allows broad conclusions to be drawn from ethnographic research. He is president of the International Sociological Association and formerly served as president of the American Sociological Association.

He spent decades studying industrial workplaces in the United States, Russia, Hungary and Zambia, and recently turned his attention to his own workplace: the public university — its challenges and opportunities.

His papers include “The Great American University” (2012), “Redefining the Public University” (2011) and “Universities in Crisis: Ireland” (2011).

Vicki Smith, professor of sociology at UC Davis, described Burawoy as one of the world's preeminent sociologists. “In recent years, he single-handedly raised the profile of public sociology — making sociology relevant beyond the walls of the academy, opening dialogues between public audiences and social science scholars. He has advocated for a rigorous public sociology here and around the globe.”

“Today, he is writing extensively on the budgetary, regulatory and legitimacy crises of the modern university system."

Professor Martin Kenney of the UC Davis Community and Regional Development Program said social scientists and policymakers around the world recognize Burawoy’s writings “as helping to broaden the debate on what the university should be.”

His talk will help frame many of the issues to be addressed in subsequent lectures and symposia in the Provost’s Forums on the Public University and the Social Good, said Kenney, who helped arrange for Burawoy’s visit.

This program in the provost’s series is co-sponsored by the Community and Regional Development Program, and the Department of Sociology.

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