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UW-Madison information on Sociology 134

July 7, 2016

In response to questions, Sociology Department Chair and Conway-Bascom Professor of Sociology Pamela Oliver shared the response below to media and legislators on Thursday, July 7.

Jason Nolen is an award-winning instructor, who has received positive reviews from his students. He has taught Sociology 134 five times, including this summer.

Sociology 134 is a class on race and ethnicity. This specific class session addresses race and ethnicity in the context of marriage, the family, and relationships. The last part of this class session focuses on research about racism in online dating sites (primarily OkCupid and Grindr).

The reading in question was meant to highlight some of the analysis that has been done on sexual racism on Grindr. Taken within the context of the course, the material appropriately pushes boundaries in order to spark discussion.  

Among adult college students, analyzing how people talk about sexuality is considered appropriate material. It is true that sometimes young adults can be uncomfortable with material about sexuality presented in class.

Nolen has specifically addressed this issue in the class syllabus, a section of which reads, as follows:

“I expect you to participate in lecture, discussion section, and independently with your peers through a variety of course requirements. Most people have not had much practice talking about race and ethnicity, and some of the topics we will explore are controversial. 

“Participation will likely feel uncomfortable at times – both as a speaker and as a listener – but productive conversation is the goal. It is crucial that we all remember that every person is living with a race and ethnicity (and sex, gender, sexual orientation, class, size, belief system, nationality, etc), and each person’s individual perspective is relevant to our conversation.

“Speak up and feel free to disagree with me, the TAs, or your peers, but always stop and think about how you can phrase your words to respect everyone in the room and their unique experiences. Likewise, push yourself to assume that everyone else in the class is coming from a place of good intentions, of trying to learn and struggle with the concepts of the class. Come with an open mind, respect the different experiences of others, and be prepared to rethink your own assumptions about racial and ethnic relations.” 

Should students have concerns with material presented in their courses, they are encouraged to discuss the issue with their instructor or departmental chair.