The Pacific Sociological Association’s 94th Annual Conference
will be at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue (East Seattle), Washington

Thursday, March 30 to Sunday, April 2, 2023

‘We Will Do Better’ and Other Myths: Social Institutions and the Maintenance of Oppression

President Shirley A. Jackson

PSA 2022-2023 President Shirley A. Jackson, Portland State University

In 2020, the demand to “defund the police” ignored the role of racism in institutions outside of law enforcement. This oversight by those who may have been well-intentioned gave the erroneous impression that police departments were the only barrier to social justice. The impression is that if the police were defunded we will have solved the problem and any other existing social injustices would disappear. This restrictive conception of social change was problematic in that it left other social institutions unchecked and without accountability.

Claims to address oppression must go beyond scapegoating one social institution and those who work within it. Doing so ignores the functioning of other institutions and the people who comprise them in preserving the status quo. Institutions are never going to change if the people who hold positions of leadership remain the same. It is hard to be convinced without a critical examination of institutions of power and the people who maintain the status quo. Paulo Freire drew the same conclusion, stating, that if individuals “are unable to perceive critically the themes of their time, and thus to intervene actively in reality, they are carried along in the wake of change.” He observed that what is required is “an especially flexible, critical spirit”; but, if such a spirit is lacking, individuals “cannot perceive the marked contradictions which occur in society as emerging values in search of affirmation and fulfillment clash with earlier values seeking self-preservation” (1974:6). In sum, change requires that we examine and critique how the actions of institutions can belie their rhetoric about creating and supporting change.

The manifestation of “woke washing”—a situation in which where there is an acknowledgment of racism and the glomming on of causes calling for the elimination of racist structures and practices but where no real consequential action is taken—became the raison d’ȇtre for individuals and institutions. Both had, prior to the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, ignored previous calls to respond. As the protests continued, it seemed like everyone wanted to get into the game of avowing their support. It was a race to see who could get their statements out the quickest. Behind those statements, unfortunately, change has ranged from superficial to slow, to nonexistent. After the race to respond ended, we are left with the appearance of support for BLM and social justice on the part of those who give up as little as possible while maintaining the existing social order and the institutions within it.

This conference encourages participants to examine these issues through research, teaching, activism, and public sociology. What claims were institutions making prior to, during, and after, their claims to “do better”? What does this tell us about the sincerity or possibility of institutional change? Are changes meaningful or superficial? Do changes result in a payoff—economic or otherwise—for those who do performative politics on social media, through diversity-enhanced advertising, or by increasing numbers of students or employees who are targeted for inclusion? What have institutions done to increase opportunities for advancement in the workplace of the populations they are making efforts to include and maintain? How does inclusive pedagogy play a part in social justice efforts? How are students and student groups creating change? How are communities and community organizations responding to social justice efforts? And what are social institutions (including higher education) doing that show their efforts are empty rhetoric? I hope you have been inspired to think about how you might participate in this reckoning of rhetoric.

Freire. Paolo. 1974. Education for Critical Consciousness. London: Bloomsbury Academic.


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PSA Policies
1. PSA Statement and Policy Against Discrimination and Harassment

II. Introduction

The PSA is committed to creating a safe and welcoming space at the annual meeting for the free exchange of ideas and professional development; an environment free from harassment based on, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender identity or gender expression, national origin, age, disability, health conditions, sexual orientation, religion, language, socioeconomic status, marital status, domestic status, or parental status. This includes the harassment of colleagues, students, guests, PSA and hotel staff, vendors, exhibitors, and others present at the annual meeting. To that end, we ask you to help us make it very clear that anyone engaging in this kind of behavior is not welcomed at the annual meeting.

The following is a statement and policy against discrimination and harassment.

The Pacific Sociological Association is committed to the eradication of discrimination (both intentional and unintentional), harassment, intimidation, and violence directed at individuals and groups based on, but not limited to, race and ethnicity, sex, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, age, class, nationality and immigrant status, ability, and religion. Offensive and prohibited conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets, name calling, physical assaults and threats, unwanted touching and persistent unwanted attention and invasion of personal space, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, and insults and put-downs. Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is engaged in without clear affirmative consent. Discriminatory and harassing actions are prohibited both when they are directed at specific individuals and groups and when they create a hostile environment.

Sexual harassment and sexual assault disproportionately target people subject to structural oppression: women; people of color; trans, and gender non-conforming individuals; and disabled people, although anyone can be a victim.

PSA affirms this commitment to a world free of discrimination and harassment. PSA will take reports, formal or informal, of harassment or discrimination in the organization and at annual and other meetings very seriously. To the greatest degree possible, PSA will do what it can to respond appropriately to those who violate our policies and to protect victims and potential victims from being subjected to this type of unwanted and offensive behavior. We will make every effort to ensure that this commitment is manifest in the policies, programs, and practices of the organization, including in the public positions the PSA takes on issues, both national and international. PSA expressly prohibits retaliation against individuals who report harassment and will take action against those who retaliate.

This policy addresses harassment that involves PSA members in general, as well as all staff and other persons in the conference hotel, and includes specific guidelines for harassment that occurs at PSA annual meetings and events. By joining PSA and through registering for meetings, members of PSA agree to comply with this policy.

If you witness an incident and can help without placing yourself or anyone else in danger, we encourage you to do so. If you or someone is in imminent physical danger, we urge you to alert hotel security and/or law enforcement. Otherwise, attendees are encouraged to report possible instances of harassment to

III. Roles, Responsibility and Authority

Anti-Harassment Committee
The sitting Vice President, Past Vice President, and Vice President Elect form the PSA Anti-harassment Committee, or an alternate member of the PSA Council if needed, with the Executive Director also being an informed but non-voting member. This committee will review this policy and its enforcement on an annual basis and recommend revisions as appropriate. The Committee also selects and approves the External Consultant/Investigator and Ombudsperson.

The sitting Vice President acts as Chair of the committee. The Chair receives and reviews reports of policy violations, meets with those considering making a report to discuss reporting options and processes and to provide support or referrals for resources, and receives the report from the External Consultant/Investigator once investigation is completed and shares it with the committee. This committee also makes decisions regarding outcomes and/or sanctions (see section VIII).

The Ombudsperson is external to PSA and compensated for their time. This individual meets with those considering making a report to discuss reporting options and processes and to provide support or resources.

External Consultant/Investigator
The External Consultant/Investigator is not a member of PSA, and is selected and approved by the Anti-Harassment Committee and is compensated for their time. They should have experience responding to and investigating harassment claims within organizations.

Ad-hoc Appeals Committee
This committee is comprised of the PSA President, Past-President, President-Elect, or an alternate Council member as needed, and Executive Director, and reviews and responds to appeals made regarding the External Consultant’s report/findings/sanctions.

Advocates are volunteers (members of PSA and/or other sociology groups) who are available to support those making a report by providing information and resources. The goal is to have advocates who are at different levels in their careers (undergraduate or graduate student, faculty/professional), and from different institutions, so that reporters may choose a ‘peer’. PSA will pay for advocates to be trained prior to the beginning of their service (if they have not already been trained).

*All persons involved in reviewing and responding to reports are required to disclose any conflicts of interest.

IV. Reporting

Reports of policy violations, including retaliation, can be made via email to

Individuals who have experienced a violation of the anti-harassment policy have the following options:

1. Request a confidential consultation with the Anti-Harassment Committee Chair/Ombudsperson with a request for resources, information about reporting/resolution options, and other types of support. Such a request can be made whether the alleged harassment took place during a PSA meeting or not. The Ombudsperson can help the individual decide what to do and how to do it, including, for example, helping them file a complaint at their home institution, where the harassment occurred, if that is the action they want to take after discussing their options with the Ombudsperson.
2. Make a confidential report to the Anti-Harassment Committee Chair/Ombudsperson with a request for screening/review and recommendation for resolution [e.g. through a mediated meeting with parties, where the committee chair reaches out to the accused party] with the option, but without obligation, to file a formal report.
3. Make a formal confidential report to an External Consultant/Investigator with a request for an investigation/fact-finding with possible sanctioning of the accused party. This option will move the report to a formal investigation.

V. Support Services/Advocacy

Those requesting consultation or making a report will be provided with resources for trauma-informed support upon request, as well as contact information for volunteer PSA Advocates. Reporting parties are also encouraged to utilize support services at their home institutions or in their community.

Below is a list of possible agencies and professionals that may be of assistance to those making a report. Please note, however, that we have not vetted and, therefore, cannot recommend them. We are simply providing a list of options for you to contact if the need arises, and for you to vet.
• RAINN Hotline 1-800-656-4673 National anti-sexual violence organization, offers emergency assistance for survivors and provides information
• The Trevor Project Lifeline 1-866-488-7386 offers crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning youth; see website for text, chat, other resources
• Trans Lifeline 1-877-565-8860 provides peer support by and for trans people
• Time’s Up advocates for women in the workplace; legal defense fund provides low-income women and people of color resources to pursue lawsuits in response to workplace harassment and discrimination, and provides links to organizations that support survivors
• Men Can Stop Rape Works to educate men, especially youth, to promote healthy masculinity and prevent sexual violence; handouts like What Men Can Do, Supporting Survivors, Racism and Rape, and Male Survivors (information for men who have experienced sexual violence—see also
• Know Your Title IX student run organization, offers lots of resources for survivors as well as for friends and family, and how to assert your rights, including legal action
• Faculty Against Rape has resources for faculty work against sexual violence, including supporting student survivors and fighting retaliation by campus administration

V. What to Include in a Formal Report

A complaint/report should include, to the extent possible, the following information:

1) the name and contact information of the complainant; 2) the name and contact information of the subject of the complaint; 3) a statement that other legal or institutional proceedings involving the alleged conduct have not been initiated or, if initiated, the status of such proceedings; 4) a full description of the conduct alleged to have violated the anti-harassment policy, including the sources of all information on which the allegations are based; 5) copies of any documents supporting the allegations; 6) names and contact information of potential witnesses/references.

VI. Investigation/Fact-Finding

The investigation process will apply to reports of harassment that takes place during the annual conference as well as any other PSA programs and meetings—including those that take place online. Reports may also include cases where an institution or legal authorities have investigated and found that a member has engaged in sexual or other form of harassment and the PSA is being asked to act in response to those findings.

Reports that move to this stage regarding harassment that takes place at PSA events will be investigated by an External Consultant with professional experience and expertise in handling harassment cases. The accused party will be notified of the charges and given an opportunity to respond. Each party’s statement will be shared with the other. Both parties may provide contact information for individuals to serve as witnesses/references.

Reports that relate to incidents that have taken place outside of PSA events, including those that have been investigated externally, will be reviewed by the Anti-Harassment committee and considered for specific action. The committee may consult with its own investigator, legal consultant, or others in making its decision.

VII. Timeframe

Reports (other than those addressing violations occurring during the annual meeting) will be acknowledged within 48 hours and responded to within 60 days.

Reports regarding behavior at the annual meeting will be responded to as soon as possible and with a good faith effort to respond within 24 hours. If an immediate response and action are necessary, the Anti-harassment Committee may conduct an investigation and make a decision on possible sanctions. The reporting party can request that the person violating the policy be asked to avoid contact with the reporting party or leave the conference altogether.

VIII. Resolution, Outcomes and Possible Sanctions

The External Consultant will keep a written record of the process and submit a written final report to the Anti-harassment Committee that will be shared with both parties.

Potential outcomes include the following:

1. Negative/Inconclusive Finding: In the event that the consultant’s finding is inconclusive or negative, the Anti-Harassment Committee Chair will inform both parties of the finding in writing.
2. Finding of Policy Violation: In the event that the consultant finds that harassment has occurred (and has determined the appropriate sanctions), the Anti-Harassment Committee Chair will convey the finding and the sanctions in writing in the form of a recommendation to be approved by the committee, and, if approved, inform both parties of the finding and sanctions in writing.

Based on a finding of policy violation, potential sanctions may include, but are not limited to, any of the following:

● immediate removal from a meeting or event without notice or refund
● prohibiting participation in society events
● revoking membership or removal from leadership positions
● rescinding awards
● barring from future events and/or leadership positions, as well as awards
● report to appropriate legal authority/home institution

IX. Appeal

Either party may appeal the findings of the investigation within 30 days of receiving the report. Appeals will be made to an Ad-hoc Appeals Committee consisting of the President, Past President (Chair), President-Elect, and Executive Director. Grounds for appeal include a claim of procedural error, substantive or significant new evidence, evidence of the use of impermissible criteria, or evidence of bias in the treatment of the fact-finding and decision process.

A person who has been sanctioned can ask for a review after 5 years, and the committee may repeal the decision and/or allow participation again.

X. Records

All records regarding reports and their outcomes will be kept in the office of the Executive Director.

XI. Policy Updates and Approval

This policy and its enforcement will be reviewed by the Anti-Harassment Committee on an annual basis and updated/amended with the Board’s approval as deemed necessary and appropriate.

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Future PSA conferences confirmed:

2024: Marriott Mission Valley, San Diego, CA  Thursday, March 21 to Sunday, March 24

Theme: TBA
President:  Alicia D. Bonaparte, Pitzer College
Vice President: Celeste Atkins, University of Arizona
Program Chair: Marcia Hernandez, University of the Pacific

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