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June 17, 2015


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It sounds like their lawyer's position on the issue.


Even if you cannot obtain a copy of the dissertation, it could be worth approaching the ASA committee which awarded the prize in 2011: at least they could confirm whether they sighted it, even briefly.
Susan A. Dumais
Susan A. Farrell
Philip Howard
Robert M. O'Brien
Lisa D. Pearce
Wendy D. Roth
Bruce H. Wade
Amy S. Wharton
Guobin Yang
Robert Zussman

Alternatively, given that Goffman's supervisor Duneier has declared that he feels confident in the research done for the dissertation, he presumably has a copy that he could lend?

Michael Risch

They're in D.C. Perhaps someone can review a submitted copy in person without making a copy? That would certainly answer the intellectual property argument.

Charles Paul Hoffman

Can you not get a copy from her doctoral university? Dissertations are typically kept on file in the library. Or is the problem that it's embargoed for an initial period to allow for book publication?


Might she have submitted the diss to UW when she applied for the job? If so, it might be subject to an open records request.


Mitchell Duneier ought to have a copy. Goffman, too. All of this is astonishing, and Lubet rightly points out that it's become about something much bigger than one unfortunate young scholar tempted into what looks like fabulism. It's about some large sections of academia that are way overdue for an accountability moment.


One dimension that I am not sure Steve emphasized bears considering: while she now claims to not have intended for anyone to get killed, in the book she not only says she wanted someone to die but makes clear - in a fairly lengthy passage discussing the several rides she took with the gun toting "Mike" - that the realization that she felt that way was so intense that it led her to reconsider her situation in life and go to graduate school.

Well, lucky her that she had an exit - unlike her friends in the 'hood.

But the key point is that this weighs heavily in favor of accepting her published memory of her feelings at the time as evidence of her intent. It would certainly be interesting to compare this writing to the dissertation and to her field notes. Both of which should be available. (I have kept my dissertation raw material, notes and interview tapes for more than 20 years.)

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

I congratulate Professor Lubet for doggedly following up on this potentially bogus dissertation and book. We cannot know what the dissertation says, but no one should employ Ms. Goffman until this controversy is sorted out. He is absolutely right to be skeptical that the story is not fact-based, but fiction.

Obviously, I have not read the book or the dissertation, but, in my opinion, both should be closely examined by a skeptical eye.

Philip Cohen

ASA should change its policy to only give the dissertation award to dissertations that are publicly available:

Sociologist Shaking Head

To the above comment, it is also interesting that she said this situation caused her to go to graduate school, meaning that she had conducted this part of the research before Princeton. Mitch Duneier clearly stated in his response that he only vouched for the ethics of the research she conducted at Princeton and that he supervised, though he made clear not to comment on the "research" conducted at Penn.

Regarding ASA, I am not convinced that any committee read this so-called dissertation. It doesn't seem like one was ever written, since it mysteriously cannot be recovered. ASA should at least verify that a dissertation was submitted and read by committee members, who should also come forth and declare that they actually participated in the process of judging dissertations and not handing out awards based upon celebrity.


Someone should bring this issue to the ASA Committee on Professional Ethics:

13.01 Planning and Implementation

(c) In their research, sociologists do not encourage activities or themselves
behave in ways that are health- or life-threatening to research participants or

Another damn sociologist

I wonder if moving toward a norm of blind manuscript submission for sociology journals (where the editorial board also doesn't know who the author/s are until after a decision is made) wouldn't help? I'd heard that blind submission is becoming more of the norm in law journals, is that correct Steve? I'm sure it's not fool proof, but it does seem like it would help address the conscious or unconscious tendency of certain editors to select articles based, in part, on the author's institutional or nominal prestige. Or, as appears to have been the case with ASR in this instance, to let a manuscript with some rather obvious methodological issues through peer-review without the standard scrutiny.


There never was a dissertation. Princeton accepted the OTR manuscript in lieu of a dissertation, an act that while rare, is not unprecedented in the academy. Why the American Sociological Association awarded "Best Dissertation" to a dissertation that never existed is baffling and requires incestigation.

Michael Risch

Another damn sociologist -

Blind submissions are still pretty rare in law (maybe a few of the top journals). And we are continually beaten over the head with that scientists. So, frankly, I'm shocked to learn that sociology journals don't have blind publishing.

By the way, the legal academy response to non-blind submission policy is that there is a low bar to publication, which leads to much more publication, but there's also a lot of tolerance for post-publication critique and comment where most law professors see whatever real "peer review" they will get.


A New York Magazine reporter has Tweeted today (Thursday) that they have "new info" on Goffman and will be publishing something Thursday or Friday.

Dave Garrow

I'd like to imagine that Princeton takes its reputation for academic integrity & the value of the degrees it grants reasonably seriously, so my instinct is that folks should concentrate their efforts on Princeton, not the ASA: Duneier, the Sociology faculty, the Dean of the Graduate School, President Chris Eisgruber--I think a lot of us on here know the Eisgruber's work & hold it in very high regard.


I think this would benefit from distinguishing several issues.

1. You ask about "ASA's position on this issue"; if you mean its present refusal to provide a copy of the Goffman dissertation, that may be defensible. If the policy is (and was) as the email reported, then it might be breaching its agreement with Goffman and, potentially, others, potentially with legal repercussions. You might inquire as to whether the limited license described was part of an explicit agreement or rather is just the ASA's retrospective view of the arrangement; you might also ask, though it seems needless, whether the ASA would release the dissertation to you if it had the author's permission . . .which would at least establish whether it retained a copy. For all we know, Goffman may have also signed away to her publisher the rights to release the dissertation, or represented that it would not be.

2. If, instead, you mean the general policy of permitting awards to nondisclosed dissertations, it's worth acknowledging that (a) this may have had a legitimate, even if unpersuasive, original rationale (enabling students to submit works without fear that this would inhibit other publication arrangements, and perhaps even permitting that without sunset on the mistaken assumption that the work would eventually be published in a refined form that would obviate need for the original); (b) the ASA might legitimately have viewed itself as more of an ribbon-pinner, providing an incentive for excellent work and providing winners with a credential, and not as the body making pivotal decisions about dissemination, which would instead be the degree-granting institution or the author; (c) you were not alone in raising concerns about this, and that (as noted upthread) there has been an attempt from within sociology to change the ASA policy prospectively. Not everyone is wagon-circling, and ideally the policy will be corrected.

3. To me, the real issue with the dissertation lies with the degree-granting institution not requiring disclosure after a period of several years . . . which would have accommodated any legitimate interest by the author, save in withholding from scrutiny a less mature work. Disclosure is at best a partial solution, as it probably would not yield much in terms of the underlying research, but this is a larger problem in both qualitative and quantitative fields. I'm just not sure what would warrant a perpetual embargo, if that's what happened here.

In general, I think this is an important inquiry, but that we shouldn't expect immediate resolution or be too quick to attribute any perceived foot-dragging or absence of response to an unreasonable disregard of academic values (or a phantom dissertation). When charges are serious, serious delays in responding may be inevitable, and it's probably more important to avoid forgetting about the problem than to secure immediate gratification.


"You ask about "ASA's position on this issue"; if you mean its present refusal to provide a copy of the Goffman dissertation, that may be defensible. If the policy is (and was) as the email reported, then it might be breaching its agreement with Goffman and, potentially, others, potentially with legal repercussions"

Even without legal repercussions it seems inappropriate to share an entry for a scholarship or award with an unrelated individual just because he asked for it. There is nothing particularly scandalous in my last funding application, but I assumed when I submitted it that it would only be seen by the reviewers and I would be annoyed if they just gave it out upon request.

"To me, the real issue with the dissertation lies with the degree-granting institution not requiring disclosure after a period of several years"

Yes, permanent sequestration is very odd.

Michelle Meyer

Two new pieces just out on Goffman, complete with interviews with her, her advisors (in Slate), and (in the NY Mag piece) some of her subjects. To avoid the spam filter, in lieu of URLs, Google Goffman and:

(1) NY Mag, Science of Us, Jesse Singal

(2) Slate, Leon Neyfakh


Nice picture.

Not much of a defense, however.

But, both articles sort of take the position that Alice is such a good person that defending herself would be beneath her goodness.

Legal academics, take note! Perhaps instead of insulting and deriding your critics all these years, all you needed to do is proclaim your goodness, and tell the world that making stuff up is actually a positive virtue according to the norms of your world! Committing crimes? Crimes, schimes. There are no crimes if one is merely experiencing a criminal action in order to "study" it ...

Geez. It seem there is no corner of Modern America where the ethics don't stink. Forget the posturing and the academic relativism and bs. Wall Street, Washington, academia, the streets ... everywhere ... nothing but corruption. And, this whole enterprise was deeply corrupt in a sense that anyone would understand immediately (and NOT for the reasons Lubet has mentioned.)

Wouldn't it be nice if someone in a leadership position in this county could, instead of simply inviting us to hate the other side, inspire this country to clean up its act?

And, btw, the author under attack does indeed seem like a very nice person. How could she know any better in this milieu?

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