Regional sociology gathering puts focus on UO psychologist

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The Pacific Sociological Association opened its 88th annual meeting in Portland with a primary focus on institutional betrayal, a concept drawn from psychology research driven by UO professor Jennifer Freyd.

The four-day meeting, April 6-9, at the Hilton Portland & Executive Tower carries the theme “Institutional Betrayal: Inequality, Discrimination, Bullying, and Retaliation in Academia.”

Many of the conference’s 249 sessions, including five organized by UO sociologist CJ Pascoe, connect to the theme. Pascoe also will be part of a panel discussion Sunday about how research in sociology helps to address gender and sexuality based bullying in public schools and guide public policy. Several other UO faculty members are either hosting a session as an organizer or presenting findings of their research.

Institutional betrayal, as defined by Freyd, refers to the “wrongdoings perpetrated by an institution upon individuals dependent on that institution, including failure to prevent or respond supportively to wrongdoings by individuals committed within the context of the institution.” The term emerged out of research with former graduate students, particularly Carly Smith, who is now at the Penn State University College of Medicine and will speak at the conference.

“It is very exciting to have my work picked up and extended by others in this way,” Freyd said. “One hopes through scholarship and science to contribute to the work of others and to society. So I’m very happy about this conference. In terms of institutional betrayal research and theory development, the theme of this conference suggests to me that there are a lot of ways that the concept can be applied and used to organize and generate new research.”

Freyd has drawn international attention for her work, including trips to the White House during the Obama Administration. Institutional betrayal emerged from her UO lab’s long-running research on the trauma experienced by victims of sexual assault — from personal consequences to broader feelings of betrayal by friends and the institutions where crimes were committed.

Freyd and some of her current and former students will talk about their research in four sessions that directly reflect the conference’s theme.

The sessions organized by Pascoe will cover various issues of sexuality as they play out in contemporary American society. The conversations will center, she said, on issues such as dating and marriage, as well as the role of policies and laws that sometimes feed into LGBTQ issues, inequality and discrimination.

Her research, which focuses on how high school bullying, homophobia and sexism affect students, fits well into the conference’s overall theme, Pascoe said, because it focuses on the role institutions play in fostering gender inequality.

Since the release of her book “Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School" in 2007, Pascoe has been advising organizations, including teachers groups, the Gay/Straight Alliance Network and Lady Gaga’s Born this Way Foundation, on gender-and-sexuality-based bullying.

At noon on Sunday, Pascoe will address how to use sociological research on gender and sexuality issues connected to bullying in public schools to inform public policy and social change.

“In my talk, I’ll be reflecting on how we as sociologists can use our research to make a more just and equitable world,” Pascoe said.

—By Jim Barlow, University Communications