TA Guidelines

Sociology 321: Sociology of Economic Inequalities

To do every week:

Change Default Post Category
Do after 11:59 p.m. on the Sunday that posts are due (e.g., the Sunday that the Week 3 posts are due, set the default category to 4)

To update the default post category, go to Settings > Writing. Under Default Post Category, select the correct week number (so 6 for posts on the readings assigned during Week 6, etc.). Click on Save Changes.

Grading Comments
Do by Thursday morning (if you could do some of them by Tuesday morning, that would be ideal!)

Comments should be graded from 1-4 based on the criteria in the syllabus. Only a few exceptional comments should get a 4’s; if there aren’t any exceptional comments, you don’t have to give out any 4’s. Please email me the and text of the comment and name of the author for any comments that receive a 3.5 or 4, so I can keep them in mind for the class discussion. Comments need to be posted by Monday at 11:59 p.m.; late comments made on Tuesday should be docked a full point (a little bit past the deadline is fine), and comments made after class will not be accepted.

In the SOCY 320, 321, and 406 Google Sheet under the tab for this semester (e.g., Inequality 19F for Fall 2019), go to the Comments section. (Note: The SOCY 320, 321, and 406 Google Sheet is in the GTA Shared Folder, a Google Drive folder shared with you; let me know if you can’t access it.) Under the column for the appropriate week of the class, enter the score for the first comment in #1 and the score for the second comment in #2. The total grade for the comment set should be automatically calculated in the next column. Enter yes in the Late? column if the student’s comments were submitted past the deadline, so that we remember later why the comment(s) were docked a point. (If a comment was submitted after class on Tuesday, give the person a zero for that comment.)

Next, go to the class Blackboard site to input the grades. (Note: I would suggest hiding the comments column you’re working on and then showing it once you’ve added all the grades and double-checked them; to do so, click on the drop-down menu to the right of the column name and toggle Hide from students (on/off).) Under Grade Center > Full Grade Center, enter the averaged grade for that student’s pair of comments under Comments Set 1. (It should match whatever number is in the Avg. column of the Google Sheet.) If the student skipped that week of comments, you don’t have to enter a grade for that student; just put the next comments grade they receive in Comments Set 1. If you hid the column, make sure to toggle its show/hide setting after you’ve double-checked the grades. At the end of the semester, a student who has done all the commenting will have done 5 pairs of comments; all 5 of the Blackboard columns (Comments Set 1, Comments Set 2, etc.) should be filled out, but only 5 out of the 11 commenting weeks will be filled out in the Google Sheet (because they can skip 3 weeks and are posting, not commenting, during 3 weeks). 

Grading Posts
Do by the following Monday

First, make sure the post was submitted on time. To do that, go to Posts > All Posts. Put your mouse pointer over the post you want to review and then click on Quick Edit. It will list the date and time the post was published (the first field in the date is the month number—not the day number—followed by the month name). Posts need to be published by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, or the post will be penalized as described in the syllabus. (For their first late post, we should tell them that—contrary to the syllabus—we aren’t penalizing them this time, but their next post will be penalized.) In the SOCY 320, 321, and 406 Google Sheet under the tab for this semester (e.g., Inequality 19F for Fall 2019), please enter the times that any late posts were published in the Late? column for that particular person/post. If it was on time, enter on time. (Note: The SOCY 320, 321, and 406 Google Sheet is in the GTA Shared Folder, a Google Drive folder shared with you; let me know if you can’t access it.)

Posts should be graded according to the rubric provided at the top of the Feedback for SOCY 321 Google Doc (also in the GTA Shared Folder). That said, there is some flexibility in how you score each area; feel free to use your gut instinct about the overall quality of the post, and adjust the scores accordingly. The scores for each area should be entered in the columns of the SOCY 320, 321, and 406 Google Sheet that are devoted to blog posts (e.g., the column titled Blog Post #1, with columns underneath for [R]eading, [A]nalysis, [E]valuation, and [W]riting). The spreadsheet will automatically generate the grade percentage once you input the four scores.

In the Feedback for SOCY 321 Google Doc, please copy and paste the text of the student’s post within the document, first finding the student within the alpabetically ordered (by last name) list and then pasting the text under POST #1 (or whatever post it was). Then, under FEEDBACK #1 (or whatever round of feedback it is), write up several sentences of feedback about the post. Feel free to use the boilerplate in the separate Google Doc, Boilerplate text (also in the GTA Shared Folder), and copy and paste any of the generic remarks there (particularly those about grammar) into your own feedback, adapting the text as you wish. Write down the student’s grade (out of 100%) at the end of your feedback. Once you’ve finished grading the posts and writing up the feedback, email me and I will look over the feedback and grades before emailing them out.

Grading Class Assessments (Group Work)
Do by the following class

Most class assessments (group work, quizzes, etc.) should be graded from 1-4, with 1 being poor, 2 being fair, 3 being good, and 4 being exceptional. Only truly exceptional work should get a 4; if there isn’t anything exceptional submitted that day, you don’t have to give out any 4’s. Those students who did not attend class (i.e., whose names aren’t listed on the submitted sheet) should receive a zero (they will automatically receive their 2 assessment grade drops at the end of the semester). When students just need to complete an assignment that isn’t being evaluated, give everyone who completed the assignment a 3 out of 3.

In the SOCY 320, 321, and 406 Google Sheet under the tab for this semester (e.g., Inequality 19F for Fall 2019), go to the Assessments section. (Note: The SOCY 320, 321, and 406 Google Sheet is in the GTA Shared Folder, a Google Drive folder shared with you; let me know if you can’t access it.) Enter a brief description of the class exercise and then the date of class at the top of the next available column. For each student, enter the grade they received; everyone in the group whose name is listed on the sheet will get the same grade.

Next, go to the class Blackboard site. Under Grade Center > Full Grade Center, click on Create Column in the top menu. Enter the date and brief description of the class exercise as the Column Name (e.g., 8/29 MacLeod group exercise). Change the Category to Assessments. Under Points Possible, enter 4 if the assessment is being evaluated (typically the case), or 3 if it is just being graded for completion. For the time being, click on No for Show this column to students. (We will make the column live after we have inputted the grades.) Click on the Submit button.

Now you should input the grades from the Google Sheet into Blackboard. Once you have entered all of them and double-checked them, you can click on the drop-down menu arrow just to the right of the column name and toggle Hide from students (on/off). Students will see their grades.

Other instructions:

Adding Readings to Dropbox and Blackboard

Upload the scans for any readings to the shared Readings folder in Dropbox. Assigned readings will go in that folder; there is also a subfolder called Considering where I put readings that I’m considering for the class (so if you can’t find a reading that’s already been scanned, you can look here).

Once you’ve uploaded the scanned files, add them to the Readings folder of the Blackboard site. Go to the Readings folder and in the Build Content menu at top select the option Item. For the name of the file, you can use the format Week [X]. Under Attachments, click on Browse My Computer and upload the file for that reading. If there are multiple chapters scanned for the author for that week, then repeat the attachment upload process for each chapter; you can place all the files within one Item for that week.

Setting Up a New SOCY 321 Ram Pages Site (for Victor’s reference only)

Create New Site:

rampages.us > Create an Account

Site Name:

Site Title:
SOCY 321 (Fall 2019)

Allow search engines to index this site.

Change Settings:

Appearance > Themes > twenty seventeen 

Posts > Categories

Add categories (class, 3, 4, etc.) for each week there are posts/comments assigned.

Settings > General

  • Site Title: SOCY 321 (Fall 2018)
  • Tagline: Sociology of Economic Inequalities
  • Timezone: AmericaNew York

Settings > Writing

  • Default Post Category: 3

Settings > Discussion

Uncheck all except:

  • Allow people to post comments on new articles 
  • Comment author must fill out name and email

Users > Join My Multisite

  • Membership: Automatic
  • New User Default Role: Author

Appearance > Widgets

  • Changes Categories title to Week

Add link to blog on the class Blackboard page

Add New Page:

  • Read This First!

This is the class blog for Sociology 321: Sociology of Economic Inequalities. Here is where you can read and comment on other students’ posts. Read the syllabus carefully for what is required in writing your posts and comments. PLEASE NOTE THAT YOUR BLOG POSTS SHOULD COVER THE READINGS FOR THE FOLLOWING WEEK, i.e., the Tuesday or Thursday after the Sunday deadline. (Look at the syllabus, which lists the readings your blog post should cover. You can choose to focus on the Tuesday reading, the Thursday reading, or some combination of the two.)

Read below for instructions on (1) how to write posts for the class; and (2) how to comment on someone else’s blog post (text at the bottom). See this page for examples of posts that received high grades in past versions of this course.

Let your TA Alexandra Quezada know if you have any questions. Full contact information and office hours are listed in the syllabus.


IMPORTANT: Your posts for this class may be visible to the public. If this is an issue to you, please talk to us. (The class blog is typically taken down after the end of each semester, so you writing will be only temporarily visible.)

If you do not yet have a Ram Pages account, go to rampages.us and register for an account there. In the lower-right corner, click on the button Create an Account or Create a New Blog. Ram Pages will give you the option of either creating a site or just a username. Choose Just a username. You will receive an activation email to the address you gave. Sometimes the activation email goes to your Spam folder, so please make sure to check it if you do not receive the email in your Inbox.

If you run into problems logging in or remembering your Ram Pages password, visit this page to get help: https://rampages.us/help/password-help.  (You can also contact the Ram Pages technical support team by going through this page: https://rampages.us/help/request-assistance.) The tech support team generally responds within 12 hours. Email Alexandra if you continue to have problems.

Note: If you previously set up an account on rampages.us but forgot your password, you can use the Lost your password? link to recover it. When filling out the lost password form, make sure to use the same login email that you used when you set up your account (e.g., if you signed up with vchen@mymail.vcu.edu, use that email address, not vchen@vcu.edu, and vice versa).

Now that you have a Ram Pages account, follow these instructions to post to the class blog:

  1. Go to rampages.us and log in by clicking on the red Login button on the right (if you are not already logged in). Go to the class blog, rampages.us/socy321f19 (if you are not already on one of its pages).
  2. You should see SOCY 321 (Fall 2019) in a horizontal black banner at the very top. Put your mouse pointer over the name of the class and you should see a link for Dashboard. Click on it. To create a new post, go to Posts and then Add New in the left sidebar. For the post’s title, think of something creative or provocative. Feel free to add a photo or illustration to go with your post (click on Set featured image in the right sidebar). If you’re new to blogging, you might want to click on the link for Video Tutorials under Dashboard in the left sidebar, and then watch whatever tutorials you need to. At the end of your post, make sure to type your full name, so that we know who wrote it.
  3. Once you are done writing your post, make sure to click on the Publish button, which is usually at the top of the right sidebar. Make sure your post is visible on the class site, or you will not receive credit.


Make sure to log into rampages.us before commenting. If you run into problems logging in or remembering your Ram Pages password, visit this page to get help: https://rampages.us/help/password-help.  (You can also contact the Ram Pages technical support team by going through this page: https://rampages.us/help/request-assistance.) The tech support team generally responds within 12 hours. Email Alexandra if you continue to have problems.

You should comment in the text box at the very bottom of your fellow students’ blog posts. The comments should automatically appear on the class blog. Make sure your comments are visible or you will not receive credit. At the end of your comment, make sure to type your full name, so that we know who wrote it. Let Alexandra know if you have any problems.

Photo: Occupy Wall Street protests, November 18, 2011. Photo by Coco Curranski, via Flickr.

Add New Page:

  • Sample Posts

To learn how to publish posts or comments on this blog, read these instructions.

#1: Are contractors less likely to be overworked?

The comment at the beginning of the Barley and Kunda reading is something that I have come across multiple times in my research for the final paper; industrialization separated the workplace from the home. This sharp boundary between work and other aspects of life like family and leisure is a fairly new concept. To me, the newness of this concept is a big reason that we as a species seem unable to find the perfect balance between work and life. As we saw in the documentary, Happy, people are literally working themselves to death, with work being the #1 priority. The recent fear of losing a job has caused a lot of people to work harder at jobs where they will not be paid more money. Although the debate over the reason that many people are working far more than the 40-hour work week that was fought so hard for in the past has no obvious answer, I believe that the answer has something to do with the climate of the job market. Internationally, I think that this pressure to overwork yourself is due to the desire and pressure from the government and employers, to become an “industrialized” (to use an outdated term) country.

This section on contractors was extremely intriguing to me; I have an uncle who is a contractor, and does nothing but wallow when he is in-between contracts. After reading this chapter, I feel that contractors, as a whole, are much more positive people than I thought them to be. The differentiation that some contractors made between “bench” and “beach” time is very interesting. Seeing the downtime between contracts as either a vacation or as sitting on the side lines really speaks to the values of that person. Along with those who considered downtime “beach” time, those who planned their downtime around vacations and used it to their advantage seem to have the system rigged in their favor. Towards the end of the chapter, the authors include informants who create their schedules around family life. I think that this is an admirable desire, and that it is a great way to lessen the gap between the work and family lives, but this option is really only available to people who make enough money at contracting or are supported by another income. I thought that some contractors considered permanent employment “temporal slavery” (226), a very polarizing comment. I do not agree that there is such complete separation between contractors and those with full time employment. Considering that there were informants who either came from full time employment, or returned to full time employment, those who are contractors are not able to completely separate themselves from those who do not have the luxury of savings or skills to be a contractor.

While I think it can be a great option for some, contracting is a relatively elitist profession. It really only includes those with either formal training, or those who have had the opportunity to learn under someone for years and are able to make it on their own now. I do not think that these people are trying to be elitist or exclusionary to those who have to work as many hours as possible to make ends meet, but that is the outcome. For those who are able to take 6 months off at a time, staples such as food and shelter must be costs that are so miniscule to the overall income that they are able to take half a year off. As we have learned through many readings and discussions in this class, those who work the low-wage jobs are unable to pay even small unexpected expenses. While I admire the entrepreneurialism of contractors, I think that the privilege that they have was not adequately recognized in this chapter.

To go back to my earlier statement, many people find their work “engrossing” (236), and this is the reason that Barley and Kunda give for contractors working very long hours. While I think this may be the case for some, I highly doubt that most full-time employees work more than 40 hours a week because they find their work that entertaining. I think that this would mostly apply to those contractors whose jobs happen to align with their leisure interests. As mentioned earlier in this chapter, I think a more plausible reason for the overtime is because people are working to impress those that hire them, while also looking for other contracting opportunities towards the end of contracts to avoid downtime if they wish to do so.

#2: How will we ever escape this labyrinth of corporate morality

In Moral Mazes, Robert Jackall characterizes bureaucracy as a “separation of offices from persons” (p. 11). Corporations want their employees to act in accordance to their orders, not their moral conscience because more often than not, it’s bureaucracy, not individual decision-making, which improves the bottom line. In many ways, bureaucracy is closely tied to urban society where, due to a barrage of stimuli, people in a heavily stimulating environment fall on logistics instead of personal understanding to make moral decisions. According to Jackall, the Protestant view of morality arose as the dominant form of moral order. It was a view that held the work ethic—“restless, continuous, systematic work in a worldly calling”—as a binding social rule. It is likely that the Protestant view of morality helped placate any self-doubt about one’s moral righteousness in an environment that dissuaded individuals from making individual moral decisions.

To help ease the burden of moral accountability, there exists multiple levels of management that lend themselves further detachment of person and office, person being the individual and office being the role that individual plays in the bureaucracy. The higher you go in management, the more levels there are between you and the bottom, where most mistakes occur. This can be a gift and a curse. Although as the levels rise higher up the corporate ladder, crucial mistakes occur less frequently, that still means that there are ever increasing levels of employees that you can be held accountable for near the top of the hierarchy. On the other hand, since there is more separation between yourself and the mistakes of others, there is an increased likelihood that someone lower on the corporate ladder will be the one to take the fall for lower-level mistakes. The idea of the perpetual “fall guy” is a significant contributor to why less mistakes are made as you go up the hierarchy; a higher-ranking manager is going to carry out his duties in a more conscientious manner when she knows that slacking will lead to mistakes that will inevitably fall back on him and cripple her chances of upward corporate mobility.

What makes the concept of a person within the corporate ladder all the more befuddling is the corporate emphasis on “team play.” Boasting your accomplishments, even when deserved, can mark you as a threat to others in the organization. Although there are conflicting reports from Jackall’s sources as to whether one should prioritize distinction and recognition or whether they should prioritize achieving the label of “team player,” the general consensus seems to be that the latter is the most preferable characteristic to have. As one interviewee says, “the person who is to really succeed here has to be a team player first and foremost” (p. 52). It simply seems that individualism is too contrary to the bureaucratic nature of corporations that rely on intense social conformity to propel the ideals of an established hierarchy. The hierarchy that is established promotes the idea of working hard so that others can benefit, and when recognized as one who works hard for the group—a “team player”—then one can move up the ladder. I believe the hope is that since management decides the direction of the company, having people move up who embody the ideals of socially constructed team work will keep the corporation moving in that direction. Corporations, by way of employees setting a social norm of symbols and mannerisms (see Jackall’s list of social dress faux pas on page 47) and constructing an environment which reinforces those social norms, are the theory of structural functionalism incarnate.

Where morality is concerned, corporations mold morality to fit its needs. Ethics, in the traditional sense of moral righteousness, however one decides to understand moral righteousness, is an individualistic concept. One does the right thing because they believe it to be the right thing based on perceived moral reasonings. It is a personal belief. However, for corporations, the right thing for an individual to do is a matter of, “sensitivity to public perceptions of [their] fairness” (p. 21). In a corporation, an individual is constantly being judged on their utility to the team. Therefore, similar to the moral theory of utilitarianism, utility is still a basis for moral judgement, however, instead of being measured for the sake of the individual, it is measured for the sake of the perceptions by the group.

Add Menu Links:

  • Appearance > Menus
  • Create a new menu
  • Display location > Top Menu
  • In Pages section on left, check Read This First! and Sample Posts and then click Add to Menu
  • Save Menu 

Add New Post:

  • Read This First! (make sticky, category: class)

If this is your first time posting or commenting on the site, please read these instructions about how to create an account and post/comment (also, read the sections in the syllabus about blog posts and comments). Let your TA Alexandra Quezada know if you have any questions.

Other items:

  • Set up new tab in SOCY 320, 321, and 406 spreadsheet
  • Set up Feedback for SOCY 321 Google Doc with student names, Post #1/Feedback #/etc.