Sociology 262-80, Murray

Hello and welcome to the on-line version of Violence in the Community (SOC 262 80)! I am Professor Sarah Murray, and I imagine many of you are taking this course because your schedules demand the flexibility of an on-line class; because you have the self-discipline to succeed in an on-line environment; and because you find the subject of American violence interesting and relevant to your life and future. With our post-9/11 involvement in the Middle East still on-going; and recent controversial Supreme Court decisions regarding the death penalty and gun ownership, violence is, indeed, a timely topic. The presidency of our first African American Commander in Chief, and the slow “ recovery” from a cataclysmic down-turn in the US economy, serve as a fascinating backdrop for the study of violent crime and violence resolution.

Whether or not you are actually a sociology major, for the purposes of this course, we are all sociologists -- and sociologists examine violence in a unique way. Even though some of you are studying to become police officers, social services workers, or teachers, we will not look at violence exactly the same way that those professionals do, but rather from a distinctly sociological perspective. You will have the opportunity to hypothesize about the different ways violence is examined according to academic discipline and profession within our first few sessions.

What we will study: In our time together, you will learn about 1) the definition, categories, and theories of violence and the different ways violence may be addressed; 2) one sociologist’s experience as participant-observer in a naturalistic setting (in other words, his “up close and personal” view of an inner city street gang) 3) the way the media and our own lives connect with and contribute to our academic conversation about violence. We will, very significantly, ask the question “Does the American culture encourage violent behavior – and, if so, how?” The specific answers to that query may amaze you.

What you’ll need: 1) You will need two books for this course, both available at the WPU bookstore: Violence: The Enduring Problem, by Alex Alvarez and Ronet Bachman and Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets, by Sudhir Venkatesh 2) You will also access, free, (the on-line version of the New York Times). 3) You will be required to have access all semester to Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine, available through the WPU library, through various video rental outlets or purchased used at

How you’ll be evaluated: We will have two on-line exams (all essay, open book, non-timed and completed within a one-week time frame); an individual research project via Blog or Journal on a subtopic of violence you choose; weekly Discussion Board postings on reading assignments and news articles and/or periodic short writing assignments submitted through Journal. As with a traditional course, plan to devote an average of about three to five hours weekly to this class, including instruction, reading, writing assignments, tests and special projects/discussions.

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Good luck and have fun in the course! Dr. Kathleen Korgen

I’m sure we will all have a very stimulating semester in this on-line course!

Professor Sarah Murray