Elizabeth Armstrong. Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality

Monday, October 19, 2015 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall

Monday, October 19, 2-3:30pm in 420 Barrows Hall

Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality

This talk is based on Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton's recent book, Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality (Harvard University Press, 2013), which analyzes the party culture in American colleges. Such parties, Armstrong and Hamilton argue, allow daughters of the affluent to flaunt their social advantages while exposing the vulnerabilities of female students from less-privileged backgrounds. Focusing on female students, the authors find from campus observations and interviews ample evidence that four years on the party pathway will open doors of power for the elite while stranding the wannabes with mountains of student-loan debt and few employment options for paying off that debt. The authors suggest a number of reforms—including the abolition of Greek fraternities, the termination of legacy admissions for the offspring of rich alumni, and the replacement of the college “party pathway” with a “mobility pathway” giving struggling students generous financial aid, supportive remedial courses, and a direct path to good careers. The book offers a provocative exposé of socially polarizing trends in higher education, which has not only sparked much public debate, but also earned its authors the 2015 ASA Distinguished Book Award.

Elizabeth A. Armstrongis a sociologist with research interests in the areas of sexuality, gender, culture, organizations, social movements, and higher education. Professor Armstrong joined the Department of Sociology and the Organizational Studies Program at the University of Michigan in 2009. Before that, she held a faculty appointment in the Department of Sociology at Indiana University. She was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and a recipient of a National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Sociology at the University of California-Berkeley and a B.A. in Sociology and Computer Science from the University of Michigan.