Category Archives: Academic Life

Poli Sci Bookshelf: Are Competitive Elections Bad for America?

In a recent Boston Magazine article, David Bernstein describes the lack of competitiveness in Massachusetts state legislative elections, pointing out that “as usual” in 2014 most Beacon Hill incumbents will run unopposed for re-election. For those of us who link competitive elections to democratic vitality this situation is lamentable, but maybe we should consider the possibility that uncompetitive elections are actually better for democracy than competitive ones?

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Graduation at UMassBoston

This is a post that first ran on graduation day in 2012 and again in 2013. We are all proud of the University of Massachusetts at Boston, Boston’s great public research university with a teaching soul. It’ so gratifying to see our students rewarded for all their hared work and to be renewed in appreciation for the fits they bring out community. The details are dated but the resilience and brilliance of our students is renewed each year. So here is a little bit about graduation day at UMB

The statistical portrait here at UMB shows that our undergraduate students are 42% minority and 56% female. Last week we graduated 3810 undergraduate and graduate students and they came from 101 countries. We’re very proud of that.

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Why Commencement Matters

For three years I’ve posted Graduation Day at UMB in tribute to my school and especially the truly special students who graduate each year. I also presented a conference paper in 2013 with a very talented graduating senior, Jason Agress. In truth he did most of the work so I invited him to publish a blog post on the paper topic here. In open defiance of my request, Jason instead submitted a student’s view of graduation day. I hope you enjoy it. You will hear much more from this young man in the years to come. Jason’s post first ran in 2013.

Why Commencement Matters

By Jason Agress

When I entered the UMass Boston commencement ceremony on Friday, I was initially somewhat apathetic. While enthusiastic about graduating, the ceremony itself seemed unimportant – especially when it was outside on a 90+ degree day. But as the ceremony went on, I began to understand its significance. In one place, at one time, I was in the company of 4000 other graduates who studied a diverse array of subjects and achieved an impressive list of accomplishments.

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Jon Keller’s Critique of Early Voting is Flawed, Cynical

The prospect of early voting in Massachusetts looks brighter today now that both houses of the state legislature have approved versions of an early voting bill. But not everyone is excited about Bay State voters being able to cast their ballots as much as two weeks prior to Election Day. WBZ-TV News political analyst Jon Keller, for one, thinks this is a “terrible idea.”

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Notes from NEPSA

One of the more pleasant rites of spring for a political scientist is the annual meeting of the New England Political Science Association. It’s an occasion to enjoy the diverse beauty of our region, see old friends, and hear about cutting edge research by established and emerging scholars. This year I learned about how millennials view the surveillance state, why Noam Chomsky may have gotten it all wrong as a media critic, what has happened to Republican women in New England, and how we might be able to toss out expensive polls and accurately predict U.S. Senate races using Facebook.

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The View from the NEPSA Annual Meeting

This weekend, I will deliver my annual report on the state of Massachusetts politics to the New England Politics Roundtable at the New England Political Science Association’s annual meeting. For a comprehensive reconsideration of the state of Massachusetts politics last year at this time, you can (re)read my New England Journal of Political Science piece from last spring here.

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Professors (Over)React to Kristof’s Plea

New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, wrote a column the other day lamenting that professors are not sufficiently engaged in the public sphere. When I first encountered the piece, I skimmed it, recognizing familiar arguments and claims, and thinking that in general a call for greater participation by academics in public debate and dialogue is healthy enough, and certainly not offensive. As I often do, I posted it to my Facebook page along with other articles I intended to look more closely at later, with a note of agreement. Soon thereafter, I came upon a couple of very thorough and negative critiques of Kristof’s column, written by professors who see themselves and their fellows as highly engaged.

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Dr. Krauthammer’s Bad Medicine

What’s a right wing pundit to do when everything he claim about the Affordable Care Act crumbles with scrutiny? Charles Krauthammer shows the way in his latest column, “The Healthcare Myths We Live By.”

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The Outrage Industry

Tufts University Professors Jeffrey Berry and Sarah Sobeiraj have just published The Outrage Industry: Political Opinion Media and the New Incivility. The book, which the authors describe and discuss here and here, is timely, insightful, and a good read.

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What if all media reporting and analysis of elections were done by political scientists?

The coverage of electoral politics by the news media includes very little realistic discussion of partisanship in the voting booth, but journalists and pundits aren’t unique in this respect. Politicians, political operatives, consultants, and even professional pollsters also regularly traffic in self-interested misinformation regarding the partisanship of voters. This Washington Post piece by Sean Sullivan recently caught my eye because it does not suffer from this common defect. In fact, it looks to me like a good example of the kind of political journalism that political science bloggers like us here at Masspoliticsprofs hope to inspire. It is also quite consistent with this piece by political scientist Alan Abramowitz, published on the same day. Is it a harbinger of positive change in the political news media, or just evidence of a slow news cycle?

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