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Understanding Crime and Punishment: Sociology Conference Explores Conflict, Related Issues

“Community, Conflict, and Control” is the theme of the 56th annual New York State Sociological Association (NYSSA) conference, to be held at Buffalo State on October 17 and 18. Timothy McCorry, assistant professor of sociology and president of NYSSA, is chairing the event.

“It’s the first time Buffalo State is hosting the conference in many years,” he said.

Sociology—the study of human society and its institutions, problems, relations, and organizations—is a popular major, and the diverse topics to be presented at the conference reflect sociology’s wide range of subjects. The Sociology Department offers two baccalaureate programs, one in traditional sociology and another in applied sociology, as well as two minors. The sociology minor enables students to choose their own areas of interest, and the deviance minor, often selected by criminal justice majors, explores theoretical aspects relating to deviant behavior.

People from a variety of disciplines will benefit from attending the conference. NYSSA members, who belong to many academic disciplines, will present on a wide range of topics, including women in academia, the social construction of sexual identity, and the desegregation of baseball.

The keynote speaker is Elijah Anderson, William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Sociology at Yale University. He has written several books, including Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City. According to McCorry, Code of the Street is helpful in understanding that so-called senseless urban violence sometimes results from a street code with its own priorities and values. Anderson’s most recent work is Against the Wall: Poor, Young, Black, and Male.

Anderson’s talk, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, October 17, in Bulger Communication Center North. Tickets to attend the preceding dinner and awards ceremony are $20 in advance.

The conference, which starts at 1:00 on Friday, concludes Saturday with a talk by Peter K. B. St. Jean, assistant professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo. St. Jean is the director and producer of the documentary Lessons from Homicides: The Buffalo Story, which will be shown as part of his presentation. More than 400 homicides have occurred in Buffalo since 2000.

McCorry said the conference underlines the fact that conflict occurs within every community, and that efforts to control such conflict and violence range from informal neighborhood control to formal governmental control.

“Anderson’s work helps us make sense of events many people just hear about on the news,” said McCorry. “St. Jean’s work is a tool that can be used to help reduce the violence.”

The conference, which is expected to feature 65 individual presenters, will include several graduate and undergraduate presentations within various panels. While there is a range of topics, some panels will focus directly on the specific theme of community, conflict, and control to complement the keynote and plenary speakers.

“This focus on conflict in the community and ways to understand and resolve it pave the way for Peace Week,” said McCorry. Peace Week, an annual campus event held in conjunction with United Nations Day, takes place October 20 to 25.