Meet the Professor: Jeffrey Reitz

The Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto has a diverse faculty of professors who have a wide range of experiences. While they share backgrounds in sociology and its intersecting disciplines, each faculty member has individual experiences that have shaped their academic careers. In this series, we interview faculty at the St. George campus to acknowledge and share these stories, and get to know the influences behind their journeys.

Jeffrey ReitzProfessor Jeffrey Reitz is a Professor, member of faculty at the Munk School of Global Affairs, and former Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. His research examines the social, economic and political experiences of immigrant and ethnic populations. In this interview, he discusses the importance of sociology, and some influences behind his career.

What do you love about sociology?

Sociology offers perspectives and insights that are limited in the other social sciences, and allows a more complete understanding of the social world. At the same time, sociology offers methods that enable us to demonstrate the importance of these missing perspectives and insights empirically. What the social sciences can contribute, I think, is analytically strategic facts. I try to take an important public issue, and identify the key factual questions that I think would make a difference in public debate. I want to find a way to produce answers to those factual questions, and then introduce them in the discourse in a way which actually has an impact. In the social sciences this is a huge challenge, because so much of what people say is that they want to believe — quite apart from facts. And there is sometimes even a disregard for facts, both on the political left and the political right.

What is one piece of advice you would give to students who are studying sociology?

When you do your research, what’s most important is to choose the right problem. You have to remember that the research is going to take a while, so you can’t choose something that is of passing interest. Also, it is important to describe the problem in common-sense language, avoiding technical jargon. Jargon may be useful, but it can also function as a way of insulating a group of scholars from a wider engagement.

How did you narrow down your areas of research and ultimately decide your field?

I found the area of specialization that came to dominate my career – immigration and intergroup relations – fairly late, after completing my Ph.D., and even after becoming established in my first job. As a sociologist I had pursued a number of areas, but ultimately had to face the reality that to make a contribution requires a depth of commitment and scholarly experience that is rarely possible without intense focus. At the same time, I would not advise thinking in terms of ‘narrowing down your areas’ because while working on a particular topic, whether it is ethnicity, crime, inequality or other topics, it is important also to think of that topic in as broad a context as possible. This is what a sociological approach really means, and it is difficult because it requires one to be conversant with what is said on the subject in the other social sciences – economics, political science, etc., and then to add the sociological dimension, which is often missing in the other approaches. In my own case, I have studied immigration and ethnic relations across the areas of employment, education, community relations, and policy. I think that by including these areas, and seeing their interrelations, one can make the most effective contribution.

Professor Jeff Reitz speaks on CityTV about hate crimes against Muslims

ProfessJeffrey Reitzor Jeffrey Reitz recently gave an interview to CityTV news for a piece about hate crimes directed against Muslims. Professor Reitz is the Harney Professor of Ethnic, Immigration and Pluralism Studies and has published widely in the area of immigration in Canada and Europe.

The City TV clip is available on The Critical Mention website here.

Professor Jeff Reitz quoted in Toronto Star on “name-blind” recruitment

Jeffrey ReitzOttawa recently announced a decision to launch a pilot project in which the federal civil services will “blind” the names of applicants for jobs to reduce unconscious bias. The Toronto Star asked Professor Jeffrey Reitz to comment. Professor Reitz is a Professor of Sociology at the St. George campus with research expertise on immigration and discrimination. The full article is available here. Below, we have re-posted an excerpt.

Ottawa pilots ‘name-blind’ recruitment to reduce ‘unconscious bias’ in hiring

Ottawa has launched a pilot project to reduce biases in the hiring of federal civil services through what is billed “name-blind” recruitment, a practice long urged by employment equity advocates…

U of T sociology professor Jeffrey Reitz said the initiative is an important step forward but cautioned officials they must consult independent experts in developing the process and reviewing the results to make sure it is done correctly.

To conduct name-blind screening, he said, recruiters must remove any information on a resumé that would reveal the ethnicity of the person, such as name, birth place and membership in an association before coding the candidates in the talent pool.

“If the government is serious about it, they need to make the process transparent and allow researchers to look at the new procedures and the results,” said Reitz, a co-author of the Canadian study on name discrimination against Asians…

 

Reitz on Research2Reality

Professor Jeffrey Reitz was recently profiled forResearch2Reality . Research2Reality is a groundbreaking initiative dedicated to “shining a spotlight on world-class scientists engaged in innovative and leading edge research in Canada.” It operates in partnership with several leading universities in Canada. A video of the interview with Professor Reitz will be released shortly. Currently, you can read his “Researchers in Reality” interview online. The “Researchers in Reality” feature is a weekly Q & A with highlighted prominent researchers to provide a glimpse at the person behind the research.

Jeffrey Reitz, Sociologist

Jeffrey Reitz is a professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto and the Director of Ethnic, Immigration and Pluralism Studies. We asked him everything from what is on his playlist to what advice he would give to young researchers in hopes of giving you a better understanding of what goes on outside the lab for one of the best minds in Canadian research.

What do you like most about your work?
What the social sciences can contribute, I think, is analytically-strategic facts. I try to take an important public issue, and identify the key factual questions that I think would make a difference in public debate. I want to find a way to produce answers to those factual questions, and then the challenge is to introduce them in the discourse in a way which actually has an impact. In the social sciences this is a huge challenge, because so much of what people say is that they want to believe — quite apart from facts. And there is sometimes even a disregard for facts, both on the political left and the political right.

Read the full article