The CSA was established in 1990. The association grew out of the belief that California, with a population larger than Canada, an economy larger than most nations, and a greater number of sociologists than many states, needed its own association for the following reasons.
- We work in a state that is increasingly multicultural and diverse, more than the rest of the nation. California is often seen as a bellwether state, and we, as sociologists, seek opportunities to exchange ideas on studying, teaching, and learning about this dynamic milieu.
- Having a common environment, we benefit from working together and sharing ideas about the economics, politics, and culture of California.
- We need a relatively small forum that facilitates interpersonal communication and encourages the involvement of teachers, applied sociologists, and students throughout California, including UC, CSU, community colleges, and private institutions.
In 2010 we celebrated our 20th anniversary. Our first Executive Director and former president, James Glynn, wrote the following history of the CSA.
“Imagining” Twenty Years of the CSA
James A. Glynn, Professor Emeritus
Former President and Executive Director
California Sociological Association
It was mid-August, 1990. Chuck Hohm (then of San Diego State), Phylis Martinelli (St. Mary’s College), John Kinch (then of San Francisco State), and I (Bakersfield College, at the time) got together to discuss progress regarding the inaugural meeting of the California Sociological Association.
John had taken responsibility for being the program chair, and he reported having received one paper. Chuck had conferred with our friend Hal Charnofsky (CSU, Dominguez Hills) about an appropriate venue for the occasion. Phylis and I were handling membership and registration. Prospects looked dim.
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About a year and a half earlier, Chuck – who was then chair of the Sociology Department at his university – had sent out more than 8,000 letters to California sociologists, trying to ascertain the interest in starting a statewide organization. I believe that mine was his only response.
Nevertheless, he secured some time during that year’s ASA meetings in San Francisco to present the concept. I met him for the first time about 20 minutes before we were scheduled to hold our session, although we’d communicated by letter on several occasions.
After the meeting, about 20 people signed up to serve on a “planning committee.” Our first few meetings were very informal but we made a number of key decisions. Probably the most important was that we wanted to run a “class act.” Naturally, this required money.
We decided to offer life memberships as a way of generating revenue, but we also knew that we’d have to limit the number of such opportunities because too many can financially cripple an organization after a period of time.
However, we raised enough money to reserve the newly constructed Carson Community Center for our initial conference. It was a beautiful edifice, and we thought that its novelty, alone, might attract some interest.
Gordon Clanton (San Diego State) was probably our head cheerleader, beating the bushes for attendees and papers. Robin Franck (who recently retired from Southwestern College) worked tirelessly to round up community college faculty to participate. And Earl Babbie (Chapman University) offered to give the keynote address.
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We considered hiring a commercial artist to develop a logo for the organization, but Peter Suczek of Imperial Valley College came up with a design that we liked. His sketch was “smoothed” by an artist at Bakersfield College and is still used on all of our publications.
As the “big day” approached, we found ourselves with a full program. I organized the session on demography and wanted a presenter of national eminence to draw attention to our nascent association. Paul Glick, who was affiliated with Arizona State University at the time, paid his own way to the conference and handled his own expenses, acknowledging that it would be a historic occasion.
When the time came to elect the first slate of officers, Chuck Hohm was chosen by acclamation. John Kinch became Vice President, Phylis Martinelli was selected as Secretary, and I got the unenviable job of Treasurer.
Earl Babbie’s presentation was inspiring and invigorating. He said that if the organization were still in existence in ten years, we could consider ourselves to be a success.
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After moving around the state for a few years and trying different venues, we decided to make our home at the Mission Inn in Riverside for the even-numbered years.
The 2010 annual meetings at that landmark celebrate two decades of existence, growth, and vitality for the California Sociological Association. I can’t help but think about Earl’s comment. By the tenth anniversary, we were pretty sure that we’d succeeded in pulling together a viable state academic organization. Now that we will celebrate our twentieth year, there can be no doubt.
The CSA has been a great way for sociologists in our state to share their interests and research, a pleasant forum for students to mingle with their professors, and a valuable resource for our policy makers. From its humble beginnings, our association has become one of the nation’s preeminent sources of “the sociological imagination.”
Note: Jim served the Association as Executive Director from 1990 to 2001 and was the president in 1992-93.