• Interviewee: Roos, Patricia A.
  • PDF Interview: roos_patricia_part_1.pdf
  • Date: March 11, 2022
  • Additional Interview Dates:
    • Date: April 1, 2022
  • Place: New Brunswick, New Jersey
  • Interviewers:
    • Shaun Illingworth
    • Adithya Venkateswaran
  • Transcript Production Team:
    • Jesse Braddell
    • Zach Batista
    • Kathryn Tracy Rizzi
    • Patricia A. Roos
  • Recommended Citation: Roos, Patricia A. Oral History Interview, March 11, 2022, by Shaun Illingworth and Adithya Venkateswaran, Page #, Rutgers Oral History Archives. Online: Insert URL (Last Accessed: Insert Date).
  • Permission:

    Permission to quote from this transcript must be obtained from the Rutgers Oral History Archives. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Shaun Illingworth: This begins an oral history interview with Professor Patricia Roos, on March 11, 2022, with Shaun Illingworth. Adithya, go ahead and say your name.

Adithya Venkateswaran: Adithya Venkateswaran.

SI: Professor, thank you very much for sitting down with us today. We appreciate it. To begin, can you please tell us where and when you were born?

Patricia Roos: Yes, I was born on March 31, 1950, in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I was an Army brat. That's why we were in Oklahoma, but we didn't stay there very long, because when I was six weeks old, we moved to Germany and then lived in multiple other places after that time. Just to give an indication of that, when I was twenty-five, I had moved twenty-five times, so that was a lot. [laughter]

SI: Tell us, first, for the record, your parents' names, and then we want to know a little bit about your family background on both sides. Please start with your mother's side and what you know.

PR: Sure, yes. My mother, Miriam Kelley Roos--when she married my father, she took on Roos--was the daughter of the district attorney in Philadelphia, and so she grew up in that environment living in a great big house in Philly. Her father died when she was eighteen. She was working with him at the time, and it was on the front-page news of the Philadelphia newspapers when he died. She was with him in the car, so that was quite a traumatic experience for her.

She met my father when she was eighteen. They met on a blind date at West Point because my father was at West Point. During his first year--they call it plebe year--she was set up by mutual friends and ended up going up and meeting him right as the elevator doors--the famous story--the elevator doors opened up, and she looked at the two cadets standing there and said, "I hope the tall and handsome one is the one that I got fixed up with." It was love at first sight. My father graduated in June of 1943. He would have gone another year, but it was during the war years, so he ended up going directly into the war effort.

You asked first about my mother. My mother was one of six children, I believe. She was second to the youngest and had older brothers and sisters and one younger sister, whom we got to know very well over the years. We didn't have as much relationship with them, any of the people on my mother's or my father's side, because we were in the Army and my father was shifted from one base to the other basically my whole entire life, until I graduated from high school, actually. She had a harder time keeping up with her family. She was a very strong Catholic, and that was a very important part of her life, still is. She's ninety-eight years old and still alive and living in Springfield, Virginia. She and I have Zoom telephone calls every Tuesday. Every Tuesday morning, we have Zoom telephone calls. She's really with it and knows what's going on and still a strong Catholic and was a very strong Army wife. So, that sort of framed her life. [Dr. Roos' Postscript: I moved to DC in August 2022, and now I visit her in person every Tuesday. On September 16, 2023, our family celebrated her 100th birthday, with relatives from all over.]

[It was] very different from mine, because I remember growing up as a military kid and thinking, "This is not the life I want. I want a very different kind of life." I always joke with my mother that they got a very different kid from me. She always said, "Well, never just depend on a man, and earn your own money." I told her that at a later point in time, and she said, "What? I never meant that you had to go as far as you did getting a Ph.D." [laughter] I still credit her for that, because it led to me to be a very independent person. Do you want me to say something about my father?

SI: Before we talk about your father, can you talk a little bit about her educational background and that sort of thing?

PR: Sure, she's a high school grad, but when we lived in California, she went back to college just to take a couple of college courses and never really got her degree. She went to the local community college when they lived in California, and she enjoyed it. She took history classes and very much enjoyed that.

SI: Your father had actually been to college before West Point. Is that right?

PC: He was, yes. He got a four-year degree in history from University of Utah and loved history; that really guided him for the rest of his life. He was just a historian nut. Still to this day, I go to visit my mom, and there're bookshelves full of history books that she's trying to now give away to my brother and her son-in-laws, who also like history as well. So, he got his history degree, and he was in ROTC [pronounced "rot-see"] when he was there and then really wanted to go to West Point because back then, that was a huge thing for a young man to do. He was coming from the University of Utah. He lived in Utah. He grew up as a Mormon in Utah, and I suspect that was probably something that helped him get in, because he was probably different from the other kinds of young people who were applying. He got in. I don't know what the procedure is now, but back then, you had to get one of the Senators, I think, or a Congressperson to support you. He got a person to support him and got him in, and then he loved it. It was the perfect thing for him. He loved the military. He stayed in the military for a very long time. [Editor's Note: Candidates for admission to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point are required to receive a nomination, either Congressional (a Representative or Senator) or Service-Connected (current active duty military personnel).]

Actually, there's a funny story related to how he met my mother. I don't know if you've ever seen pictures of the cadets eating at West Point, but in Washington Hall--we lived in West Point later on, and so I've seen the inside of Washington Hall--he was in there eating with all the other people. He got to his assigned table, and there wasn't enough room. So, they said, "Go over and sit with the 'runts.'" That's what they called them, not very politically correct, back in the day. He sat with the "runts" and ended up sitting next to this guy. What that meant was that all the companies were ranked by height, and so he was tall--he was six foot--and then the "runts" were shorter, maybe like my height, five-seven, five-eight. So, he sat there, and the guy next to him said, "I'm bringing up this girl from Philadelphia, and I'm looking for somebody who wants to meet a young woman." I'm sure they said girls back then. My father says, "Sure, count me in." That was in his first semester at West Point, and that's how he met my mother during the Christmas dance. They met at Cullum Hall, overlooking the Hudson, and that was when my mother made her famous statement about, "I hope I get the tall and handsome one." [laughter] That's gone down in family history.

Then, my father graduated in June of 1943, and I think he went to a couple of little training [courses] but then was out in the Pacific during the war effort. He was an engineer. So, he was the person who oversaw the building of landing areas in Guam, where he was for most of the war. [Editor's Note: American forces invaded Japanese-held Kwajalein and Eniwetok Atoll Groups in the Marshall Islands in January and February 1944. Succeeding those operations in the island-hopping campaign, U.S. forces invaded Saipan, Tinian and Guam in the Mariana Islands in June and July 1944.]

He was there for most of the war effort and then came back to Fort Shafter, Hawaii and sent for my mom. MacArthur was trying to send him someplace else, and he kept saying, "No, no, I want to stay here." [laughter] Finally, MacArthur said, "Okay, you stay there." My mother came over in 1946, and they got married November 2, 1946. Then, that's where they were in their first posting and then began their many, many state trips following that point. [Editor's Note: Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) was a U.S. Army general who commanded forces in the Southwest Pacific Area during World War II.]

SI: Do you have any brothers or sisters?

PR: Yes, I have [an] older brother, Bill, who is two years older than I am. Then, there were four daughters. So, Bill actually was two years ahead of me. My father retired in 1968, which is exactly the year that I graduated. I was eighteen, and I graduated from high school. I was in a really wonderful private school, Punahou School, in Honolulu during my last two years, junior and senior year. My brother was two years older, so he was here at Rutgers actually and graduated from Rutgers in 1970.

SI: You were moving around a lot. When was your earliest memory that you remember? Where were you living at that time?

PR: Probably West Point. I mean, I have memories--my father always took tons of pictures. We have tons of pictures, so it's hard to remember, "Is that a memory from a picture, or do I really remember it?" I remember, pretty early on, living in Alexandria, Virginia, while my father was at the Chief of Engineers Office and Pentagon. I lived there, went to Catholic school there, and then we moved to Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia for the second half of third grade. My father went to Greenland for a year, and my mother brought all the kids and lived in Sea Isle City, New Jersey (when I was in fourth grade). That was my introduction to New Jersey. Her family had a summer place in Ocean City, New Jersey, so that's why we picked Sea Isle City, New Jersey. After that, we went to Fort Lewis, Washington, where my father headed the 35th Engineer Combat Battalion. I was in fifth grade and remember it very well. I went to school out there for a year, and then we moved to West Point.

My best early memories are of West Point. We lived there [for] four years, from 1961 to 1965 (when I was in sixth through ninth grades). My father was a teacher. He became a teacher of civil [engineering] while he was there, and he taught for a couple years and then became the person who supervised everyone else. They call it the associate professor and then there was a general who was the top person, so my father was like number two in the civil engineering. Civil engineering at West Point was one of the most important departments. I'm sure it was well funded.

I remember West Point. West Point was just an absolute idyllic place to be raised as a kid, because the kids just had free reign of the entire post. You could go from one part of the post--we rode our bicycles all over the place. They had a pool (Delafield Pond). We moved from a smaller house out in the Lee Area closer to the entranceway to West Point, into this monster house that was part of a triplex, and we lived there for the last three years. We would just go anywhere we wanted. There was a place where we ice skated just literally up the road. We spent a lot of time--we closed off the water area and dammed it up and made a swimming pool. There was Delafield Pond, which we swam in and saw the cadets marching in the middle of the summer in their full gear, poor guys. The new recruits, all male at that point, walking up in the fields around Delafield as we were sitting in our bathing suits enjoying ourselves. [laughter] West Point was great.

We then moved down to Arlington, Virginia (I was in tenth grade) and lived there for a year while my father was at the National--not the National Academy of the Sciences, the …

SI: War College?

PR: War College. Yes, thank you. National War College in DC is exactly where he was, and that was a very prestigious posting for him and kind of put him on the ranking to be a general. So, that's kind of the steps he was moving toward, to become a general. Then, after that year, we went to Hawaii, and that's where we spent two years, my junior and senior year of high school (1966-1968). He was the District Engineer for Hawaii but also out into the Kwajalein area. He was now back overseeing that process. [Editor's Note: Kwajalein Atoll is in the Marshall Islands in the Central Pacific.]

In this position in Hawaii, he was the chief engineer of this area that went out further into the Pacific. That was incredibly idyllic too because going to this school that I went to was incredible. Its claim to fame now--of course, not when I was there--was that that's where Obama graduated from. When I left in 1968, he was probably just coming there as an eleven-year-old. Then, he was there a longer number of years than I was, obviously, but it got a lot of claim to fame at his 2004 talk at the Democratic National Convention. They introduced him, and they said, "Here's a guy who went to Punahou High School, Honolulu, Hawaii," and I go, "What?! That's incredible." [laughter] It was just a wonderful, wonderful school to go to. We wouldn't wear shoes, no uniforms. It's still an amazing, amazing school. [Editor's Note: Former U.S. President Barack Obama graduated from the Punahou School in 1979.]

Then, I applied to colleges and ended up going to the University of California, Davis. Because my brother was at Rutgers, I applied to Douglass and didn't get in, so I always liked to use that once I began teaching at Rutgers. I'd say, "Now, listen, when I applied, I didn't get into Douglass." [laughter] I think Rutgers, at that time, didn't really know what Punahou was. It's just too far away, and they didn't know. I just looked more like an average A-minus, B-plus student rather than an A-minus, B-plus student at [an] amazing school. So, I remember actually lots of my childhood.

SI: You were moving around a lot, and you were changing schools. Did you think it had any negative effects on you, or was it mostly positive?

PR: I'd say that it was incredibly positive for me. It was always exciting. I remember the time when we were living [in Arlington], and we had an intercom system that went in our house. My mother and father were talking in one room, and all the kids listened to their conversation, little did they know, in another room through an intercom. They said, "Well, we're going to move to Hawaii," and we were like, "What?! We're moving to Hawaii! How great is that?" So, I mean, I got experiences that I never would have gotten experiences in. For me, it was always a plus-plus. It was also nice, once I got to a job, that I actually stayed in one place. As an adult, I've appreciated staying in one place more than I did. Now, I would not like to be moving around like that. I've been at Rutgers and in Central Jersey for thirty-plus years now, so a long time.

SI: It sounds like given the level of your father's jobs and rank, your mother probably would have been called upon to do a lot of things. From what I understand, the higher-level officers' wives are almost like parallel leaders of the other wives. Was that the experience that you were used to?

PR: Yes, my mother was a quintessential Army wife. She loved it, and she was great at it. We, as kids, were always running around, serving people and taking away their [ashtrays for] the cigarettes and bringing out different kinds of food. She was always totally masterful at it. She fit in it. It's part of the experience of that day and age when women were much less likely to [have a career]. I mean, that's what I've studied my entire career, has been to study women's role and women's occupational achievement and so forth and so on. She feels like she's not that learned and she's amazed with what all of her children have accomplished. She's very pleased with that, but if she had been in a different time, she would have been a manager. She manages incredibly well. I have no doubt in my mind that she would have gone on and had a career and been a manager, but that's not what she was raised to do and she loved being an Army wife. That was her absolute choice. Me? No. [laughter] No way. No way could I have done that and subsumed what I really chose to do with my life. I just never would have fit in with that kind of requirement of moving and being subservient in ways that your husband's career always comes first. Not my cup of tea.

SI: As you were going through these schools, what did you gravitate to, first in the classroom and then we can talk about outside activities? Were there particular subjects that you were really interested in up through high school?

PR: I remember looking at some things that I wrote at an early age, high school age, that I was thinking I would be a mathematician because I always liked math. I did like math, but I didn't know what sociology was. It wasn't taught at my high schools. I liked history, but I didn't see myself as being an historian in that way.

It wasn't until I got to college that I went into one of my first sociology courses, and it was just like a lightning strike hit me, because I understood what sociology was and the whole social science approach in a way that I had never done before. It was weird because my "Sociology I" course, the textbook was by Broom and Selznick, I believe it was, and the teacher was horrible. The professor was just really bad. This was at the University of California, Davis; I spent all four years there. The teacher wasn't very good. I don't remember his name. It was definitely [a] him. But I sat down and outlined that entire book, and it just blew me away. I just thought it was so interesting. Then, I took "Soc II," the second in the series, and it was taught by another guy who wasn't very good either. Don't ask me how I ever got into sociology. He basically taught Scientology. I think he was just becoming a Scientologist, and we read Dianetics. I thought, "Oh, well, this is interesting, you know, spaceships coming." It was interesting like a novel, but then I studied. I studied all the Scientology that he talked about in class, but on the test, he didn't test about Scientology. [laughter] I don't remember what I got, but I probably got like [an] A or B, certainly one of those two. I think I got an A, but then I started taking other sociology courses. [Editor's Note: Sociologists Leonard Broom and Philip Selznick authored a number of texts, including Sociology: A Text with Adapted Readings, first published in 1963. L. Ron Hubbard is the author of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (1950) and founder of the Church of Scientology.]

Then, when I got further up, there were some young women who were hired, and there was no such thing as a "Sociology of Gender" course. There was nothing of the sort. The closest you could get was family, you know, "Sociology of the Family." Then, I meet these two women, and the second of them became a colleague of mine, Barbara Reskin. The first one, I became a researcher for her in [a] project that she was working on, and so she was very good as well. I had a third female professor who taught me methods, and she was very good. These three women [were] young; they were all hired relatively recently. Then, in my senior year, one of them offered a course on "Sociology of Gender" or some name like that, and I remember writing this paper. I think that was the paper that I wrote about sex stereotyping in school textbooks, and I still have that paper, I'm sure, because I thought it was pretty good. I did a pretty good job understanding. First, third, and fifth grade, I looked at textbooks, and I looked at how there weren't any women there in the textbooks. It was one of those topics that people talked a lot about back then. [Editor's Note: Barbara Reskin is the S. Frank Miyamoto Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington. Reskin taught at the University of California, Davis from 1971 to 1973 before moving on to Indiana University.]

That's how I got to studying sociology, because it just blew me away at how exciting it was and how it helped me understand, really, the issues that I ended up spending most of my career writing about. Barbara Reskin taught me in my senior year, and she was there for one additional year. I stayed at Davis for my master's degree, and she taught a "Social Inequalities" course. That's where I first started thinking about inequality and how inequality gets reproduced, and those themes stayed with me for--you know, I'm still working on them, basically. Barbara Reskin left; she went to another university in the Midwest. She was all over the place, actually, ended up at Harvard at some point, but she and I kept in touch. I brought her into a project that I was working on at the National Academy of Sciences a little bit later.

I got my BA and MA at University of California, Davis, and then I moved to UCLA. I was married at the time, and my husband, at that point, was a historian. I was in the Sociology Department, and we both stayed there and got our Ph.Ds. Our marriage didn't last, but we're still friends today. After my first year, I started working with Donald Treiman; he hired me as part of a big massive project on occupational segregation. So, I worked with him. He moved to Washington, D.C., and I went with him as a research assistant and worked on my dissertation and also worked on the project that he was working on at the National Academy of Sciences. That was a great opportunity to be down in D.C. [Editor's Note: Donald Treiman is a Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He joined the faculty at UCLA in 1975. Treiman served as the study director for both the Committee on Occupational Classification and Analysis (1978-1981) and Committee on Basic Research in the Behavioral and Social Sciences (1979-1981) at the National Academy of

SI: Do you mind if we go back and unpack some of this?

PR: Yes, sure. I don't know how much you want to know. [laughter]

SI: This is perfect, yes. I like the overview, and then we can go back and ask some questions.

PR: Sure.

SI: Going back to when you graduated high school and were looking at colleges and that sort of thing, would you say, at that point, you were kind of feeling these senses of you could go into some fields but not others, or you should try to pursue this kind of career, basically the idea of there being prescribed roles for women? Did that affect you?

PR: Oh, yes. Yes, I see what you're talking about. Back then, I remember I went to some career person while I was an undergrad trying to figure out, "Well, what do I want to do?" I certainly loved sociology from the beginning, so I pretty much started majoring in that, but then the question became, "What do you do with it?" If you look forward, for somebody who grew up when I grew up, you say, "Okay, what are women doing? They're certainly not astronauts. They're not judges. There are not many lawyers." Those were never ideas or never possibilities that seemed possible for people my age. So, I thought, "Nurses, teachers." Those were the two big professional fields that women were in. I knew I would never be a nurse because I wasn't interested in science in that way. Then, a teacher, I thought, "Oh, okay, I guess I could be a teacher," and I went to a career counselor. They gave me all [this] testing. This has changed my life. [laughter] They said to me, "You could be a teacher but nothing less than junior college because you don't have any patience." So, I go, "Oh, okay."

At the time, I was dating and then got married to this guy who knew from the age of eleven that he wanted to be a professor. I was doing as well as he was in school, and I thought, "Well, why can't I do that?" It became a reality sort of looking at him, seeing him making those choices, that I said, "Oh, I can do this." [laughter] That's why we applied for Ph.D. programs, and we actually got into Columbia but with no money. So, we decided living in New York City wasn't an option. We decided to go to UCLA, which was a great option because of who I ended up working with. It helped to jumpstart my career by making those choices of who I worked with.

Personally, it really was coming to that, because young women were always going through the imposter syndrome, like, "Oh, can I really do this?" Even my first year in the graduate program at Davis, I started getting panic attacks, because I thought, "Can I really do this? Is this something that is possible for me to do?" I went to a therapist, and it affected me such that I couldn't go to concerts. I couldn't sit still, and I had to get up and leave. It was very much a, obviously, self-esteem kind of issue and panic attacks. Then, it just went away once I started to succeed.

Actually, one great memory that I think obviously helped, which is that between my first and second year at Davis, the one woman that I had taken a course with--you can see the role of women in my life. [laughter] My teachers, my female teachers, it's a consistent one. There was another woman, Lyn Lofland, I don't even remember what the course was, and afterward, she said, "Pat, how would you like to be a TA [teaching assistant] next year?" This was my second year. I knew we were leaving by that point. I knew I was just going to get my master's and leave. So, I turned it down. I said, "I'm leaving. I'm going to go to UCLA," and I said, "But why me? Those other guys in the class were so smart." She rolled her eyes, and she said, "Pat, you didn't talk much in class, but you wrote. What you wrote was beautiful, and what those guys were saying was not necessarily that smart." So, you realize that some people who are in your classes, you go, "Oh, my God, they know so much, and I know so little and I'm not going to say a word," that if you just keep doing your work and you write and you do what you have to do, then you succeed and somebody notices it. In this case, Lyn Lofland noticed it, and it was just like, "Oh, yes, that makes sense."

Then, as I went to UCLA, I just kept doing well. As an undergrad, I was like a B-plus, A-minus student, but when I got to grad school, I was like an A student [at] everything. I got A's all throughout. So, that helps with your self-esteem, and the panic attacks went away. [laughter]

SI: I am also curious about when you first went to the University of California, Davis. 1968 is obviously a pivotal year.

PR: Oh, yes.

SI: The ‘60s and ‘70s were full of social and cultural changes. You were coming from this Army officer family sphere. Was it a culture shock at all, or had you been aware or part of some of these changes already in high school?

PR: It's interesting because I can remember sitting in classes at UCLA when people were like, "All of the soldiers are traitors," and this and that. I would always say, "No, no, these are people who are dedicating their lives." I always felt like I was somewhat different coming at the anti-war movement in that I had had years of being an Army brat. I don't see how you can come through the years that I came through and not be a flaming liberal. I don't understand nowadays where all these baby boomers are, because there were so many of them marching in the streets when I marched in the streets. To my mind, I was very involved in the anti-war effort. I wasn't somebody who went out and made bombs or anything like that. They told us, "We're going to arrest you if you don't leave." I was at UC Davis when Kent State happened, and I can't remember the name of the Black college, but there was another … [Editor's Note: Following President Richard Nixon's expansion of the Vietnam War to Cambodia, a nationwide student strike commenced in the beginning of May 1970. On May 4 in Ohio, National Guardsmen opened fire on anti-war protesters and bystanders at Kent State University, killing four and wounding nine. On May 14 and 15, students at Jackson State College protesting against racial harassment were fired upon by state and city police, resulting in two deaths and a dozen injuries.]

SI: Jackson State?

PR: Yes, yes. That spring, basically, classes ended early. We did nothing but protest out there. When we would protest, they came in and said, "We're going to arrest you if you don't leave now." I left. I thought about my mother and father being furious at me if I got arrested for protesting, so I always left. I wasn't one of the most militant in any way, shape or form, but my politics were absolutely developed then. They've stayed the same, and I don't understand where the rest of the baby boomers have gone. [laughter] I was just reading an article in The New York Times about The Villages, that place in … [Editor's Note: Recently, The Villages, a collection of dozens of neighborhoods in Sumpter County in Central Florida, has gained publicity for its conservatism and strong support for former U.S. President Donald Trump.]

SI: In Florida?

PR: Central Florida, yes. I just go, "Where were those people when all this shit was going on?" So, yes, I was very much [a part of] absolutely the whole anti-war effort and the beginnings of the women's movement, obviously. These professors who came in and taught me in my junior and senior year in college, at UC Davis, were there because of a movement pushing universities to become more diverse. At that point, that meant women, mostly white women, almost entirely white women. So, that made a huge difference in my view, because what I learned from them was about the discrimination, and at that point, it was very overt, the very overt discrimination. I came into the, "Welcome to UCLA, Sociology Department," and the professor sitting next to me put his hand on my leg and pretty much kept it there until I moved away. So, this was nothing new. This was something that women just lived with back then. I became very active with the women's movement. I was not first generation. I was not--who's the woman with the long hair who was at Rutgers? Still alive, she's like in her nineties now. What's her name? Long, very pretty, big glasses. Come on, guys!

SI: I would probably recognize the name.

PR: Yes, you would absolutely recognize the name.

SI: What field are they in?

PR: She has come to Rutgers a couple of times and given talks.

SI: Oh, Gloria Steinem?

PR: Yes, Gloria Steinem, yes. There's the Gloria Steinem Chair here now. [Editor's Note: The Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies was established in 2017 in honor of the prominent feminist and political activist Gloria Steinem (born 1934). The chair is a collaboration between the Institute for Women's Leadership, School of Communication and Information, and the Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences.]

SI: Yes.

PR: That generation, she and Justice Ginsburg, RBG, those are people who are the real pioneer generation. The stuff that they had to deal with is so [much] worse than the kind of stuff--and then comes my generation, so I'm kind of second generation. So, things were already improving by the time I was in school. It was a lot better, and there were women there ahead of me who could support me. [Editor's Note: Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020) served as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1993 to 2020. Ginsburg taught at Rutgers Law School from 1963 to 1972. From 1972 to 1980, she taught at Columbia Law School. In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women's Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The following year, she became chief counsel of the Women's Rights Project, arguing cases that made significant legal advances in women's rights under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.]

SI: Let me just ask, Adithya, do you have any questions at this point?

AV: Yes. Professor Roos, thank you so much for providing us with a good perspective on your background, because it helped me open my eyes and understand you a lot better. I just wanted to ask you, has your family's military experience shaped you to be the way you are? Has anything changed from there, or are you still the same person you were back when you mentioned how in the college classroom you were hearing about people talking badly about the military?

PR: Right. Actually, there's still echoes of that kind of view. I don't agree with some of the military, but then you see somebody like Alexander Vindman. You see these military officers--my father got to be a full colonel, which is just below a general, and then he decided to quit because Vietnam was starting. He was ready. He would have gone to Vietnam. He had a number of friends who were killed in Vietnam. So, that was 1968. That was really right when the war [was at its peak]. If you go see the monument in D.C., you'll see that's the period when the number of dead was the highest. You see that from the monument in D.C. So, he had to make a choice what he was going to do, and so he decided to retire and go into the private sector in 1968. Otherwise, he would have gone to Vietnam, and that probably would have made him general. So, he kind of traded off and said, "I'm not going to do that. I'm going to go with my family. I'm going to stay with my family." They moved to California, and that's why I ended up going to college in California, because my family moved to California at the time.

The extent to which the military has become very reactionary, I obviously don't agree with that part of the military, but then you see these people like Alexander Vindman, and you go, "Duty, honor, country." This is a guy who is brilliant. There were some members of my father's class who did become general, and they were brilliant. When you meet these people, they don't do other people's biddings. They're not the people that Trump would say, "I want you to do this," and they'd say, "Yes, sir." If you read about Trump's interactions with the top brass of the military, you see that they were not at all happy and they've been a backstop to Trump's craziness over the years. [Editor's Note: Alexander Vindman is a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served as the Director for European Affairs for the U.S. National Security Council. In July 2019, Vindman alerted a White House lawyer about his concerns with President Donald Trump's telephone call with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he urged him to investigate Biden family dealings in Ukraine. In October 2019, Vindman became a witness in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.]

As a faculty member, when I was involved in recruitment of faculty but also graduate students, I remember one year we had the opportunity to bring in two active [duty] military members [as graduate students]. There were some faculty who were adamantly opposed to that. I said, "If they're good enough, bring them in. They'll be contributing people to the department," because I just knew. They both came in and they didn't stay for the Ph.D., but they stayed as long as they could, given their military training, and they were great. It was great to have that different perspective.

Yes, in the sense that I still feel that I have a respect for the military, and I love how the military brought women in. I remember talking with my father about it, and he was not so happy. He felt that there would be some loss there, to bring women into West Point, for example. He said, "But my opinion doesn't matter. The civilian people have decided this is what we're going to do, and West Point, I know, is going to do it wonderfully," and they did. Now, I just saw a news report that the latest cadet captain, the very top person, is a Black female for the first time in its history. That's the kind of thing that West Point would do, because if they're told, "You want to integrate women," they're going to integrate women and they're going to do it right because, "Yes, sir. My superiors are telling me this is what I do." As long as the people in the ranks above them are doing it correctly, are doing it well, then it's going to work well. So, yes, Adithya, yes, I do feel like it still affects me because I have a lot of respect for the military, the military who's doing the right things. [laughter] [Editor's Note: The first female cadets at the U.S. Military Academy were enrolled in 1976 and graduated in 1980. In 2017, Simone Marie Askew became the first African American woman to earn the role of First Captain, leader of the Corps of Cadets, at West Point. She graduated from West Point in 2018.]

SI: You mentioned you were active in the anti-war movement at Davis. Were you involved in groups, or would it be like you would go to a rally that had been advertised or participate in a few events? What was your level of involvement?

PR: I'm trying to remember, I don't really recall much of what I did at Davis, other than ride my bicycle because that's what everybody did. You ride your bicycle to class. I don't remember being involved in any leadership way in the anti-war movement. I was definitely a follower in the sense of every time there was a rally, I would go. I would sit-in in the administration building. I was that level of involvement, but I wasn't leadership in any kind of activities.

SI: Do you recall if there was any kind of police reaction or violent reaction to any of these marches or events that you were a part of?

PR: Not at Davis. Down the road at Berkeley was where all the activity was. People's Park, that's when People's Park happened, I think, the year before. In ‘64, there was police action, but in Davis, it was pretty much still a cow community and nothing much went on there. That's why my father wanted me to go there. He thought it was much more protective, and I was always was like, "Damn, I wish I was at Berkeley." Once I became more politically aware, I wished I had gone to Berkeley, but I was down the street at the cow college but meeting these wonderful women. [Editor's Note: In the fall of 1964, the Free Speech Movement began at the University of California, Berkeley, as administrators placed restrictions on student activism and students responded with a series of demonstrations that placed Berkeley at the forefront of the student protest movement. On May 15, 1969, after students and local residents of Berkeley occupied a vacant piece of land, dubbed People's Park, police opened fire on crowds of protesters, killing one and wounding others. The National Guard occupied People's Park for more than two weeks, and a curfew was imposed.]

SI: Adithya?

AV: Now, I want to switch gears and talk about your overall research interest in occupation roles, women and sex segregation. While you were here at Rutgers, when you first joined, did you encounter any other colleagues who were going through or feeling the effects of sex segregation?

PR: I started doing a lot of that at Davis and got involved in the women's movement. Then, at UCLA, it was really more my research. I was a research assistant to Donald Treiman, who had funding from NIMH that was looking at occupational sex segregation globally, basically across the world. That's where I got my dissertation from. He was really focused on social mobility, issues of social mobility, not so much occupational sex segregation. But I took a piece of it and then wrote my dissertation on the data that we gathered as part of that project. So, I looked at twelve different countries and occupational sex segregation and analyzed to what extent it had changed, looking at occupational sex segregation within this social stratification framework. So, I was always in social stratification, which is how, really, people think about it as inequality. You don't see that term stratification as much, but people now talk about it in terms of social inequality.

I had to kind of sell my thesis advisor on the fact that I was interested in sex segregation, because he wasn't that interested in it at the time. In fact, he didn't really believe in occupational sex segregation because he was one of the people who became famous for showing that male and females had approximately equal levels of occupational attainment. That's the focus of his work, was always on occupational attainment. If you measure occupational attainment in a particular way--he did it through status. You can also think about it in terms of prestige. If you think about it in terms of status, males and females, back then--we're talking about the late ‘70s--the data [showed] that men and women had equal status and equal prestige. [Looking at occupational sex segregation], I just thought, "That's not right." I just knew it wasn't right.

What I did was I developed this way of measuring three-digit occupations at a very detailed level and taking into account the earnings level of occupations, because most of the other ways of measuring occupation looked at occupation, and somewhat earnings but mostly occupation, and I said, "Well, that's not really getting at it." If you think of a nurse, a nurse has a high level of education; women teachers, all of those what they called pink-collar jobs that were professional jobs had high levels of education, so that kind of skewed up those levels. My very first paper was about this strategy that I had developed, this way of measuring occupations at the three-digit level that took into account the earnings of that occupation. It showed, absolutely, that men and women were in very different kinds of occupations. So, that was my sort of coming out paper. [Editor's Note: Dr. Roos is the author of "Sex Stratification in the Workplace: Male-Female Differences in Economic Returns to Occupation," published in Social Science Research 10:195-224, 1981.]

Then, I went and used data from our project to look at a whole set of mostly western European countries and wrote a dissertation, which was then published as a book about occupational sex segregation across these twelve countries (including U.S., European, Japan, and Israel). It was pretty new at the time. People weren't doing that kind of thing. It was so chock full of data that it would never be published today. It was definitely a research monograph that I snuck in right before they required people to write in a less research-dense way, because there are tons and tons of tables. People who love data, it's perfect for them, but nowadays, I can't believe that it would ever be published. That was my first book and my first article. Adithya, you look like you want to ask another question. [Editor's Note: Dr. Roos is referring to Gender and Work: A Comparative Analysis of Industrial Societies, published by SUNY Press in 1985. ]

AV: Based on what you mentioned about occupational sex segregation, while you were at Rutgers, did you have the time to put those research interests into your classes and see how your students responded to those questions?

PR: Sure.

AV: Would you say that you had those experiences where there was like an ah-ha moment?

PR: Sure, yes. One of my mainstays was a methods course. So, I always built in examples from my own research and other people's research on data using the methods. What if you use this method? What if you use this other method? So, I always used examples there, but also if you look at my vita, you can see all the courses that I taught about inequalities. I taught inequalities at the undergraduate level, I taught inequalities at the graduate level, and all that I was just talking with you about were things that I would talk about in my class. To me, that's what makes a research university exciting, is when faculty actually used their own research in it, just like when I came into sociology, I was just like, "Wow! I didn't even know such a study exists that we could actually look at this." That's what I tried to give my students who were in sociology. I didn't teach "Intro to Soc," but I taught a required methods course in my undergraduate courses, and I taught in the honors program quite a bit. So, I wanted to bring students, and I saw that happen so much where students would have that same kind of, "Wow! I didn't even know you could do this. This is a whole different way of looking at life."

Sociology, social science more broadly, is just a whole different way of looking at life, and to me, it's just so obvious we wouldn't be having the kind of ridiculous conversations we're having now about critical race theory if people understood about sociology, not to mention legal theory. We wouldn't expect them to know about legal theory, but when this critical race theory stuff started appearing, I wrote a post on Facebook that said, "This is what I've been doing for twenty-plus years. I've been making these exact kind of arguments in sociology." The paper that I sent you that was in research and social stratification and mobility, that paper basically argues the same thing that critical race theory does, that there are systemic kinds of factors that are reproducing inequality, but people don't see that. They think we're destroying our children. If we don't teach them how to think like this, then, in fact, we're not educating them at all. Just regurgitating and learning numbers and learning historical facts but only particular historical facts, then we're abrogating our responsibility for sure. I never called it critical race theory, although I knew what critical race theory was because I read some of those articles by Kim Crenshaw and I understood about intersectionality and all that kind of stuff. I tended not to teach that, but it's at the basis of everything that I taught [for] twenty-plus years, for sure. [laughter] So, yes. [Editor's Note: Kimberlé Crenshaw is a professor, legal scholar and author who coined the term intersectionality in her 1989 essay "Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Anti-discrimination Doctrine Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics." Her scholarship examines civil rights, critical race theory, Black feminist legal theory, and race, racism and the law.]

SI: During this period when you were getting into graduate study and then your early academic career, was that a time when the field as a whole was shifting towards more of a focus on groups that had been marginalized? For example, we have seen a similar move in history and other fields. Were there other aspects where you would have these ideas, and, like you were saying with your advisor, other people would not necessarily be thinking there was sex segregation, but you could see that there were other aspects where maybe the older generation was maybe not fighting against but maybe they were …

PR: Resistant.

SI: Resistant, yes, that is a good word.

PR: What's your question then?

SI: Are there other examples of how there was a shift in focus in the field, and was there resistance from the old guard?

PR: Yes, I think that you can't sit in faculty meetings and any kind of meetings with faculty where you don't get that kind of resistance, because people that I love and some of the older faculty when I was at Stony Brook--I was at Stony Brook before I came to Rutgers. I was at Stony Brook, I got tenure at Stony Brook, and then moved to Rutgers in part because my now husband got his Ph.D. there. He was like a senior-level graduate student when I was at Stony Brook as a new faculty member, and so we ended up getting together. Then, we were both looking for a job together. Rutgers called me, and we both got a job here. That's how I ended up at Rutgers. [Editor's Note: Dr. Roos served as an assistant and then associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the State University of New York, Stony Brook from 1981 to 1988.]

Definitely at Stony Brook, there was a kind of older group of faculty who were kind of cantankerous and really didn't quite believe that there was this kind of discrimination that existed out there. They loved me. Being there, I felt like a piece of dirt that became a pearl because they treated me so well. So, I had never had issues there, but there was just a kind of underlying sense of, "Well, what is all this stuff, and what do you do? Do you think that we sit in back rooms and figure out we're going to discriminate against you because you're a woman or because this other person is Black?" It's like, "We don't do that. We don't sit and do that."

That actually is a very important issue for me, because where I was moving to was what I ended up talking about and doing as part of this FAS [Faculty of Arts and Sciences] Gender Equity Study but also writing about, which is that it's not overt discrimination so much, at the time. I now believe overt discrimination has come back, much to my chagrin, but back at the time when I first start working on this stuff, you saw that overt discrimination kind of falling by the wayside, because people learned, "Oh, I can't comment on what this woman is wearing right now," or, "I have to be careful about doing that." It's in interactions that more subtle kinds of discrimination come to the fore. We'll get to this later when we talk specifically about the Gender Equity Study and then the work that I did following it, which is that it's how it's built into our institutions. That kind of inequity gets built into our institutions, and then the organizations, just a pure running of the way that organizations run, these get reproduced, so that inequality gets reproduced through the working of these interactions that people have sitting around in faculty meetings, sitting around in committees, and then get written into our policies and procedures, and then get reproduced by themselves. [Editor's Note: From 1999 to 2001, Dr. Roos worked with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Gender Equity Committee to produce the report entitled "A Study of Gender Equity in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University-New Brunswick," released in October 2001. The full report can be found at https://sas.rutgers.edu/documents/reports-and-resolutions/gender-equity-committee-reports/40-report-a-study-of-gender-equity-in-the-faculty-of-arts-and-sciences-rutgers-university-new-brunwic/file. A summary can be accessed at https://oirap.rutgers.edu/msa/Documents/gender_summary.pdf.]

I'm going to write myself a note to remind me to tell you about the interaction that I had when I was a dean, where I saw myself doing exactly this, my actions, because it can happen to anybody. I saw myself reproducing an inequity in a decision that I was making as area dean at FAS. I started to go down that road, and then I said, "Wait a minute." I recognized what I was doing, and I said, "No, we're not going to do it that way. We're going to do it this other way." So, I'll tell you that story when it fits. [Editor's Note: Dr. Roos served as the dean for the Social and Behavioral Sciences in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences from 1997 to 2000.]

SI: Tell us a little bit about Stony Brook and your years there. First, how did the opportunity come about? Tell us a little bit about what the department was like there.

PR: What the what was like?

SI: The department at Stony Brook.

PR: Oh, okay. Well, before I was at Stony Brook, I was in D.C. for three years, where I wrote my dissertation. I worked three days on the D.C. project, and then I would just go home and I'd have four days at home where I wrote my dissertation. So, it was great because my thesis advisor was there; I could go ask him about things. Then, I just worked. I just started applying for jobs, and I got an interview at Stony Brook. Actually, I wasn't their first choice--I was their second choice--but luckily, the first choice turned them down, and they all said, "Oh, we're glad we got you." [laughter]

I came there as an assistant professor, and I had [an] almost flawless experience because everybody was really great with me. My first year, I did get into a fight with my TA because he decided that I wasn't as smart as he was and he had had multiple years of teaching experience and I had zero. I had never taught before. So, I was learning on the fly as a new assistant professor, and I came up with this project--which I thought was great--based on the work that I had done in D.C. To your point, Adithya, I had done some work, and then I thought, "Oh, I'm going to use this in my class." It was a really smart assignment using the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. I came in, and I was reading all the student responses. We had divided it up, and he was reading half and I was reading half. I came in, and I read all my half, and I thought, "Whoa, this worked really, really well!" He came in; he had not read any because he decided that it was a stupid assignment. [laughter] So, I said, "What? Who do you think you are making the decision? I'm the person who's teaching this class." [laughter] I reported him to the graduate director, and luckily, the graduate director told him, "Do what you're supposed to do. You're the graduate student here. Do the work." So, we limped through the rest of the class, but that was totally outrageous. I think it was an example of this guy who thought he had more experience than I did and he wasn't yet a professor, but he felt like a professor, and who was this upstart new female professor who'd never taught before telling him what to do? Anyway, that's a kind of funny [incident]; in retrospect, it was probably connected to gender issues. I really didn't think about it at the time that way, but I think now that's exactly what it is.

Stony Brook was good. I had really good relationships with the other faculty. One of the senior faculty came in after the vote--luckily for me, I got a unanimous vote from the department for tenure--and he says, "Well, you're kind of a technician. What you do is you're kind of a technician." So, he was telling me, "I don't think that you're that smart, but I voted for you anyway." "Okay, thanks for telling me." [laughter] He was one of these brilliant guys. He shall remain nameless, but he was totally brilliant. He was probably one of the most brilliant people on the faculty and a sweet guy. I got to know him later because my now husband liked him a lot, so we spent a lot of time with him. That's the kind of thing that I don't think it was a sexist thing. I think it was just somebody with not very good manners, and this is not how you treat ...

SI: Like a microaggression?

PR: No, I don't think it really had anything to do with gender per se. He was just ill-mannered, cranky. He was a cranky old professor, ill-mannered.

SI: Adithya, go ahead.

AV: Can you describe what it was like when you led the effort, back in October 2001, for the Gender Equity Report? Was it the same reaction that you encountered with the TA, or was it a totally different spread of ideas? What could you say about that?

PR: Well, I'm not sure what you're saying, because that was at Stony Brook, I was talking about. So, you're saying, "Did the same kind of thing happen when we reported on this thing?"

AV: Yes.

PR: It's really unfortunate because all the work that we did--and I'm sure we'll get into great detail about what that is--but all the work that we did, we finished the report in October 2001, and at that point, we had a new female executive dean. Holly Smith was the new dean who came in, and this had been started under the previous executive dean, Richard Foley, who had been very supportive of it and pushed it forward, actually, gave us total access that we needed in order to do the data analysis, the data-driven part of it. It just kind of fell like a lead balloon, and I think it was horrible timing, right after 9/11. Especially in our area here, people were devastated and destroyed. All the impetus that went into the creation of the report, I might be wrong, but it seems to me that it went nowhere after that. [Editor's Note: Holly Smith, Distinguished Professor Emerita in the Department of Philosophy at Rutgers, served as the executive dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences from 2001 to 2006. Richard Foley served as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences from 1992 to 1996 and then as executive dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and dean of the Graduate School from 1996 to 2000. Foley went on to become a dean and then vice chancellor at New York University.]

The only positive thing that came out of it for me--and this is a big thing--is it led to the NSF ADVANCE Grant, which I was involved in for part of the time it was in existence but not the whole time. I became a co-PI [co-principal investigator] on the NSF ADVANCE Grant. They used my work, mostly that Research in Social Stratification and Mobility article, as kind of the basis, because the data in that article are the same data in the report. It's the same data. I call it State U, although by that point, I wasn't limited to even saying, "This is Rutgers FAS." In that sense, it did go on to serve the basis for, "Here's what Rutgers looks like," at least in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. [Editor's Note: The article being referenced is "Gender (In)Equity in the Academy: Subtle Mechanisms and the Production of Inequality," co-written by Dr. Roos and Mary L. Gatta and published in 2009 in Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 27:177-200. Dr. Roos served as the co-principal investigator and director of research for the National Science Foundation ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Grant, "RUFAIR-Rutgers University for Faculty Advancement and Institutional Re-imagination," from 2008 to 2011.]

That was really an important outcome of it, but other than that, it didn't really--the dean didn't put together a whole set of conversations. I remember none of that. Now, I could be wrong. I mean, I could be really totally wrong on this, and the dean did something that I didn't hear about. I think the timing was bad. But people who have read it really--agree with it is not the word I'm looking for--but they really say, "Yes, okay, this is really a good description." I became a person on campus who then people came to when there were some issues, like, "What should we do? Should we do this? Should we do this?" The union did a kind of--I won't call it an update because it's really somewhat different, and it did the whole University, and so I gave them some advice about what to do, but I wasn't involved in that effort, in the union effort. I have a little bit of concern about some of the findings that they got. I have no concern about our findings. I think our findings are really--they came from the actual data, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences data, so I feel quite good about them.

See, I recall that as a kid I wanted to be a mathematician. I didn't really want to be a mathematician and not an official statistician, but I became a statistically-oriented social scientist, so that's what I ended up doing. That's the through point there is that I became somebody who loved to work with data, and I love to talk about data. I love to write about data, and I'm pretty good about writing about data, making sense of it, and what does it tell us, and trying to write in such a way that it makes sense to people so that they can use it in their own lives.

SI: I am curious because I usually ask about how the quantitative research is done. Could you talk a little bit about that aspect of your research? Also, I am always curious how technology changed over the course of your academic career. Maybe when you were first working with it, it might have been punch cards and then moving into other stuff.

PR: Yes. [laughter]

SI: How did that evolve over the course of your early career up until the end of the ‘80s?

PR: At Davis, I was a computer operator. That was one of my part-time jobs when I was an undergrad. People used to come in, and I had this big monster computer behind me. They would give me their punch cards. I would put them in there and run them through--that was my job--and give them their output. Then, early in my career, that's the way we still did it. At UCLA, I would have my punch cards. I would take them over to the computer center. I'd have to usually wait a day until I got my output back.

Once it became where I could actually do my analysis on my own desk, it was such a dramatic change. I mean, when I first wrote my dissertation, we didn't have computers on our desks. Because I worked at the National Academy of Sciences, I had access to Wang word processors; that's a word I hadn't thought about for a long time. So, it kind of was the same thing with what we do now. You write, you can actually make changes, and then you print it out. So, it's similar to what we do now, but just nothing about what we do in terms of Zooming or any of that stuff existed. So, I tried to keep up with the techniques.

When I came out of school, it was regression. You were considered a real hotshot if you were doing regression. Then, I had to learn by myself how to do other forms of regression and other kinds of complicated statistical techniques, and then I finally said, "Stop. I don't need this." It seemed like I was using this huge thing that was unnecessary to ask the questions (I was interested in). Because I always taught methods, at the undergraduate and graduate level, I said, "Look, your theory needs to drive your method, and if you don't need this horrifying new statistical technique to be able to answer your questions, you don't need it, right? Some questions you do." We have people like two new professors in our department. Quan Mai in our department uses these incredibly sophisticated techniques. Lei Lei in our department does as well. These statistical techniques, they're asking really interesting questions that use those techniques. Some things, I felt like I was just running the data but not really understanding what it was doing, and I didn't feel comfortable that way. I wanted to make sure that I understood what was happening statistically and whether or not it was really answering the questions I wanted to answer. Does that answer you, Shaun? [Editor's Note: Quan Mai is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University. He joined the faculty at Rutgers in 2018. Lei Lei is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University. She joined the Rutgers faculty in 2018.]

SI: Yes, absolutely, and it sounds like you were probably working with large ...

PR: Data sets.

SI: Yes, data sets, banks of data. Were you ever involved in collecting data?

PR: Yes. I first of all started way back in graduate school, I didn't collect the data, but we were using data collected in other countries. Then, a lot of my work was with the census. The census has huge N’s associated with it, large data sets. So, on campus, there have been a couple of times where people had helped with creating the kind of power that you need on computers in order to do these really monster data sets like the census. So, I did a lot of that, a lot of census work.

Actually, I took the census. One year, I was one of the people that was asked to fill out the long-form census, not just the smaller one but the longer one. So, it must have been not for 2020 but must have been for 2010 where I got to fill out this survey, and I thought, "Oh, this is what I use. This is exactly the data that's collected in the census which I use."

Then, I was involved in some survey collection as well, and I never really so much liked writing the questions for the surveys. It's really a skill to do it right, and I think I knew how to do it right; it just didn't interest me as much. I also began to realize that the answers that we were getting from surveys and even the answers that we'd get from the census are so problematic in a way. Maybe you're right in terms of counts of how many people live in the house. How many are male? How many are female? How many are Black? How many are White? How many of them are Asian or whatever it is that you're collecting? Especially when we get to people's attitudes, I just became somewhat concerned about whether or not the data, these large data sets, were really getting at what we really wanted.

I began to do some studies to interview, to do interviewing questions. I got involved with Mary Hartman and Mary Trigg on a project on community, and we got funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. We went out and interviewed senior female leaders in three different fields and wrote up a report. Then, I took the lead, and we published it in a paper. I added in the sociology stuff, and then we used our data. That was so fascinating to me, because I realized how much interesting information we got about, "What is it that people were thinking when they were involved in this interaction?" We'll talk about interaction. "What [were] the kind of interactions they were having, or what kinds of policies and procedures existed in the workplaces that worked to their advantage or disadvantage?" I began to become really enamored with qualitative research and realized how hard it is to do it well. I've been doing qualitative research ever since, along with the data that you get, the hard data. [Editor's Note: The article being referenced is "Changing Families/Changing Communities: Work, Family, and Community in Transition," written by written by Dr. Roos, Mary K. Trigg, and Mary S. Hartman and published in 2006 in Community, Work & Family 9(2):197-224. Mary Hartman, a history professor at Douglass College, served as the dean of Douglass College (1982-1994) and as the founding director of the Institute for Women's Leadership. Mary K. Trigg is an Associate Professor in the Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Rutgers.]

Here's an important understanding that I came to, and this was something that my colleague Barbara Reskin said at a talk that she gave at Princeton that I was sitting in on that just like blew away the older guys in the audience. She says, "What do we think about discrimination? We think about discrimination as overt kinds of behaviors that disfavor certain groups of people, like women, like Blacks, like Asians, whatever group we're talking about. That's only a piece of the puzzle. The other piece of the puzzle is how do we favor certain groups? So, you can disfavor some groups but favor others. Why do we think that white males have been in a position of reproducing themselves? You can say that it's favoring people like yourselves. You can say the same thing happens once women get into that. They're favoring women who are like themselves." It's a little different way of looking at it. I can remember this guy at Princeton who responded, and it was like, "Whoa, I hadn't thought about it." This was quite a while ago. Now, it's kind of accepted wisdom, but he hadn't thought about it that way and he's somebody who had done research on discrimination himself. That's an interesting insight that I picked up on and then tried to incorporate in my later work.

SI: I wanted to go back and we talked about activism at the undergraduate and graduate levels. When you got to D.C. and later Stony Brook, were you still involved in any causes, or did you work with student groups or serve as an advisor for any groups that were doing any social or political action?

PR: Yes. At Stony Brook, I was really a young assistant professor trying to get tenure, but my focus there was much more around gender issues. So, I became involved in a group, a book group, that was about gender issues, and we read all of Toni Morrison's books from start to finish and got together and talked about it. The focus of most of the work that I did at Stony Brook was starting to figure out how do I take what I'm learning and enlarge upon it? I'll have to look at my vita and see what other kinds of things I did.

I always was a mentor to students. That was something, and then when I became a tenured faculty member, I was always a mentor to students as well but also assistant professors. When I retired recently, that's what the younger people said, "Pat, you were always there. Anytime I had an issue, I had to come talk with you." Until the pandemic, I had breakfast with graduate students and professors. One of the things that I've loved in my later years at Rutgers was that it's now much more likely that young males will come and ask me questions, that I would be mentoring them, and that was different. It used to be only women, and then when I got tenured, some of my male colleagues would come say, "Pat, can you come and talk with me?" and we would go have breakfast. I still had breakfast with a bunch of people over the years. I did have something about Stony Brook that I was going to mention. It left my head.

SI: You mentioned that as you were coming into the profession and the graduate school, it was mostly white women. At what point did you start to see more diversification? Was there any conscious movement towards that?

PR: Once I got to Rutgers, we as a department have always been focused on that, both in terms of graduates but also faculty. Our faculty has diversified tremendously now. I think it might even be majority female now. I don't know what the latest figures are, but I just saw that the chair of the department wrote a note recently that there are four new hires, and that's unheard of. So many of us are retiring that they're getting the opportunity to bring in a younger group. [There will be] four new assistant professors next year; it's just phenomenal. Several of them, or maybe even three of them, are diverse: one white woman, and two males, two females, and I think a white woman is the only white in the four. So, that's been fairly common over the last couple of years.

SI: Adithya?

AV: Again, you mentioned being a mentor, and it helped me understand the kind of person you were to the students who always came to ask or seek advice. Now, in terms of a larger role, how would you say your experience was when you were chair of the Sociology Department back in the ‘91 through ‘97 years?

PR: Yes, I was chair, and I was one of the few people that went for six years, so that was a little bit crazy. I came from Stony Brook and I came into Rutgers, and I spent one year just being a normal person. I think the following year I became the undergraduate director, because the chair was thinking maybe I would be the next chair. Then, the year after that, I became chair. Being a chair is very unsung. [laughter] It's a pretty horrible thing to have to go through. You learn on day one the problems with your colleagues. I always remember even people who are your friends think of you differently because you have the imprimatur of the organization behind you. It's kind of like--you know priests when they put on the scapular or whatever it's called? It's like that on day one. They put this thing on you, and people treat you differently. It's just like you know that; sociologists, of course, should know that, but it still affects you in a very hard way. There were some hard times going through those six years. [Editor's Note: Dr. Roos served as the chair of the Sociology Department at Rutgers-New Brunswick from 1991 to 1997.]

The first three years I did it as an associate professor. I tried to get them to make me a full professor before I started, and they said, "Oh, we don't want to have you turned down, blah, blah." I knew as soon as you become chair, it takes up all your time, and you make enemies and just is a matter of course. When I re-upped for a second term, I said, "I'm definitely not going to do it unless you make me a full professor." By that point, they agreed, the dean liked me, he helped me facilitate the process, and I became a full professor. So, my last three years, I was full.

Then I led the--it's supposed to be every six years or so, but now, it's much longer--is that you have a departmental review. So, I worked really hard to bring more money into the department, with the graduate director at the time, to bring in more graduate students into the department and get more funding for them, which was pretty nonexistent at the beginning. Then, by the time I left, I basically got the faculty together to write this report that was pretty striking, actually, that showed everything we had done basically during the tenure, the six years, at that point, that I was chair. We really had bettered the faculty, bettered the graduate students, got more funding for the graduate students. We did all the work to write this review of the department.

Then, the dean, Dick Foley, asked if I wanted to be an area dean. I was ready to go on sabbatical, but he said, "No, you can't go on sabbatical. You have to come now." I went and I was in the dean's office when the committee that was charged with evaluating the department came in, and it went really well. They thought the department was doing very well, so I felt good about that.

I felt that I was really a very good chair. I tried to treat the younger faculty really well. I tried to be a role model for the women in the department. That's not to say that I didn't get into huge arguments, but there's something about when you're in that position of authority that you take the authority and you use the authority, and so I did that.

We had a huge uproar that split the department in half about maybe halfway or a little bit more than halfway into my [time as chair]. There was a new guy who came in who thought he deserved tenure ahead of somebody who had been there for a while, and I said, "I'm not putting you up because so and so needs to go up. She's been here for a while. She needs to go up for promotion before you." He was furious. He went up to the dean's office and talked to the area dean at the time, and that area dean convinced Foley that they should maybe back this guy. I was furious. I went just stomping over there saying, "What are you doing? Why are you listening to this guy over me?" I warned them; I said, "Here's what's going to happen if you proceed on this route." The promotion letters came in. They were some support, some not support, and the department split right down the middle, did not support this guy, and the dean saw the writing on the wall. That was a really bad time because the department just split about this guy, because some people really liked him and some people thought he was a total opportunist. His work was pretty good, but it's just like, oh, my god, you could just see where this guy was going. There were some problems there. So, the faculty vote was split.

Then, what happened was right after he got denied, the threat of people coming in to review the department happened. Everybody came together to write this report, and so I organized it in such a way that it wasn't me writing the report. It was everybody having a say in it and working together and [having] committees to write different chapters and stuff, and we had a retreat. I set up this retreat to begin the process, and so everything kind of came together. By the time I left, that big horrible thing was pretty much gone.

SI: Can you give us a sense of what the department was like when you came in ‘89, what the size of it was, what its strengths or specialties were, that sort of thing?

PR: I remember when I came I thought that the department was not as good as Stony Brook but that the university was better. Also, I was married, and we both needed jobs. He couldn't stay at the same place where he got his degree. So, I thought that I was making a tradeoff there between going to a department that I didn't think was as strong but that I thought the university was stronger.

I came into the department. There was this strength in sociology of medicine, and that was one of the major strengths in the department. It really needed to build up, and part of bringing me in was to build up that other area, like work strat [work stratification]. I think that over time some of the older people retired. We were a department that was very much in flux because of big "R" Reorganization. You guys probably weren't here when the big "R" Reorganization happened, before I got here. By the time I got here ... [Editor's Note: In 1981, the faculties of the federated undergraduate colleges at Rutgers-New Brunswick, Rutgers College, Douglass College, University College, Cook College, and Livingston College, merged into a single entity, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). In Rutgers parlance, this consolidation is known as "Reorganization." In 2006, the undergraduate colleges were consolidated into the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), while Douglass College became Douglass Residential College and Cook College became the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS).]

SI: Yes, the early ‘80s when the Faculty of Arts and Sciences was created?

PR: Yes, when FAS was created but before my time. I didn't live through it, but I saw the remnants of it in my own department, because you had the people at Douglass who were more teaching oriented, not as much research. I mean, they all did research, but it was really a focus on teaching. You had Rutgers College, which was where the researchers were, and then you had Livingston, which is where all the Marxists were and the whole different kind of people interested in very, very different kinds of things and lots of protests and lots of good activism. Those three groups then were combined in the big "R" Reorganization, and because they were so nasty to each other, they exiled them to Livingston. This was, Adithya, pre-current Livingston, which is now a good place. Young people tell me that they like to live on Livingston. Not then. [laughter] Back then, there was none of that stuff that currently exists. It was Siberia basically. We were in Siberia in Lucy Stone Hall, which, if you have ever been in, it is really a horrible, horrible place. All of us were together, and they were all beating each other up. For years, they'd beat each other up. By the time I got there, it was a lot less. I liked people from each of the groups, but it was hard to cohere as a whole because their sociology was different, their politics were--well, most of us were politically similar, and if they weren't, they probably wouldn't have said anything. There were still some remnants from that.

One of the strengths of the department historically has been the sociology of medicine, medical sociology, which, to this day, some faculty still complain about. They see that the medical sociology has control. "They do data, and they don't appreciate the kind of qualitative research that we do." I always thought it was overblown, that criticism, because I think there are strengths. Most of the older medical sociology people left, and the new people that have come in who do medical sociology are doing fantastic research. Joanna Kempner, Julie Phillips, a number of other people who do this kind of research are looking at it in a very different way than the traditional ways of doing medical sociology. To my mind, I think we hired wonderfully. I think the people that we hired over the years have been fantastic, and as a consequence, there have been a growth movement into other areas. [Editor's Note: Joanna Kempner is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Rutgers. She joined the faculty at Rutgers in 2008. Julie Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Rutgers. Phillips joined the faculty in 1999.]

We had the opportunity, for example, there was money from a group of Hungarians who wanted to bring in somebody to be the director of the Hungarian Institute. This was when I was chair. We brought in József Böröcz to be the director. He then was the director for a while and then came back full time to sociology. The minute he came, we started getting many more people applying from Eastern Europe that we had never had applying for our graduate program before. That's an example of the kind of building that we did that I think provided a lot of foresight. [Editor's Note: József Böröcz is a Professor of Sociology at Rutgers. The Institute for Hungarian Studies at Rutgers was established in 1991.]

Then, in recent years, we needed people who could teach very sophisticated quantitative analysis. So, Quan Mai, that I mentioned, Lei Lei, that I mentioned, both of them know how to do very sophisticated quantitative research. We need that and we need to continue to have that work, but we also need the people like Joanna Kempner, who does qualitative research. Her first book was on headaches, migraines, a fabulous book that's mostly qualitative interviews very well done. Now, she's doing a book on people who have cluster headaches and using psychedelics as remedies to alleviating their pain, and she just got a contract from a major trade press to write this. She's somebody who can speak to people outside of sociology. Arlene Stein was a senior hire we did who is terrific, wrote a book about the anti-gay law in Oregon before she came here, and since then, she's written a whole set of really interesting books. Her most recent is on transgender men and how they make the decision to have surgery to deal with their gender dysphoria. [Editor's Note: Joanna Kempner is the author of Not Tonight: Migraine and the Politics of Gender and Health (University of Chicago Press, 2014). Arlene Stein joined the faculty at Rutgers in 2011 and currently serves as a Distinguished Professor of Sociology. Stein's 2002 book, The Stranger Next Door: The Story of a Small Community's Battle over Sex, Faith, and Civil Rights, discusses a small town in Oregon and its battle over gay and lesbian rights. In 2018, Stein published her book Unbound: Transgender Men and the Remaking of Identity.]

I'm missing a lot of people, obviously, but I think that the hires have been super good in terms of both maintaining a presence in medical sociology but also moving into areas--like Böröcz looks at the EU [European Union], which, of course, nowadays, is a critical thing. So, I could probably go through each one of the faculty and tell you about the interesting things, but the quality of the people who have been coming in since I've been here have been terrific. In the last review they did, sociology was the top social science in the University, in the various reports that have come out, and I think, "Well deserved." Now, those of us who are older are getting out and letting them bring in new people, and I think that's great. [laughter] People shouldn't hang around too long; that's my view.

SI: It is really interesting to me that you brought up how almost ten years later, there were these aftereffects of the FAS merger, the loss of the faculty of the individual undergraduate colleges. Were there any other kind of things that struck you about Rutgers when you came as just strange or different from other academic environments you had been in?

PR: Oh, yes. Rutgers is bizarre. Rutgers is totally bizarre, but I don't even know how to describe the bizarreness that is Rutgers. People say, "R-U Screw." It's just like, "R-U Screw affects everybody, not just undergraduates." I have two kids now who've gone through Rutgers, actually my niece and nephew who moved into our house ten years ago when their dad died, and their mother had died eight years earlier. So, they're basically our kids. They both went through Rutgers, and they know what the R-U Screw is. Faculty know the R-U Screw as well. I've had run-ins with various senior administrators over the years, and I don't have any difficulty being very vocal about that.

I'll give you one example. When I was working on the--which I think is a positive example--when I was working on probably finishing up the FAS Gender Equity Report or maybe going in to the ADVANCE Grant, I noticed I was starting to get emails from President McCormick, who I've known for years. He was the one who wanted me to be chair. He was the one that talked me into being chair of the department, and I first of all said, "I'm not going to do this. If you're not going to make me a full professor, forget it. I'm not going to do it." He talked me into doing it, and so I've known him for years and years. He was sending out emails to all the faculty saying, "Here's my newest dean, and here's my newest dean," when he came in. These were going on for months and months, and they were all men. I couldn't really tell the race of the men, but I was thinking that they were mostly white men. Then, the notice came and said, "Here is the new dean of nursing," who is a white man, and I just said, "What? What are you talking about? You can't find a woman to be the dean of nursing?" [Editor's Note: Richard L. McCormick served as a history professor at Rutgers College, chair of the Department of History, and dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (1989-1992), before becoming vice chancellor and provost at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and then president of the University of Washington. McCormick returned to Rutgers in 2002 to become University President, a position he held until 2012.]

I wrote him a letter, and I said, "Dick, come on, really? You can't find a woman to do this?" He wrote back, and he was very hurt, "Pat, why are you saying that? This is really the best person the committee sent to me." I said, "But what percentage of nurses are women? If you look over every other person you've been sending around, the white men, you're not thinking this through." I sent him this quote from Joan Eveline (from her book Ivory Basement Leadership) that says, "If you don't pay attention to what you're doing at every step of the process, you're going to reproduce the same status quo. You have to stop, and you have to think, and you need to say, 'Wait a minute, this has no face validity that we are making a male the dean of nursing.'" It would be perfectly fine to have a male dean of nursing as long as there were some women in those previous dean positions, but there were not. So, he got so flustered and put together this group of people and came in and let me rant at him and said, "We're going to do something about this." Nothing was ever really done about it, but it's just an example of what happens if you don't stop and say, "What's happening? What is happening here?" and notice that, "Wow, I have put a whole raft of white male deans here. How did that happen?" because each individual decision is totally reasonable. It's legitimate, that maybe he was the right person, but when you look at the set of outcomes, you say, "Something's wrong here." Anyway, that's an example. I'll give you one more example. I also got in trouble with--gosh, who was the previous person, who got in trouble? Fran Lawrence.

SI: Fran Lawrence, yes.

PR: Remember he got in trouble? Did you read about how he got in trouble?

SI: Well, you are referring to the comments on race, but he got in trouble for a lot of things. [laughter]

PR: Yes. [laughter] Basically, he was caught on tape saying about race that it's just--I don't even remember the exact words. [Editor's Note: Francis Lawrence served as the president of Rutgers from 1990 to 2002. In 1994, at a meeting with thirty faculty members on the Camden campus, Lawrence said, "The average SAT for African-Americans is 750. Do we set standards in the future so that we don't admit anybody with the national test? Or do we deal with a disadvantaged population that doesn't have that genetic hereditary background to have a higher average?" The statement sparked protests and demands for his resignation.]

SI: Test scores are tied to genetics, I think.

PR: Yes, genetics. Basically, he was making a genetics argument. He wasn't a bad guy, actually. He was a pretty good guy in terms of diversity kinds of issues, but that was a huge mistake. Then, I think he appeared on the front page of The Chronicle of Higher Education. It was a disaster for Rutgers. I think he was still president, and they leaned on me to be on a committee for the Middle States accreditation. [Editor's Note: The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is a non-profit organization that evaluates and reviews public and private universities in the United States.]

SI: Middle States, yes.

PR: They wanted me to chair the New Brunswick area study. I said, "No," and I think I was area dean at the time. Dick Foley came in and called me to his office and says, "Pat, you really need to do this, and you would be a good person to do this." So, I said, "Oh, I don't want to take the time to do that," but he talked me into it. He basically said, "You need to do this." I said, "Yes, sir, I'll do this." So, I chaired this committee. I brought together a bunch of people who were fabulous, really, really good people, and the chair of the whole effort was Barry Qualls. I'm a really good friend of Barry Qualls. So, Barry also was leaning on me to do it. Needless to say, I did it. I brought together this group of people, really major people in the University, and they each wrote their little piece. Then, I took it all and put it together as a whole and made it sound like it was ready to go. It was a really good report because of the quality of the people who were on this committee, and basically, all I had to do was put it together and put a spin on it. There was a long section there [that] was anti-Fran Lawrence, and I said, "We can't. We cannot have this huge long subsection about how horrible Fran Lawrence is." What I did was I reduced it into something that was politically more okay, because it was going to go to all these people on the outside. By the time I finished it, there were maybe a sentence or two about the president's misstatement on race. That's the way I described it, "President's misstatement on race." The committee agreed, and they said, "Okay, okay, okay." [Editor's Note: Barry Qualls is a Professor Emeritus of English who served as a professor and administrator at Rutgers from 1971 to 2017.]

I appeared before the president’s cabinet--Barry was there. I don't even know how that stuff works, but the president, and Joe Seneca was there leading it, and he was the number two person under Fran. I gave a little spiel about what we had found, and then I don't even think I even mentioned that piece of it. Seneca started screaming at me, like, "How dare you do this?" I was like, "Ah!" [laughter] I felt like, "Oh, my God, here I am, this associate professor, tenured but not a full professor." Luckily, I found my words and Barry came in and supported me, but I just thought, "What? You had that kind of reaction about two sentences, like, ‘How dare you say that about our president?'" So, I acquitted myself fine, but I just thought, "Ugh, they learned." I was actually pretty straightforward and said what I think and supported my committee in front of this group. Those were two of my big confrontations. I had others, but those were two of them. [Editor's Note: Joseph J. Seneca served as the Rutgers University Vice President for Academic Affairs from 1991 to 2003.]

SI: Well, I think we will probably need another session.

PR: Yes, we haven't talked about the FAS Gender Equity Study yet. [laughter]

SI: Yes. Adithya, do you have any questions for this session?

PR: All my notes are about what we still have to talk about.

SI: Okay, good. We will conclude now, and Don will get in touch and set up an appointment for the next couple weeks maybe or into April. Thank you though. We really appreciate it.

PR: Am I talking too much? You have to tell me.

SI: No, no, this is perfect.

PR: Okay, fine, yes, because I can go off on tangents, and I just want to make sure that I'm giving you what you want.

SI: The stories and the anecdotes bring a real flavor and a lot of examples to the concepts and stuff that we are talking about it, so this has been great.

PR: Yes.

SI: All right, let me pause.

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Transcribed by Jesse Braddell 3/26/2022
Reviewed by Zach Batista 5/24/2022
Reviewed by Kathryn Tracy Rizzi 9/12/2023
Reviewed by Patricia Roos 9/25/2023