Sociology 434: Community Organization

CSU San Bernardino, Spring 2002

Tu-Th: 10:00-11:50a.m. UH 250

Instructor: Dr. Michelle Golden Phone: 909-338-2707 (between 10am -7pm)
Office Hours: Tuesdays 1-4 PM and by appt  Email:
Office Hours held in: UH 201.05 Mailbox: Sociology Dept Office: FO 145

Course Overview

Sociology challenges us to identify and analyze the connections between our day-to-day experiences and the "big picture" -- large-scale social, political and economic patterns. In this course, we will explore the theory and practice of community organizations using a sociological lens. This lens brings into focus persistent patterns of inequality; it also reveals the persistence of community-based efforts to create positive change.

This course is divided into three sections. Section I introduces the course, the sociological perspective, and the engaged learning model that is at the center of this class. During this section of the course, students will also choose one of three options related to the "community" focus of this course. Section II focuses more intensively on the sociological perspective, with a specific emphasis on issues of inequality and challenges to inequality in our everyday lives and experiences. Section III continues and expands the exploration initiated in Section II. In this final section of the course, we will apply the sociological lens to analyses of community organizations, with a particular emphasis on understanding the interactions between community organizations and the larger-scale structures and processes in which they are embedded.

Learning Methods in this Course: Engaged Learning and Community

Bell hooks (see reading for April 11) calls on us to engage in "education as the practice of freedom," but she also acknowledges that we often experience the exact opposite - education as the practice of domination. In this course, we will struggle together to practice libratory education in a context that may or may not support us in doing so. Similarly, this class includes the option for some of you to work directly with communities and community-based organizations as part of the course. The assumption behind this option is that classrooms are not the only spaces where learning may take place -- nor are books and articles the only means through which we can gain knowledge. At the same time, experience alone does not automatically encourage learning or increase wisdom. For this reason, this course includes the option of combining hands-on community work with classroom learning.

As a student in this class, you will have a lot of responsibility. Your choices about how deeply you engage with the material (and, for those of you that choose so, with the community) will determine the depth and usefulness of your own and others' learning. With this responsibility comes the opportunity to engage in a dynamic and vibrant learning experience in which a community focus and the sociological perspective intersect.

Course Objectives

When you complete this course, you will have:

Community Options

There are three options for the "community" component of this course. I will hand out detailed information on all three of these options as an unattached addendum to the syllabus. Option 1 students will engage with community organizations already identified by the instructor. Please note that there is a limit to the number of students each organization can take, and that we are looking for students who are truly interested in community work, rather than seeing it only as a one-dimensional option in a class. Option 2 students will use their own existing community work for this component of the course; if you are already engaged in community-focused work of some sort, this is an opportunity to link that part of your experience with your academic learning. Students who want to use this course as a reason to re-connect with organizations they used to work with but haven't had time for recently can also consider this option. Option 3 does not require work in the community. Instead, Option 3 students will read a case study of a national community organizing group (ACORN) and information on other community organizing groups, using this material their "organization," and will also choose a community-focused individual to interview.

Assignments and grading: Overview

Reflection Papers 48 points (12 points each)
Meta-reflection #1: Mid-Quarter 40 points

Community Participation (Options 1 and 2) or Interview (Option 3)

26 points
Class Participation (includes attendance) 26 points
Meta-reflection #2: End of Quarter 60 points


200 points

Please note: In order to pass this class, you must have a passing grade in each of the components of the course listed above.

Written Assignments

Details on the reflection papers and the two meta-reflections are included at the end of this syllabus (after the class schedule). All written work due on class days is officially due at the BEGINNING of class on the specified date. I may choose to collect it later in the period, but it is officially due at the beginning of class.

Community Participation (Options 1 and 2)

Your community supervisor will be asked to verify in writing that you have done a minimum of 20 hours of community work. Additionally, s/he and or the community members with who you are working will provide me with an evaluation of the quality of your work. If you are working as part of a team, your evaluation may be for the whole team rather than each individual. Together, completion of hours and community evaluation will comprise this section of your grade.

My community evaluation guide will include suggested evaluation questions; community evaluators might choose to answer these questions or they might prefer to address others. If you have pressing questions about what evaluation standards your community supervisor or other evaluators will use, feel free to ask them (and suggest that they read over the questions below and/or contact me if they have any questions). The questions I will suggest include: What contributions did the student make to your organization and to the communities it serves? How well did the student apply her/his skills, knowledge and experience in your organization? How well did the student learn about the organization, the communities with which the organization works, etc.? How well did the student interact with the people with whom s/he worked (community members, staff, board, etc.)?

Class participation

This course requires a high level of engagement and participation from each student. Class participation involves always coming to class prepared. "Coming to class prepared" means completing reading and writing assignments, of course, but it also means coming to class ready to participate actively in high-quality, thoughtful discussion and interactions. Active engagement includes providing good feedback to your peers, sharing your work and your ideas, being fully present in discussions, and staying thoughtful about class discussions. This is your class and your education. Your participation will affect what you and others get from this course.

On a more mundane note: I expect you to arrive on time for class; late arrivals detract from the quality of everyone's experience and won't be tolerated. If you have extenuating circumstances in this regard, please come talk with me. Regular attendance is also a requirement and attendance problems -- including more than two absences -- can be cause for failing the class. Promptness and attendance will be factors in my evaluation of your performance.

Notes on Student Responsibilities (Deadlines and Assignments):

It is your responsibility to know about and meet deadlines; know about assignments and requirements, and bring to my attention any questions that are not answered in the syllabus or the assignment guidelines.

Deadlines for all assignments apply to all students, for reasons of fairness and classroom dynamics. I do not accept late work unless there are extreme extenuating circumstances; if you do find yourself in an emergency situation that unavoidably interferes with on-time completion of an assignment, it is your responsibility to contact me ASAP to discuss the situation.

I expect all students to stay on top of deadlines and assignment requirements and to plan ahead.


Required texts for everyone

  1. Course reader: available for you to check out and photocopy at the Pfau Library Reserve Desk (please check with them for their open hours).
  2. Central City Lutheran Mission. 2000. No Regrets: Wes'cipe del Barrio. San Bernardino, CA: Central City Communications Center. Available in CSUSB's bookstore; may also be available directly through the organization itself).

Case Study readings for Option 3 students are also available at the Pfau Library Reserve,

  1. Delgado, Gary. 1986. Organizing the Movement, The Roots and Growth of Acorn. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press (note: this book is out of print and thus not available to the bookstore)
  2. Delgado, Gary. 1997. Beyond the Politics of Place: New Directions in Community Organizing. Berkeley, CA; Chardon Press. Oakland, CA: Applied Research Center - various excerpts

If You Must Miss Class

The only valid excuse for missing class is a medical or other emergency, and I may ask for documentation (e.g., a note from your physician). If you must miss class, it is your responsibility to get notes and any other information from a classmate (also, you may want to be pro-active if a classmate misses class, in the spirit of peer support). Keep in mind that I will use in-class time to announce any schedule or other changes; you are responsible for getting that information even if you miss class.

Final Note

I reserve the right to change the syllabus, assignments and/or schedule if necessary. Please stay tuned.

Class schedule

Section I. Introduction to each other, to Engaged Learning and to the critical sociology lens

Apr. 2 (Tues.): Course overview and introductions

Apr. 4 (Thurs.): Focus on Community Options


Apr 9 (Tues.): Approaches to Community: Helping, fixing or serving?


Other assignments: Submit proposal and any additional required materials for Option 1, 2 or 3 (details in information packet).

Apr. 11 (Thurs.): Engaged Teaching, Engaged Learning



Apr. 16 (Tues.): Models of Community Organization


Option 1 and Option 2 students: Community-Based Learning Contract is due in class, if you haven't already handed it to me.

Written assignments due: Reflection paper 1

Apr. 18 (Thurs.): No Class 


Section II. Conceptual Tools: Inequality and Responses to Inequality

Apr. 23 (Tues.) Setting the Stage: A sociological perspective on inequality


Apr. 25 (Thurs.): Core Concepts, part 1: Power, oppression, privilege, social location


Apr. 30 (Tues.): Core Concepts, part 2: Social location (cont'd), "agency," alliance work


Written assignments due: Reflection paper 2

May 2 (Thurs.): No class


Section III. Community Organizations in Context: Using a sociological lens

May 7 (Tues.): Framing the Issues


May 9 (Thurs.)

May 14 (Tues.): Underlying Assumptions: "Who Are You Holding Responsible for Social Problems?"


Written assignment due: Meta-reflection #1: Mid-Quarter (see "Meta-reflection #1: Mid-Quarter" sheet)

May 16 (Thurs.): No class meeting

May 21 (Tues.): By Whose Standards? Cultural Assimilation and Resistance


Written assignments due: Reflection paper 3

May 23 (Thurs.): No class meeting

May 28 (Tues.): Organizational Analysis, part 1


May 30 (Thurs.): Organizational Analysis, part 2


Anner, John. 1996. "Having the Tools at Hand: Building Successful Multicultural Social Justice Organizations." Beyond Identity Politics: Emerging Social Justice Movements in Communities of Color. Boston, MA; South End Press. . (reprinted in part in Race, Class, and Gender: An Anthology, third edition. Andersen and Collins, eds. Belmont, CA; Wadsworth Publishing Company).

Guzman Bouvard, Margarite. 1996. "Juana Beatrice Gutierrez and the Mothers of East Los Angeles." Women Reshaping Human Rights: How Extraordinary Activists are Changing the World. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources

Option 3 readings: Delgado/Beyond the Politics of Place pgs. 52-57 and ACORN: Ch. 8

Written assignments due: Reflection paper 4

June 4 (Tues.):

June 6 (Thurs.): Last day of class AND the final assignment is due at the start of class -- Written assignment due: Meta-Reflection #2: End of Quarter (See "Meta-reflection #2: End of Quarter" sheet for more information.)