The Status Degradation Ceremony: The Phenomenology of Social Control in Higher Education

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John F. Welsh


The purpose of this article is to contribute to the understanding of the social control function of higher education, especially as it operates at the level of individuals, differentiated from the more collective dynamics of class, race, and gender. The basic argument of the article is that colleges and universities are not the absolute havens of social consensus and individual freedom that administrative propagandists present. Instead, they are conflict-ridden organizational fields that include structures and mechanisms that purport to manage conflict and individual deviance or resistance to institutional policy and authority. The article explores the  basic elements, operation, and consequences of the status degradation ceremony as an important process of social control in higher education as it occurs at the level of individuals (Garfinkel, 1956).

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