Protected Spaces: The Rise and Fall of the Public Bathroom in the United States: A Preliminary Research Report
Finding a public bathroom in Center City Philadelphia (or any other American city) isn’t easy. Sometimes the absence of a clean and accessible toilet is the punchline of a joke, but other times it is something far more menacing, like when two Black men asked to use the Starbucks bathroom near Rittenhouse Square and ended up in handcuffs and then on the nightly news.
“America,” NYU sociologist and toilet scholar Harvey Molotch told the Washington Post after that Starbucks moment in 2017, “has a public bathroom problem.”
But the US didn’t always have this problem. In the early years of the 20th C., cities from Philadelphia to York, PA to Lincoln, NE to San Francisco built public bathrooms. And these weren’t just metal stalls and sinks with concrete floors. They were “comfort stations.” Local officials bragged about the size, central location, and brass and marble finishes of these facilities. At one point, the New York Subway system had more than 700 public bathrooms. Today there are less than twenty and most of them are locked up tight or hidden from sight.
So what happened? Why did US policy makers tear down what they had once built? What does this officially sanctioned, systematic destruction of these key pieces of the urban “social infrastructure” tell us about governance, about race, class, and gender, about bodies and able-ness, about notions of privacy and public-ness, about what cities will fund and what they won’t support, about equal access to the public realm, and about the very day practice of inclusion and democracy?
These are the questions driving my current project, and there is perhaps no better way to get at them than through the public bathroom, and that is because there is, I would suggest, quite literally no way to have access to public space (bowling alleys, third places, or cosmopolitan canopies) without access to a public bathroom.
When Do Reformer District Attorneys Run and Win?
Several large cities have elected district attorneys committed to using the power of the office to reduce mass incarceration. While there has been a good deal of journalistic attention to the small number of cases where these reformers win office, we know little about the reasons why these reformers win office, and we know even less about cases where reformers run, but don’t win. In this talk, I present preliminary evidence on the prevalence of reformer district attorneys as winners and losers in the largest jurisdictions in recent election cycles. I will also discuss the correlates of reformers’ electoral entry and electoral success. These results have implications for the efficacy of “bottom-up” efforts at reforming criminal justice policy.
Abolition Policy and the Long Movement for Black Lives
Although police abolition is gaining new traction in the US policy arena, everyday practices of living beyond policing have always shaped communities located at the margins of US society. This presentation draws on research in historically Black communities in the United States shaped by longstanding challenges to policing. The long movement for Black survival and abolition offers grounded evidence of the possibility of a world beyond policing that an ever-growing group of scholars, political organizers, and now policymakers are calling for.
Does Money Matter? Preschool Funding, Program Quality, and Child Development
Preschool programs targeted towards low-income children can be effective at narrowing socioeconomic disparities in children’s skills at kindergarten entry, but preschool effectiveness varies widely across centers, potentially due to differences in per-pupil funding. This study investigates the relationships among preschool funding, program quality, and child development, with policy implications for the promotion of kindergarten readiness and expansion of opportunity into adulthood.
On June 18th, Temple University’s College of Liberal Arts hosted the webinar, “Is This Time Different? Social Movement for Racial Justice,” organized by the Center for the Humanities at Temple (CHAT) and the Public Policy Lab (PPL). The webinar was moderated by Benjamin Talton (History) with panelists Heath Fogg Davis (Political Science; Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies), Ajima Olaghere (Criminal Justice), Celeste Winston (Geography and Urban Studies), and Sean Yom (Political Science).
Is This Time Different? Social Movement for Racial Justice