Faculty lecture series serves as forum

By Julia Ernst

Every time students walk into a classroom at Rider, they have the opportunity to learn something about their professor’s area of study and the field to which he or she chose to dedicate a lifetime to.

However, this isn’t always the case for professors. They spend so much time on their own research, their own coursework and their own education that it’s often hard to know what kind of work their colleagues are doing.

This year, the Faculty Lecture Series (FLS) is hoping to change that. FLS is a program through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that allows professors to make presentations on their areas of study and research. All faculty members, as well as students, are welcome to attend.

“The point of it is so that the faculty can get to know each other better and learn about each other’s research,” said Dr. Richard Butsch of the Sociology department. “There are Rider faculty who are deeply committed to their research, as well as their teaching, but there has been little opportunity to share that with each other. I think it’s a terrific idea.”

Butsch presented a speech to an audience of colleagues and several students in Sweigart room 110. Called Citizen Audience’s: Crowds, Publics, and Individuals, he spoke about how the audience is portrayed in American media and the effects of different media.

“I study how crowd psychology, a turn-of-the-20th-century theory, was used from about 1905 to 1930 to describe movie audiences as if they had the characteristics that the theory attributed to crowds,” said Butsch.

During his presentation Butsch shared some history about audiences. He noted that in Elizabethan times, a crowd was loud, chaotic and existed without constraint. In 1849, militia killed 20 people at the New York Aster Place Opera House for behavior that escalated out of control. This event, he explained, marked the turning point in the behavior of audiences and the way they were controlled.

The sociology professor also discussed the fact that other media, like television and radio, affected audiences. Television viewers responded in ways similar to that of early Elizabethan crowds: They became highly influenced by outside suggestion and emotional control. Radio listeners were much calmer and more intellectual.

“I began researching the representation of media audiences after I completed my earlier book on the composition and behavior of actual audiences,” said Butsch. “In the research for that book, I became aware of certain images of audiences that appeared
repeatedly.”

At the conclusion of his speech, Butsch received a round of applause from his colleagues. Responses to both the speech and the FLS were positive.

“I think it’s great that we have a forum where we can learn from each other,” said Dr. Barry Truchil, chairperson of the Sociology department.

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