2015 Students of Sociology (SOS) Essay Challenge

Pictured here (from left to right):
Stevelle Steer, Students of Sociology (SOS) VP Academics
Banusha Mahendren, Essay Challenge Winner
Patricia Landolt, Sociology Department Chair
David Tweneboah, Honorable Mention

2015 Students of Sociology (SOS) Essay Challenge

By: Stevelle Steer, Vice President of Academics (SOS) 2014/2015

Competition Date: January 10 - March 18 2015

The Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus is comprised of five different concentrations: Culture and Cities; Criminology and Sociology of Law; Gender and Family; Migration and Ethnicity and finally Economy, Politics and Society. The goal of this essay competition was to provide students the opportunity to critically engage with pertinent issues in the field of Sociology in relation to these concentrations and share their analysis with the broader UTSC community. 

  1. Culture and Cities:                                                                                                                      

The City of Toronto has been noted to be comprised of three ‘cities’ – the richer central area and downtown core, the inner suburbs such as Scarborough and Etobicoke and the middle-income suburban areas. (Hulchanski, 2010). What are some of the effects of the growing income inequality in Toronto on city culture and society at large? What explains this? How can the effects of income inequality be mitigated at the municipal level?

  1. Criminology and Sociology of Law:                                                                                            

We live in the age of Social Media and it has impacted many aspects of our society from culture, to politics and beyond.  In recent years, social media has initiated and influenced social movements such as: Black Lives Matter, The Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and The Idle No More movement in an effort to change existing laws and to pave way for future ones. How have social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter transformed the way that protests and social movements are organized in the 21st century? What are the possible ramifications of this – both good and bad?

  1. Gender and Family:                                                                                                                                    

In Canadian colleges and universities, there is a higher proportion of female students compared to male students. The growing inclusion of women in higher education has had positive effects in raising the overall educational attainment of society at large. What have been some of the positive changes as a result of this change in demographics of the post-secondary student population? Has this growth in female students shifted the institutional sexism present in society? If so, how? If not, why? What barriers are still left to tackle?

  1. Migration and Ethnicity:                                                                                                             

Every year, migrant workers are recruited to Canada to meet the gaps in employment in certain sectors such as farming and live-in caregiving. How has Canada supported these workers with respect to health care and social services? What are some of the critical issues surrounding these migrant groups and how have their human rights been protected and/or been infringed on by the Canadian government, corporations or civil society?

  1. Economy, Politics and Society:                                                                                                      

The youth unemployment rate, which measures those seeking employment between the ages of 15-24, is double the Canadian national average- in Ontario, it is even worse. Why do you think such a disparity exists? What are the overarching effects on Canadian society and the economy as a whole? What can the government do at various levels to act on this issue?


Of all the great pieces submitted, there were two specifically that stood out to our reviewers. Both pieces did a great job at engaging with the topics, and were able to provide a rich discussion and critical analysis of the emerging literature on their respective topics.

SOS takes great pride in awarding our winners:

First Place $250: Banusha Mahendren is a 2nd year International Development Studies Co-op specialist student with double minors in Women and Gender Studies and Anthropology. Her paper is entitled: Females in Post-Secondary Institutions - A Stepping Stone with Hidden Hurdles”

Banusha highlighted the impediments which continue to exist in achieving gender equality within post-secondary institutions while simultaneously recognizing that the increased enrollment of females in post-secondary education is an important stepping-stone. Through an analysis of the complex intersections of race and gender, internal hierarchical structures as well as external societal structures, one will come to realize the multiple arenas in which work relating to gender equality must persist and even be re-conceptualized. She argues that we still have hurdles to overcome in regards to gender inequality. Such hurdles can only be overcome through collective acknowledgement and a collective re-thinking of the way gendered ideologies operate in our day to day lives. Through this acknowledgement and re-conceptualization we can work to challenge the larger structures and systems which impede the achievement of sustainable gender equality.

Honourable Mention Recipient $100: David Tweneboah is in his 4th year pursuing his Honours Bachelors of Science in Neuroscience and Mental Health. His paper is entitled: The not so Social Media: Critic of the use of Social Media for the Organization of Social Movements”

In David's paper, he asserts a view counter to mainstream thought. He asserts that social media utilization in social movements and organizing can not only be ineffective and lead to a lack of substantive change, it can actually work against the ideals and aims of the movement itself. Social media is great at raising awareness and sparking discussion, especially in a globalized world, of injustices in our own backyard but also beyond. It helps take physical realities and puts them online to engage and discuss in. But possibly does it constrain it to just that, talk? He uses contemporary examples of 'successful' social media campaigns like the Ice Bucket Challenge, Bring Back our Girls, Black Lives Matter, and more. He brings the interesting concept of double consciousness to the forefront - is social media activism hampering our ability to make our online declarations offline action.

Winning Papers