WSU professor emeritus James F. Short Jr., recently added to his extensive curriculum vitae in his 67th year at WSU. Short—who still comes to work in the building that bears his name—published the introductory chapter to the first issue of the Annual Review of Criminology. Editors Joan Petersilia and Robert J. Sampson asked Short to reflect on his career and influences in studying criminology.
Short is one of WSU Sociology’s longest-serving and most distinguished faculty members. His academic career began at WSU in 1951 and includes stints as a Guggenheim Fellow, dean of the WSU Graduate School, and president of the American Sociological Association, in addition to producing volumes of academic work on deviance and gangs.
In the review article, Short wrote of his experiences with racism growing up, his time serving in the Marines following World War II, and his navigation through studying various trends in criminology and deviance.
Short did not see combat in World War II but worked as a court martial in U.S.-occupied Japan just after the war. In the article, he recalls the task of having to defend Marines who were charged with crimes while overseas.
Those experiences eventually shaped the course of his life.
“The Japanese occupation changed my life forever and raised serious doubts about what I wanted out of life and how to live it,” Short writes in the piece.
Short describes his graduate school experience at University of Chicago in the 1950s as a “whirlwind of course work, research, and new experiences.” For example, he worked as a secretary for the City Planning Advisory Board, where he advocated for more representation of inner-city residents and minorities in urban planning initiatives.
After Short arrived in Pullman in 1955, he began to undertake the criminological work that most defined his career. He received a faculty research fellowship from the Social Science Research Council to study and measure the behavior of delinquent boys. The fellowship eventually led to his involvement in the Youth Studies Project (YSP), which collected data on youth gangs in Chicago.
According to Short, the data collected from the YSP resulted in more than two dozen publications and graduate theses from the 1960s to the 2010s. Most recently, WSU graduate Lori Hughes helped digitize the data and conduct new analysis. Hughes is now an associate professor at the University of Colorado-Denver.
Short ends the piece by reflecting on the tension between academic research and public impact.
“The country was undergoing tremendous social changes, seemingly moving from one crisis to another, and I had a front row seat,” Short wrote. “The times we now live in are equally fraught. We should not shirk from our responsibilities, either as scholars or citizens, for active participation in them.”
The full article can be accessed here.