Bianca Briggs / Lantern photographer
Professor Richard Lundman walks into a room of 80 students with confidence attained through years of experience. He gives a broad smile as his voice fills the large space with tales of murder, violation and corruption.
Lundman has been a sociology professor at Ohio State for 36 years and is working on a research project that looks at whether race, ethnicity, social class, age and gender affect how homicides are solved. He and OSU Ph.D. candidate Meghan Myers, along with other students, built a database of 2,730 consecutive homicides in Columbus dating from 1980 to May 2010.
“It’s an incredibly rich database, there are so many cases,” Lundman said. “One of the things I’m interested in is whether or not a characteristic of the victim affects whether or not a homicide is solved.”
One of the individual characteristics the study focused on is gender, which has brought to light the low homicide rates in women.
“Women don’t kill very often, only about one in 10 homicide violators are women,” Lundman said. “We think that women kill men who’ve been beating on them and their children.”
Although portions of the project are dedicated to looking at individual characteristics, the research also has a focus on the homicide rates in Columbus.
“You’ve got enormous variation because Columbus is a racially and ethnically segregated city, and it’s a social class segregated city,” Lundman said. “You’ve got black and white living in different places, rich people and poor people living in different places, and so what we’re also going to look at is what explains the differences in area homicide rates.”
Areas with high rates of homicide are predominantly black and poor, while areas with low rates are predominantly white and affluent, Lundman said. He said he wishes to develop a better understanding of what is at the root of these differences, so that people can improve the situation.
“I think we’re fascinating, fascinating to study, the institutions we build are fascinating,” Lundman said. “I want to figure out how we as human actors, and the institutions we create, do what we do and why.”
Although Lundman has similar motivations for his research as other sociologists, those around him have praised him for his willingness to go beyond others in implementing what he learns in his daily life.
“What I appreciate about him as a sociologist is that he’s somebody who recognizes class and race issues, but he walks the talk,” Myers said. “He’ll say authoritarianism is a thing to control you, so I’m not going to reproduce that social interaction.”
Lundman has had 40 years of experience as a sociology professor to get where he is today. He taught at the University of Delaware from 1972 through 1975 before coming to OSU, where he has been ever since.
Although he is passionate about his research, he said he likes teaching slightly more because there’s a real pleasure for him in conveying his passion for sociology.
“He’s probably the most student-oriented, academically caring professor I’ve ever worked with,” Myers said. “He’s genuinely interested in treating you like an equal. He’ll listen to your ideas and take them seriously, and consider that he might be wrong, and that you might actually be right.”
This quarter, Lundman is teaching sociology 410, a police and policing course, and sociology 618, a criminology course, and said he does not plan on retiring anytime soon. He will not teach those courses Spring Quarter.
“I’d like to think 10, 20 years down the road we’ll have homicide data from 1980 through 2030; that would be a fantastic database,” Lundman said. “I won’t be collecting it, but maybe somebody else will, we’ll see.”