Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Because You Always Need to Stay One Meeting Ahead....

Prior to packing my bags for the AHA in New York, I made my arrangements for the Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting in Seattle, March 25-29, 2009. Recalling the last few conferences I have attended, my travel allotment has not in any way kept pace with what it actually costs to attend the meeting. This one truly blows the bank, since I am currently $100.00 over budget (a budget that assumes I will split my room with a friend -- hell, a these prices, I'll share my room with a foe) without having eaten anything, parked at the airport, or signed up for the hotel internet service, which is about the cheesiest thing for a supposedly classy hotel to charge for, in my opinion.

Toting up the actual bill for all of this, I'm thinking that it would be about the same price to hold the conference in Paris. And the only way to save real money would be to hold it in Oaxaca or Mexico City. Not a bad idea either, come to think about it.

This makes me think: imagine the people who have no conference money. One topic that needs to be on the agenda of all academic professional associations is that the rising cost of everything, and the shrinking or nonexistent budgets of those who do not work for R1 schools, or SLACS that value professional development enough to pay for it, is how scholars are hampered in their careers when they don't have access to conference and research funds. It is a discussion long overdue, but perhaps the economic crunch will cause us to begin thinking about it at last.

8 comments:

PhDinHistory said...

Quite the timely topic in this time of budget shortfalls. Thanks for promoting some economic justice. Perhaps it is time to reexamine the traditional conference locations. Maybe a meeting in middle America would be considerably more affordable.

Anonymous said...

And there are plenty of us who are independent scholars or adjuncts who have no access to any kind of money other than what we can save up each year. It's tough to get a full-time job when it's so expensive to even to go the conferences with all of the interviews.

Thanks for raising the issue.

K

parezcoydigo said...

I'm at an R1, and with the budget cuts this year there's very little conference money. I went as far as to get myself put on a search committee to pay for the trip to NYC (a search that magically hasn't been canceled!). And I'm giving a paper there! I exhausted my budget going to Eugene for Ethnohistory, and still have conferences in Santa Fe, NM and Rio de Janeiro where I'm scheduled to present. I'm paying for NM, and I doubt I'll be able to make Rio.

At the very least it would be nice to see the AHA more affordable for people on the market... especially in this market.

Anonymous said...

I'm at a public R-1 and we have no travel money for the next two years. None.

Susan said...

It occurs to me that the change in the past few years is that everyone expects that conference travel will be covered. But my impression is that until 15 years ago or so, people had relatively limited travel funds; when I was in grad school, I think that faculty went to conferences mostly on their own dimes. So you went to fewer conferences. My own take is that there will be fewer conferences, and more attention to the costs. To put it another way, we've become accustomed to being able to travel to more conferences but that this period of 15 -20 years is an aberration. Since my old institution only gave us $500 a year for travel (or $750 if you were presenting) I've assumed that if I went to more than one conference a year, it came out of my personal travel budget.

Oh, and what is it with the expensive hotels charging for internet? The Comfort Inn can give free internet at $59 a night and the Hilton can't?

Paris said...

In my field most of the big conferences have some grants specifically for independent scholars. They are neither large nor numerous, but it is an encouraging trend.

gebranntes kind said...

Good luck with this. I sat on the board of the major organization in my subfield in the US for three years, and raised it at every single meeting (as the board blithely voted to keep raising the annual registration fee) and was pooh-poohed every time. To be fair to the organization, they have a constantly expanding fee schedule because the conference venues are gauged to medical conferences which apparently make themselves open to this sort of usury. This kind of fiddling while Rome burns almost makes me want to see the conferences die--and see the mid-range hotel chains die with them.

Matt L said...

Hmm. Yeah, well, I do not expect the leaders of a the AHA to do anything but fiddle while Rome burns. The system works for the colleagues at the Ivy colleges and the R-1s.

My state university is a B-2 or 4-F or something like that. We get a fixed annual amount for professional development, which includes conferences and travel. The only reason we have the money is because of our union contract. Another nice thing is you can bank the money and save it up over the course of several years. That way if you want to go to three conferences in a year you can save up for it by not going to the AHA or your subfield conference every year.

I suspect that this professional development money will be on the chopping block for the next contract. The administration will want to take that cash and allocate it to their favorites on the basis of 'merit.'

That said, have a nice AHA Tenured Radical and everyone else in NYC!