Sunday, December 6, 2009

The APA Hotel Fiasco

As everyone now knows, the APA did not book an overflow hotel for the Eastern Division Meeting in New York. Some people seem very angry with the APA, claiming that they irresponsibly screwed over possibly hundreds of people. Some people are not angry, and seem inclined to blame anyone who didn't book a hotel room as soon as they were reserved. After all, you can always cancel it at the last minute if you don't get any interviews.

I don't understand this reasoning at all. The hotel room problem is fundamentally quantitative, not temporal. The APA did not reserve enough rooms, and they didn't tell anyone what they were doing. It wouldn't have made a difference if everyone who is complaining had booked a room earlier. Although those specific people would probably now have a room, the same number of people would still have been shut out. Because the APA didn't reserve enough rooms. And that's a huge fuckup.

--Mr. Zero

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Exactly!

Popkin said...

I agree that the reply that people should have booked early doesn't make a lot of sense. If everyone had booked a few months ago the very same problem would exist, we just would have known about it a bit sooner.

Another really serious problem is that there weren't enough rooms booked for students. I booked at least a couple of months ago and they were already running out of rooms at the student rate (they gave me a room for two nights at the student rate and one night at the regular member rate).

My final complaint is that the student rate is roughly $10 cheaper than the regular rate (if I'm remembering correctly). Since students are poor and have no choice but to travel to the conference for interviews, it would be nice if they would increase the regular rate and decrease the student rate. (Ideally, schools would stop insisting on APA interviews and rely on the phone and the internet--the present practice imposes a huge cost on a financially disadvantaged group of people and it has terrible environmental consequences).

Anonymous said...

How about the Fiasco that is hosting the APA in TIMES SQUARE? I'm from NY, and even I think that's just cruel.

Anonymous said...

Here's another potential disaster with the hotel: because this hotel is in the middle of new york, I assume you need to swipe a room key to use the elevators to the guest rooms. And doesn't that mean that if you're one of the many, many job candidates who isn't staying at this hotel, you're going to have trouble getting to your interview rooms?

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I don't know the situation for APA.. but, I've been on the 'responsible for booking rooms' end of things.

Is it possible that last year they had extra rooms (perhaps because of the economy) and booked the number of rooms used for this year?

It's also possible that the penalties at this hotel are pretty stiff for not fulling the block -- so they didn't want to take a financial risk if the block didn't fill up.

Has there been a movement at APA (as there have been at other discipline's conventions) to protest the expensive conference hotel? This could have made them a bit wary about the number of rooms.

Frankly, it's pretty likely that they screwed up in some form or another. At a minimum, they should have told folks that the block is smaller than it normally is and it's likely to fill up more quickly than you anticipate. They also should have announced the time at which the block hit 90% capacity. I also suspect that they could have negotiated an extension of the block -- and they certainly should have had a back-up hotel.

For what it's worth -- I fully agree that the APA interview scenario is really outdated. If it were the norm to reimburse candidates for part of their APA costs, it would disappear quickly. As it is, expecting candidates to shell out airfare and hotel costs for a 10 minute drive-by interview is highly inconsiderate. Wouldn't it be better to shift the committee's APA travel costs to the 'fly-in' budget and bring out a few more candidates? I'm sure hotel costs would be lower than for APA... and other costs as well.

BunnyHugger said...

Agreed. I screwed up and didn't book soon enough, and now I'm shut out. And naturally there isn't anything anywhere in the vicinity at close to the convention rate (which is already hard enough for me to afford). APA's list of suggested alternate hotels nearly made me laugh out loud.

Anonymous said...

How dare you suggest that it was anybody's fault but your own? Please understand that if you'd booked it earlier, then the people getting shut out would not have been you, and you could then have proceeded to blame them for not booking rooms earlier, which is all that really matters. In other words, it's your fault that you're to blame for not being in the position of being able to blame everyone else for not doing what they needed to do in order to blame others for acting too late.

Anonymous said...

APA should be fun for the faculty -since they aren't hiring, they aren't taking the conference that seriously - it's just paid jaunt to NYC over the holidays.

chrono said...

I have a question. I've been told that it's absolutely idiotic to submit a paper to the Eastern at which you're expecting (read: hoping for) interviews. I don't see why this is the case. My department will fund me for conferences at which I'm presenting, so I could save several hundred dollars just by presenting a chapter of my dissertation. It would take an hour of my time, plus a bit of time coming up with responses to my commentator. That seems like it's well worth a few hundred bucks. It would also give the committee members interviewing me a chance to see me in a conference setting if they were so inclined; since I perform well at conferences, this also seems like a plus. Why such hostility toward this idea?

Asstro said...

It's not idiotic to present a paper at the APA, it's just risky. I've definitely witnessed one particularly terrible case in which a friend had a high number of interviews at the APA -- eight or so, if I recall -- he tanked (and I mean, tanked!) his paper at the APA, and he got no fly-outs. Granted, he well could've tanked his interviews too, but judging by the size of the audience at his talk, many interested SCs were in attendance. That experience haunts me to this day.

So things can go badly. But suppose you're good at presentations. That, of course, could go very well.

On the other hand, you'd have to be quite good, and effectively good enough to get the job on your talk alone. Consider that if the SC gets a taste of what you're up to -- maybe that you're very slick, but that your paper left a bit to be desired -- they may feel like that's all they need. You may just have given them a reason not to invite you out, where they otherwise might have based only on your interview.

If that happens, you basically don't get the job because of your talk.

My attitude, in a way, is that you want to give as much information to the SC as you need in order to get you to the next stage of the competition, but not too much information such that the more mysterious candidates somehow seem more compelling.

How to draw that line? No. Friggin. Idea. Just use your discretion. Don't play all of your cards at once. Keep your theoretical prejudices close to your chest. Be smart.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero writes:

It wouldn't have made a difference if everyone who is complaining had booked a room earlier. Although those specific people would probably now have a room, the same number of people would still have been shut out. Because the APA didn't reserve enough rooms.

I disagree. The problem isn't simply the lack of rooms; rather it's the lack of rooms this close to the Eastern APA. If everyone had tried to book last August (thereby exhausting the total number of rooms reserved), then we would've known about the shortage of rooms last August, instead of the first week of December. Those who didn't reserve in time could've then used September, October, and November to make alternative arrangements. Perhaps the APA could have even done something in response to the situation. Bottom line: there would've been more time to find a solution. None of that either excuses the APA's failure to secure an overflow hotel or blames potential interviewers who didn't book early. I just think earlier action on this issue would've been more prudent.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:34: Unless things have changed in the last several years, this shouldn't be a problem. I know the hotel, and we used to just go and ride the elevators for fun back in high school. (They are glass, and protrude from the building. Amazing views.) Also, I think there's a restaurant up top that's open everyone.

So THAT at least shouldn't be a problem. One down, many many more to go.

Anonymous said...

A practical tip: lots of people rent their rooms/apartments unofficially via craigslist. If you're looking for a room, I'd check:
http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/vac/

It won't help everybody, but there are some rooms for as low as 120/nt.

Anonymous said...

For what its worth, I've stopped going to APA altogether. If someone wants to interview me, I tell them I can't make it to APA for family reasons and request a phone interview. This may have hurt me, but I don't think so. I think most search committees understand.

In fact, of the two positions I've held (one VAP at a SLAC and now TT at a State school) plus the one fly-out I didn't get (to a big private Northeastern school), none of them were interviewed for at APA. On the other hand, when I have had inteviews at APA, I only ended up holding the bag for the hotel and flight bills with no campus interviews.

Anonymous said...

i second the craigslist idea. (if you want cheaper, consider vacation rentals and sublets in subway-convenient parts of brooklyn and queens, eg LIC, williamsburg.)

Anonymous said...

The whole eastern division meeting is BS. What happen to Atlanta as a venue? The weather is better, the rooms are cheaper and travel is easier for most people.

Why dont southern locales get consideration for the eastern? Raleigh, Columbia, Charlotte, Atlanta, Birmingham, Jacksonville, Tampa, Charleston, ...

Anonymous said...

There's a discussion over here that's somehow in the spirit of TPS:

http://philosophersanon.blogspot.com/2009/12/apa-smoker-donts.html

In typical form, Spiros is focusing on the negative, asking for stories about what not to do at the smoker. But does anyone have some "Smoker Dos"? Is this just supposed to be regular conversation, or what? And is it critical to go if a SC mentions they'll be at the smoker?

Perhaps this deserves a thread of its own. 'Tis the season.

Anonymous said...

Chrono,
In terms of risks involved in presenting a paper at the APA while potentially also having interviews, I'd say go for it. There are always risks. You might eat a bad burrito and be forced to conduct your interview through the bathroom door of your interview suite but I don't think anyone would claim you shouldn't eat while you are at the APA. Perhaps some papers are more appropriate than others in this situation. Save the really crazy paper for some other time. But C'mon, avoiding doing something on the off chance you are going to pooch it doesn't seem like much of a strategy.

Anonymous said...

I'm completely persuaded by Asstro. The risks are just not worth it. And how much can you possibly gain by having an OK or a relatively good paper presentation? Not much. Asstro's brilliant observation is worth reiterating:

"My attitude, in a way, is that you want to give as much information to the SC as you need in order to get you to the next stage of the competition, but not too much information such that the more mysterious candidates somehow seem more compelling."

Anonymous said...

I have to respectfully disagree with Asstro. My interview at the Eastern got me nowhere last year. The second night of the conference I was told by a friendly guy in the department that the interviews changed nothing in the mind of the department and that the pre-interview rankings remained what they were. (What a surprise!) So, I didn't make the cut. At least my paper gave me a reason to be there. If I gave an amazingly good presentation where I would be carried from the room on the shoulders of my fellow phils, it would have made the trip and the scrapple worth it. Not that that happened, but if it had.

I think the odds of a bad paper presentation are typically relatively low and the psychic good that comes from having a paper to give/giving the paper/reflecting on the sheer awesomeness that your paper presentation was makes the risk worth it.

(Full disclosure, my career is going nowhere and Asstro's position is one we would all be envious of if we know who Asstro was. Take advice with a grain of salt.)

Anonymous said...

Why isn't s/he calling me? Is it me? Is it something I did? We seemed so compatible when I sent in my packet! It felt so right, so perfect. I thought we would be happy together forever. And, now I just sit by the phone, checking my mail, waiting, waiting. Why don't they love me? I just want somebody to love me!

Mr. Zero said...

anon 10:13,

I see what you're saying. However, the APA had no reason to suspect that people would do what you suggest, since they never do. And the rest of us had every reason to suspect that they would get an overflow hotel, since they always do.

So, I guess I think one of the huge problems I have with the APA over this is that they didn't tell anyone what they were doing. It would have been very simple for them to send out an email in August in which they express their worries and encourage people to reserve their rooms early. If they had done that, perhaps the initial block would have filled up in time for them to reserve an overflow block. That would have been the thoughtful, responsible thing to do.

And we know they can send out emails because of the ill-advised, poorly-though-out, panic-inducing email threatening web outages the day the October JFP came out.

Applicantus said...

The Frugal Traveler column in the NYTimes has a piece on cheap ways to get to and stay in NY, including links to sites that connect you with people willing to put you up for free or near free.
Have a look, fellow broke philosophers:
http://frugaltraveler.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/09/going-deep-for-the-cheap-in-new-york/?em

Anonymous said...

Another tip: use priceline.com but with an eye towards the knowledge that you will find on the "priceline forum" webpage (google it. NOT affiliated with priceline). There are ways to play the hotel room bidding system much to your advantage. The last time the APA was in NYC, I did this in mid-december and got a very nice hotel in midtown for $100 a night. Since then, I've used the same method on a number of occasions, all with good results. With the subway system, it doesn't matter much where you stay in Manhattan.