Friday, January 2, 2009

Seven suggestions for future APA meetings

Mr. Zero's back with some handy suggestions for improving the Eastern APA. For more thoughts and comments on how to improve the APA as an organization in general, check out this from David Velleman over at the good professor's blog and in the comments there.--STBJD

With the Eastern Division APA Meeting for the 08-09 academic year behind us, I already find myself thinking ahead to next year, since this year was a total wash. Here are some ideas to help make future APAs better, since this one was an unmitigated disaster.

1. Let's try to have an economy. By August, if at all possible. Really, ASAP.

2. I see why the job-fair conference is between Christmas and New Year's, and I see why it's on the east coast. But it really doesn't have to ever be in New York, and if it's going to be in NYC, it doesn't have to be in Times Square, and if it's going to be in Times Square, it doesn't have to be at the Hilton. We're philosophers, not investors or Ponzi-scheme masterminds. Please don't put us in the most expensive hotel on the most expensive block of the most expensive city in the nation. Jeez.

3. It shouldn't be in Boston, either.

4. I thought Baltimore wasn't bad.

5. How about Providence? Wouldn't Providence probably be okay? Maybe Hartford? Or someplace like Richmond, Va? It seems to me that we're looking for a city big enough to have its own airport, and to have a hotel big enough to have the necessary conference facilities, but that normal people can afford to visit. Times Square isn't it.

6. And if you're going to hold it at a big, expensive hotel, could you throw us a fricking bone and reserve a block of rooms at the nearest TravelLodge or EconoLodge? This Hilton/Marriott shit is killing me.

7. In fact, there's really no reason to put it in a big hotel. Why not put it on a college campus? Campuses have plenty of rooms for presentations; bigger rooms for the big interview clusterfuck; space for a big reception; plenty of (less expensive) hotel rooms nearby; a lot of them are near major airports or are within driving distance of major cities. Why aren't we doing this?

What am I missing? Discuss.

--Mr. Zero


Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Zero, thanks for your posting.

Smaller cities (like Providence -- I could certainly endorse that one!) would be cheaper. College campuses would be a lot cheaper. During That Other Depression, the APA did meet on college campuses to save money.

I think the older members of the APA (and I guess I mean everyone who has a tenure track job) really likes meeting in New York; they would not like meeting on a campus; they wouldn't be happy with the results of meeting in Providence or Richmond (where there aren't any individual hotels big enough to accommodate the whole shebang). Attendance is quite a bit higher in NY than in other cities. So there is a genuine conflict of interest between the job-seekers and the rest.

At least, this is how things have been explained to me, and it's the perception of the administrators. I think it's true. What can we do about it?
One possibility: defer to the job-seekers for the Eastern meetings, since they have no choice but to come, they have the hardest time, and after all the expense account membership has the other two meetings.
Another possibility: get rid of the convention job market.

I favor the second, myself.

Anonymous said...

2-5: I'm less happy than you w/ the explanation for the timing of E-APA, but I agree completely with your complaints about where it's been held. And I too was ok with Baltimore, though I've heard that others didn't like it much.

6: I don't think the Hilton/Marriott thing is such a big deal. I've been to the past 4 Eastern APA's, and I've not yet stayed in the conference hotel. I have always been able to find something less expensive within easy walking distance of the conference site. For instance, I saved some money by staying in the Courtyard Downtown, right next door to the Marriott. And even less expensive hotels were w/in two blocks of the Marriott.

I recommend using to find a hotel and to plot your course.

7. I like the college campus idea. One caveat: I went to two conferences that housed participants in dorms. In one case it was ok, but the other really sucked (dusty room, really crappy bed, leaky windows, no hot water, no food close to campus, no campus food service b/c it was a summer conference).

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I have a feeling that they'll never do it on a college campus. I think it is a great idea, but the general arguments against that plan are as follows:

1) It's a professional conference and other professions don't have their conferences at hotels.

2) Someone would have to be in charge of the facilities -- which makes the location not neutral.

Personally, I've organized similar on-campus events and they aren't that difficult -- although they may be more expensive than you'd think, as many schools will see the conference as an opportunity to charge "rental" fees, plus clean-up and security -- which do tend to add up. It is quite likely that the APA gets nearly free use of conference rooms in exchange for filling up the rooms (or, if they don't, they're really bad at negotiating -- I did it all the time for an old job).

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant to be identifying myself (I gave myself a space-separated nickname thinking it would all show up).

Inside: the Eastern Division buys a package, which includes, for example, the presidential suite and some catering. If the hotel doesn't sell the specified number of rooms, the Division has to pay extra. (I hear it was a close call this year, with a lot of cancellations.)

Jamie Dreier
Brown University

Hopeful Philosopher said...

How about some poster presentations down the sides of the long lines for registration?

Maybe Pabst instead of Miller?

Steve Weimer said...

How about a negotiating free/discounted internet access for attendees? These hotels have got to be making a good bit of money from the conference, so may be willing to throw something like that in?

Thom Brooks said...

I must admit being against the idea of holding the conference on college campuses. In fact, I have recently been successful in persuading the UK's Political Studies Association to no longer hold their annual conference on a college campus. Two primary concerns:

1. The dorm rooms were too often substandard.

2. It took too long to get to different panels. It may take a few minutes zipping from the 5th floor to the 3rd floor, but much less time than running across campus to find ill-marked buildings on campus maps.

Mr. Zero said...

Thanks for commenting, commenters.

I guess the thing about New York is, if the APA wants to have a real meeting, with papers and actual philosophical activity, that's one thing. But they don't--I've been to the Pacific meeting a few times, and the contrast with the Eastern couldn't be more pronounced. The Pacific had tons of interesting talks; the Eastern had very few. The Pacific had few poor, depressed, miserable, stressed-out job-seeking graduate students; the Eastern had many. The point of the Pacific is to do philosophy; the point of the Eastern is to conduct job interviews.

So my point is, if the APA wants its Eastern division meeting to be a job fair, then certain concessions need to be made in fairness to the job seekers. Not holding it at the Times Square Hilton is at the top of the list. The fact that we can stay in off-site hotels or sleep on friends's floors if we want doesn't affect the larger point that it's unfair to those of us who are poor and have no choice but to go to hold the job fair in such an expensive location.

I accept the point that dorm rooms are a reason against holding the meeting on campuses. But since the conference takes place during the winter, it's probably not an option, anyway. I respectfully don't accept the point about sessions being hard to get to. A competent organizer (I know, I know) could place all the sessions in one building.

Anonymous said...

Pacific is fortunate that it doesn't have to deal with the job-search part of the calendar. It is also fortunate that it typically meets in March/April in nice locations that look very attractive to academics in other parts of the country suffering from cabin fever.

Pacific also typically meets at big, expensive hotels, but people on tight budgets can make-do, by sharing rooms or looking at cheaper things in the neighborhood.

Cheaper cities are available for all the divisions, but attendance tends to drop (e.g., Albuquerque, when Pacific tried that several years ago, or Atlanta for Eastern, although that suffered from 9/11 fall-out). But the difference in hotel costs is really marginal, and cheaper alternatives are available in all cities. Less competitive air routes also can eat up any hotel savings.

Like it or not, Eastern provides a service to hiring departments and job-seekers in getting all those screening interviews into one place at the right time of year.

My department has tried inviting finalists to campus based on the paper alone and it was disastrous. When we screen 10-12 at Eastern, we are often surprised -- people who look good on paper are duds and people who seem marginal on paper sing in person. These screenings are a huge benefit to candidates that shouldn't be overlooked.