Breaking News: Eastern Division Meeting Dates Changed!

This has just come by email from the APA:

Eastern Division Meeting Survey Results
The Eastern Division Executive Committee has reviewed the results of the fall 2011 survey on meeting dates. In light of these results, the Committee has decided to change the dates of future Eastern Division meetings to early January: specifically, the end of the first full week in January (counting Monday as the first day of the week). These new meeting dates will take effect in the 2015/16 academic year.

The Executive Committee thanks all those who took part in the survey.

43 thoughts on “Breaking News: Eastern Division Meeting Dates Changed!

  1. Mixed reaction here. Happy for all those for whom this is a good thing but I did like those dates. Canadian universities typically are in session the first week of January.

  2. O Sam, I’ll temper my relief. I’m glad I don’t have to choose between my family and the meeting, with family usually winning. At a certain point, one’s child is back home for that long vacation more than most other times.

  3. I’m sure that many of the same people who complained about the date in the past will now start complaining about the fact that the hotel rooms and registration will be higher.

  4. In line with Matt’s comments in #4, I’m perfectly willing to admit that when I took the survey I voted for the current (late December) dates. And the reason why I did so was that the survey claimed that the hotel rooms and registration will be higher in January. I’m not particularly apologetic about this. Even the current rates are unaffordable.

    Hopefully while the APA reorganizes, it will discuss some sort of option for getting lower room rates or organizing some sort of room-sharing service. The rates this season were so high, even with student discount, that I was able to reserve a room at a similar hotel a mere block away for 50 dollars less *per night*.

  5. My primary two issues with the Eastern APA are (1) the expenses for graduate students, post-docs, and unemployed young philosophers coming for interviews, and (2) the inconvenience and expense of travel to and from the West Coast. I think the change of dates will improve things in both of these respects. (The conference hotel’s room rates were less expensive the week after January than the negotiated rates, but perhaps some general conference expenses were folded in to the negotiated rates.) But a simpler and far more effective change would be to move more first-round interviews to Skype. I was disappointed that the survey didn’t do more to consider that possibility.

  6. Dan Hicks, I’m fairly certain that indeed the rates will be higher the second week of January, not lower. I did notice that the rates at the Marriott the weeks after were lower than the discount conference rate, but either (as you hypothesize) the regular conference rate includes extra money for the conference services, or else the extra business the hotel gets from the APA keeps rack rates higher for those days (in other words, the price of a room will get bumped precisely *because* of the demand the convention generates).

    I’m like Matt D. My two college kids are home for much of January, too, so the change in dates doesn’t really change my family/conference trade-off, and I’m worried about the further expense incurred by job candidates.
    Oh, and I don’t think pushing Skype interviews is really the APA’s job. It’s the job of individual departments.

  7. Some institutions will already be in session, and instructors really can’t cancel the first week for a conference. So this hurts folks on the job market who are teaching someplace that starts early. Maybe this means that more schools will do first round interviews by Skype. (That would be good.) But maybe it means that some folks on the job market will just be screwed (bad) or that some schools will handle first round interviews elsewhere, requiring job seekers to pay several times for expensive travel (worse).

  8. Jamie and Dan, I checked the conference hotel rates about two months prior to the conference, and their regular rates were, for the dates of the conference, $50 lower than the conference rates. Somebody needs to learn how to negotiate conference rates. I didn’t book a room there, though, because I found one in a beautiful boutique hotel near embassy row, a mere 10 min walk away, for $66/night.

  9. High rates could be solved by choosing less grandiose hotels. There are plenty of hotels (a) large enough to support our conference and (b) less ostentatious – and, thus, less pricey – than the one we actually used this past year, for instance. The APA’s first mistake is one of self-deception; it seems to think a gathering of philosophers is far more important than it really is. On a more serious note, though, there seems an ethical responsibility to find the cheapest option that can properly support the conference, given the function the Eastern serves in the hiring process. The ASA (American Society of Aesthetics) is typically held at a very nice hotel, but this is acceptable because no one really has to go to it. It’s a disciplinary conference; grad students aren’t obliged to attend in order to stay competitive in the job market. The APA Eastern cannot claim to be a mere disciplinary conference, yet there’s no evidence of any serious gesture made toward finding a more affordable – if more bland – venue.

  10. Jamie Dreier@7:

    Oh, and I don’t think pushing Skype interviews is really the APA’s job. It’s the job of individual departments.


    If a majority of the APA’s members think that the widespread practice of holding job interviews at the Eastern APA imposes unjustifiable costs (both personal and financial) to job applicants who can least afford to bear those costs, then it would be legitimate for the APA, and part of its job, to stop doing the things it does as an organization to enable that practice: things such as running the job placement service at the Eastern APA and renting out ballroom space and helping arrange for departments to hold interviews at that space.

  11. Chris, it is a great graph.
    I don’t think anyone has mentioned airfares. My fare to Boston was booked pretty much in advance and it cost over 1K. I’d normally expect to pay well under $500, at least one year ago. It might be that there will be significant savings in flights.

  12. Anne, good point. I tend to forget that because I usually have a short trip, myself. Air fare saving might turn out to be larger than extra hotel cost.

    Tim O’Keefe, if the majority of the APA’s members think the interviewing at the convention should stop, then… they can stop interviewing at the convention. (I hope this happens.) As both a pragmatic matter and a matter of legitimate authority, I don’t think the APA should just stop providing support.

    Landon Schurtz, I think you are underestimating the needs of the Eastern meetings. I’m pretty sure we do need a Marriott-level hotel. (I’ve talked to Richard Bett about this.)

    In general about the hotel bills: it’s very puzzling. Next month at the Centrals, the Palmer House will cost $189/night plus taxes, convention rate. In Chicago, in February. It makes no sense at all. There are dozens of similar hotels in downtown Chicago selling their rooms at bargain rates.

  13. Yes, I can’t explain why this year, of all years, airfares were so outrageous. I flew out of Chicago, United’s effing hub!, and I still couldn’t get a fare under $500. This has never been a problem for me before. sigh.

    I adore the Palmer House, and have happy childhood associations with it, but yeah, the price is a head-scratcher. I thought the point of moving the Centrals to feb. was that the hotel would be less expensive?? How I miss Chicago in April, during which the fares were no more than they are now. Some kind of hose-job is going on here.

  14. Jamie, I certainly agree that we need a sizable hotel, not to mention ones with suites or other such venues available (given the needs of interviewers), but I attend several non-academic conventions a year, even the smallest of which is several times the size of the APA in terms of numbers attending and number of panels/talks presented at any given time: all of them, without fail, are booked into hotels that are, yes, sizable, but far, far less… well… “swanky,” in a word. I’m not suggesting we move it to the Motel 6, but there ARE levels in-between. The APA may be a large academic conference, but it doesn’t compete with even medium-sized comic conventions, for instance, and I’ve never yet seen one of those booked into a place half as nice as the hotel we used this past December. I’ll grant there are elements to this I could be missing – information to which I am not privy and so on – but I am having trouble imagining what special needs the APA could have that couldn’t be met with cheaper alternatives.

  15. Jamie, it’s a fair question. Without having hard numbers but rather only an eyeball estimation of how many of us there are, and having spent only about twenty minutes poking around on the internet, it seems that in DC there’s a Fairfield, a Renaissance, and some place called the Bolger Center that each have enough meeting space to accommodate a group our size and are at least slightly cheaper. Maybe those will turn out to be dead leads, for various reasons; I’m not a pro at this and I don’t have access to the actual data about the APA. As for the cons I’ve attended, most of them – the mid-to-moderately-large ones drawing a couple of thousand attendees, which I take to be approximately the size of our gathering – are comfortably held in places like your Ramadas or even the bigger Best Westerns, for instance (the details change from con to con and city to city, of course – one Best Western may have a convention center while another might not). None of these are as nice but neither are they as expensive as the hotel we so recently used for the APA. Now, I’ll freely admit – I’m not a pro at these kinds of things. Maybe there’s something I’m missing. But when we step back and realize that the APA is not REQUIRED to hold its meeting in the middle of one of more expensive cities in America (which seems to be its trend – New York, Boston, DC, etc.), it becomes even more implausible to me that there aren’t hotels big enough for our purposes and cheaper.

    Now, I would have thought it intuitively obvious that there are hotels that are both large yet less swanky than the Marriott we used (even other Marriott locations!), but – as long as we’re asking questions of one another – how many people are at the APA? What ARE the needs of the Eastern meeting? I ask so that I may know whether my eyeball comparisons are perhaps less accurate than I take them to be. Since you’ve had the occasion to speak to Richard Bett about this, presumably you have some particular knowledge of this matter. I’d like to hear more.

  16. I hope my html works — the lack of a preview function on WordPress is very annoying.

    So, Landon the Renaissance costs more than the Wardman Park Marriott, not less. (I just checked.) The Fairfield Inn here has no meeting rooms at all; the one here has a magnificent 300 square foot meeting room.

    I’ve never heard of the Bolger Center, but their web site says that they can handle “groups up to 450”, which is less than half of the APA Eastern meeting.

    So I feel, Landon, that you are not taking this project seriously ☺

    I know a lot of people think it’s “intuitively obvious” that there are cheaper alternatives or “implausible” that there are none, but as you see, trying to find an actual example makes it considerably less obvious, or more plausible, or something.

    As I recall, Richard said the Eastern meeting needs 1000 hotel rooms. The place we used in Baltimore a few years ago was smaller than that, and it did not work out well (interviewing departments had suites in several different hotels, for instance). I don’t recall exactly how many square feet of meeting space we need, but the Wardman Park Marriott has about 200,000. (My sense is that we only need about a third of that.)
    Richard is stepping down as Secretary Treasurer, by the way. If you or others have good ideas about sites for the Eastern meetings, you might try getting in touch with his replacement, who is apt to be open to input. (Not that Richard wouldn’t be.)

  17. Heh! I appreciate the specifics, though I am puzzled by the fact that you found the Renaissance more expensive – the source I used had it listed as less. As for the Bolger Center, I had noted their 75000 sqft of meeting space (which would seem to be enough) and had not noticed their “for groups of up to 400” proviso (which I find puzzling – if you have that much space, why can you only accommodate groups of up to 400?). Still, you do make a good point that actually finding a good alternative meeting space is, indeed, difficult. I’m willing to accept that, although – again – since I’m not a professional at this (nor receiving a stipend from the APA to underwrite time spent on it), I’l wager that I’m probably not going to get as good results as others might. Whether you or I can find a cheaper alternative isn’t really a good test, in other words.

    It may be that my intuitions here are simply false. I’m willing to accept that; indeed, you’ve pushed me to think it far more likely than I did before. Nonetheless, holding the conference in a city like Washington DC (or Boston, or New York, etc.) just seems gratuitous and likely to increase costs. Are there really no hotels in cities that are just overall cheaper that can handle this sort of gathering? Perhaps there aren’t. That would be depressing, especially for those of us on the job market. I was lucky enough to have had an interview this past December, but I almost couldn’t make it to the APA regardless, because the total cost of the trip – figuring travel, accommodations at a nearby hotel (cheaper than the conference hotel), and miscellaneous expenses like food and so forth – was about a month’s salary. Without the generous help of friends and family, I wouldn’t have been able to do it, and even then it was a near thing. I have no hard evidence, but I would be shocked if there weren’t cases of people who had interviews and just flat out couldn’t make it. If there really is no way to make the conference cheaper for job seekers to attend, then I think that only strengthens the argument that the Eastern needs to get out of the job market process altogether.

    In any case, I thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!

  18. One worry is that the whole thing – a late December meeting in a city with lots of attractions – is considered a professional perk. So the idea of genuine economy may not site well with the membership. But if the meeting continues to be vital for grad students, perhaps the APA should look at holding it at a university. Universities at least often have some sort of office dedicated to organizing conferences, and the student rooms are certainly cheaper.

  19. Landon, I’m sure professionals can do a better job of researching the issue than I can. But, Richard Bett is a professional. So is Robin Smith, and whoever does it for the Pacific. This is part of what makes it so puzzling that the price of a room in Chicago next month for us is $189.

    Believe it or not, the convention really could not be held in most of the smaller cities you’d think of. (Charlotte seems like it would be good, doesn’t it? Air hub, nice town, no snow.) They don’t have big enough spaces. As I mentioned, even Baltimore created real problems. Unfortunately we are meeting in Baltimore again in two years. At least BWI is cheap.

    Anne, I know that British conferences are almost always held at universities, and it’s *much* cheaper. But they don’t have any conferences that are even close to the size of the Eastern APA — would that really be feasible? In any case, whatever its merits, as you imply the idea would be so unpopular with… let’s say, people our age… that it’s not even worth discussing, I’d say.

    Eventually, the job market will get decoupled from the Eastern meeting. That’s the only way to solve the biggest problems.

  20. Jamie: I think you’ve got me convinced, at least for the time being. I’m still sort of shocked that the APA – of all things – is big enough to require us to meet in one of America’s major cities.

    I only hope you’re right, that the Eastern will become decoupled from the job market.

  21. Well, I’m not so sure. I have been at plenty of conferences in the US that used university facilities, but I do agree that the “regular members” might not like that. So then I remembered that my own little beach town retreat has built a large convention center, and I wondered about the east coast. So picture this: “Two double beds. Located in the newer oceanfront building. Private balcony with direct ocean view. 312 square feet. Contemporary decor. Complimentary wireless Internet access. Refrigerator, microwave, coffeemaker. Cable TV. Telephone with voice mail.” On the beach, where even in January restorative walks are possible. And a huge conference center with this hotel (400 rooms) and others near by. Cost for this room: $119; partial beach views for $99. OK, you won’t get the whole convention in one hotel, but you can get it in one convention center.

    No doubt there are others places up and down the east coast that are following the same sort of strategy to attract visitors.

    O, that’s Virginia Beach, which is 15 minutes from the Norfolk international airport, it says. There’s actually serious empirical evidence that getting out into nature restores important cognitive control capacities. Who knows what would happen.

  22. And a room at Doubletree by Hilton in Va. Beach,, which is next to the huge conference center, charges right now $55 a night. It’s a three star hotel, which is certainly doable, I should think.

    There aren’t that many departments interviewing anymore, but it should be possible to hold a large block of room/suites at some hotel or even find interviewing rooms at the conference center.

    I wonder if it would be possible to hire an event planner to discover a site somewhere and make initial arrangements. Where we’re looking at the different of over $100 a night for rooms, a few thousand here or there might be worth it.

  23. I’d like to add, too, that it’s not clear the Eastern is as big as it has been, or as even conventional wisdom says. This year, the APA had to pay the hotel back many thousands of dollars for the under-booking of rooms for the Eastern APA. It certainly appears that, as we all become accustomed to new technologies and alternatives to the Eastern as an interviewing venue, the decoupling of the Eastern meeting from the job search has begun.

  24. Wikipedia (I know, I know) has a (no doubt non-comprehensive) list of hotels with 1000 rooms or more. Here are the cities in the US that might* count as belonging in the Eastern Division that have a hotel on this list:

    Atlanta*: 2 hotels
    Atlantic City: 7 hotels
    Boca Raton: 1 hotel
    Boston: 1 hotel (Only 1; I’m surprised by this.)
    Indianapolis*: 1 hotel
    Lake Buena Vista: 8 hotels, all affiliated with Disney (if that matters)
    Louisville*: 1 hotel
    Miami Beach: 1 hotel
    Montreal**: 1 hotel
    Nashville*: 1 hotel
    New York: 9 hotels
    Niagara Falls, ON**: 1 hotel
    Orlando: 6 hotels
    Toronto**: 3 hotels
    Washington, DC: 2 hotels

    That’s somewhere between 7 and 15 cities, depending on how to count asterisked places.

    *I say “might” because I can’t find where the line between Central and Eastern runs. I’ve put an asterisk next to cities whose Divisional affiliation I’m not sure of.

    **I know Pacific has had meetings in Canada, but I’m not sure whether Eastern (A) ever has or (B) would be open to the possibility.

  25. I guess that if the conference were at a Disney affiliated hotel, people might begin to suspect that philosohy was a Mickey Mouse discipline.

  26. Hi All,

    For what it’s worth, the annual meeting of the Canadian Philosophical Association is always held at a university. More importantly, it’s held as a part of a more general meeting, the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Their website says that the annual conference has upwards of 6000 attendees. I’ve got no idea of the costs associated with this or how they would differ – I’m only a grad student – but maybe it is worth investigating.

  27. Virginia Beach sounds great, actually. But how much would it cost to use the conference center itself? I think that’s the obstacle.

    TSS, definitely incomplete: that Marriott in Philadelphia (2008) was huge. I think Indianapolis, Louisville, Nashville, and Memphis must be Central. But Atlanta will host the Easterns this year. The Florida ones would be very nice, but not cheap in January. There used to be some strong reason not to meet in Canada, having to do with the book sellers, but I don’t know if that’s still a problem.

    K, I guess that’s right – if the Eastern meeting is really shrinking, as it appears to be, there’s a lot more flexibility. Let’s hope.

  28. I’m glad there’s at least a list of hotels for more minor cities, though I imagine there are lots of issues to move through when talking about more minor cities. Off the top of my head, I can say that I know Louisville fairly well (I’m from the general area). My guess is that the one hotel with over 1,000 rooms is The Galt House, which is a downtown hotel overlooking the Ohio River. I can tell you that it’s definitely a nice enough hotel for the APA and that the rooms are far cheaper than the Palmer (Chicago) or Marriott (D.C.). I wouldn’t know if they have the required meeting space.

    One trouble spot with Louisville is that the public transportation is quite bad. In D.C., you can ride the subway from National Airport to the Marriott for about 2 bucks. I imagine this is an issue that will reappear for most smaller cities. But it’s worth noting that some older ‘small cities’ – I’m thinking specifically of Cleveland here – actually do still have their old public transit systems from when they were more major cities. I traveled from the Cleveland airport to downtown for a conference back in November and it was a 2 dollar subway ride.

    But I’m glad to at least see smaller cities on the agenda. I’d love to attend the Central in Louisville or the Eastern in Cleveland with rooms 50-100 dollars less expensive than rooms in Chicago or D.C.

  29. I would expect weather to be a concern with the Canadian cities, particularly given the weather woes in Boston in 2010.

    Louisville and Indy are both in the Eastern time zone; not sure whether time zone tracks with APA division. Nashville and Memphis are both on Central Time.

  30. Cleveland has also hosted the Central before; Toronto hosted the Eastern a LONG time ago (I think Quine was supposed to present the Two Dogmas there one year, but couldn’t make it for some reason).

    We could go back to alternating the Central between Chicago and some other city (its been in Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, New Orleans, Kansas City, and I’m sure other places I’m not thinking of). But: there are a lot of philosophers in the Chicago-land area, so it often saves folks on travel. I also thought we got a better deal from the Palmer by agreeing to have it there a few years in a row. But I agree its a puzzle that we have to pay so much in Feb for hotels in Chicago (even the swanky Palmer house).

    Of course, the Eastern is bigger – I think the only real long term solution is to decouple the job market from the conference.

  31. I hope people making the decisions will look at some of the things we’ve uncovered, and the suggestions made.

  32. CS, the Central *has* gone back to that approach now. Minneapolis last year, Chicago this year, New Orleans next year, then Chicago, then I think St. Louis is planned maybe?

  33. As far as holding APA meetings in smaller cities, a look at attendance figures suggests the destination makes a difference. By far, the Eastern gets the biggest turn out for meetings in Boston or New York, if my memory serves me well. DC isn’t close, and Atlanta trails DC. The Central meeting in Chicago must also run much, much larger than when it is in Louisville or Indianapolis or wherever. That suggests that some body of the membership prefers to attend in more rather than less major cities.

  34. That’s interesting, Pat! I’m curious as to what we should make of it, though. Jamie said something to the effect that holding the conference on a college campus would be less popular with the philosophers “of a certain age” (I believe that was the phrasing), and your information suggests that holding it in a smaller and thus perhaps less expensive city might drive down attendance, as well. So that raises the question of what the priorities for the Eastern ought to be.

    Is the Eastern’s primary concern providing a conference that most or at least many of its members will want to attend, or creating a conference that will – pardon the phrasing – be minimally evil to job-seekers? It seems that these two goals might be in some tension: if holding the conference in less “attractive” cities drives down attendance, that in itself might constitute evidence that, in at least come cases, taking measures that reduce the burden on job seekers makes the Eastern less attractive to some of its members. How should we, as an organization, balance these priorities? Or is one so clearly more pressing a duty as to make “balancing” them a non-issue?

  35. LWS: You are raising a very important question. I don’t actually know much about the financing of the APA, but I suspect there are some issues that will complicate it all. One is breaking even. I don’t know what is needed to break even, but all those meeting rooms, etc, have some price tag attached to them one way or another. Another question is about attracting presses, though this may seem less important. I suspect their may be more costs involved, such as that of the APA staffing.

    I’ve heard it said that both the central and the pacific APA’s can find the conference a strain on finances, but I don’t know about the Eastern. But I don’t think getting enough people to pay for the conference is entirely trivial.

  36. It’s a good question.
    One thing to keep in mind is that the different groups (job-seekers and conference-lovers, shall we say) are not really distinct human beings. All of us conference-lovers were once job-seekers, after all, and although not every job-seeker is going to be a conference-lover (or even employed as a philosopher long term), an awful lot are. So aggregating benefits and costs is less problematic than it sometimes is.

  37. Anne Jacobson: Excellent point, especially if there’s any truth at all to what I’ve heard about the APA having to pay a stiff penalty to the hotel so recently used for failing to book a sufficient number of rooms.

  38. Jamie: Also a good point,though I’ve noticed that in some cases, long-tenured professors can be, shall we say, less sensitive to the pressures that the APA places on the job seeker. I attribute this not to ill-will, but mere human fallibility.

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