Campaign: Lower conference fees for underpaid academics

I propose to start a campaign and invite conference organizers to consider a category for all those scholars who inhabit the shadows in between PhD and tenure position (be they postdocs without financial support from their institutions, lecturers, adjuncts or unemployed). My proposal is to use an additional criterion for reduced fees, besides the one based on student/non-student status. I propose to use a criterion based on income and funding opportunities from institutions. If the attendee has a low-income salary, and/or unstable job (which usually equals low income), and/or is not eligible for any institutional financial support, they should qualify for an additional registration category. Without such a category, a big part of the academic world is excluded from the research community.

I think this is exactly right. I have actually seen conference which allow one to identify as “unemployed/ underemployed” and get a reduced fee, or no fee. This seems to me absolutely essential in the world we live in.

The author continues:

If you like this idea and would like to join me for this campaign, please send me an email to expressing your interest, and we will find a way to organize.

For more, go here.

7 thoughts on “Campaign: Lower conference fees for underpaid academics

  1. This is a fantastic idea. For a conference I am organizing, we simply use the categories “full price” vs “concessionary” instead of student status. For the latter, we have explicitly specified that, in addition to students, others such as independent scholars and unwaged members of the profession fall into this category. However, I now realize that that’s still not enough, and the expression “underemployed” is better than “unwaged” so I’ve changed that.

    I also wonder if this is something that invited speakers can work on. I am not usually an invited speaker, but I recently committed to a conference that turned out to have a high registration fee, and I feel bad about that. I wonder if speakers can insert a Fugazi clause (cf. ) into their acceptances to help to ensure that registration fees are reasonable, at least for the most economically underprivileged members of the profession.

  2. I’m part of the group organising dLRN2015 and we are committed to providing a reduced rate for adjuncts/underemployed/independent — this complex category of academics who don’t have access to salaries or any kind of research funding. We don’t have the details up on the website yet because we’re trying to juggle the pricing to make it all work. We’ve also had productive conversations with keynote speakers when we explained that this is the reason we’re not offering them more of an inducement to come and keynote, because we’d rather offer it to adjuncts to be there too.’

    The conference is on the theme of “making sense of higher education” and includes a focus on how we make sense of labour and participation.

    So we’re strongly in support of your campaign.

    One thing I wonder is if it would be possible to create some kind of badge or button for websites for conferences supporting these principles. Not to expect a prize, because it really is just the most basic professional courtesy–but to raise the profile of this issue and try to make it a standard.

    Here in Australia there’s also been some informal collecting of information about scholarly professional associations that acknowledge the precarious conditions of the academic underemployed in their annual fees. This isn’t just about ensuring equity of participation, but really about understanding how on earth these expensive practices expect to be sustained as professional norms as we move towards the majority of academic workers being hired on short term contracts or paid by the hour.

    We really welcome people concerned with these questions to come to dLRN2015. The CFP is now open, and non-onerous — a 250 word abstract.

  3. If you plan a conference that is not attached to a hotel, and does not have big stars that command large speaking fees, you can lower the costs considerably. That is how we run the BECAUSE conference to keep it affordable to the public- though it is not academic per se, we did have it at the U of M. I don’t like how so much knowledge & such is kept to only academics especially since the areas of interest I have are not things you can make much money on, so there’s not much incentive to get advanced degrees in them.

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