Simple things more privileged academics can do

Today I posted this on FB:

A thing I just did, which I commend to others who are in a fortunate position like me: I am speaking at a small conference. Because of this, I would not normally pay for conference fee or workshop dinner. But I can afford to do so, unlike so many students, un- and under-employed people. So I have paid the fee and the dinner price and asked the organisers to use the money as a small fund for those who need help. If lots of us start doing this, we could really do a bit of good in our field.

A nice discussion has ensued of other things that more privileged members of the profession can do as individuals. (Institutional reform is obviously vital too, but the focus in this discussion is on simple actions individuals can take.) Here are some more. Obviously who can do which will depend on particulars of situations. And in some cases conference organisers are under strict constraints that prevent some of these from working. But they are all things to think about doing, if you’re fortunate enough to be in a privileged position

Pay your own accommodation and/or travel, asking organisers to put the money toward help for those less able to afford the conference.

Refuse an honorarium, asking them to use the money to help those less able to afford the conference.

Join this campaign.

Ask if there are any students (or other junior members of the profession) who work in one’s area and might like to have a cup of coffee.

When giving a department seminar, suggest a cheap restaurant so that those with less money can come.

OK, not everyone’s going to come comfortable with this, but I have often requested that chairs follow a “one question per question” rule, so that I can hear from more people.

Please do add more suggestions in comments!

9 thoughts on “Simple things more privileged academics can do

  1. On several occasions, established academics have paid for my dinner at conferences. I think we sometimes forget that the act of securing food at a conference can be a burden on those minimal or nonexistent travel funds and household budgets that do not accommodate eating out on a regular basis. I am incredibly grateful to these thoughtful folks, and when I’m more established, fully intend to pay it forward!

  2. We have often , as suggested in the first comment, taken a student or junior colleague out to breakfast, lunch, dinner. One can also donate the cost of registration, accommodation, travel, etc back to the organization to be used to help fund those in need for the next conference, if not the present one.

  3. here’s an addition: don’t assume you’re speaking with, interacting with or otherwise dealing with an equally privileged philosopher, even if you both have the same “status” in some sense. I’m tenured at a not un-notable place, but between growing up without money (actually without money–putting myself through college not having money/suffering serious longterm expensive health implications form of without money) and salary suppression/discrimination, I’m renting and living paycheck to paycheck. If the places inviting me to give talks didn’t pay for it, I wouldn’t be able to go. (maybe once in a blue moon) When visitors come to town and presume we — because ‘we’ faculty are all in the same position, right?– can all go out to eat at the fanciest place in town, I quickly calculate in my head what’s in the bank, what bills are due, and whether the next paycheck will come in time.
    I’m infinitely better off than I used to be, but I really hope that as this great and wonderful (I really mean that) effort proceeds, people won’t start to just assume that professional status=economic status. It. doesn’t.

  4. I have a “grad students don’t pay” rule at conferences: if I have coffee, meal, or drink with a grad student or a former grad student, I pick up the tab.

    I also have bad luck at conference hotels (e.g., lost reservations, dirty rooms, keys that don’t work after hiking 2 miles of corridors with my bags, etc). More than once, a hotel has given me coupons for the usually ridiculously overpriced hotel breakfast. I turn around and give ’em to grad students.

  5. A “one question per question” rule has always struck me as sensible for reasons totally unconnected to these broader political issues. Even if everyone at the seminar is entirely equal on all relevant metrics of status, if there is not time for all questions to be asked it’s silly to let one person ask two or three questions before everyone has had a chance to ask one.

  6. I’ve also picked up the tab for students and junior folks when it seems to me appropriate–but I sometimes wonder whether this makes some recipients uncomfortable. I’d be interested in hearing more from those who’ve been the recipients of such offers and how often, if ever, this has made them uncomfortable (and under what conditions).
    This is one feature of paying for one’s own accommodation or travel, etc. that I really like–the conference organizer can decide who needs it most and the recipient doesn’t have to feel indebted to any particular person; for all they know, the conference just happened to have some extra cash.

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